Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. This has me thinking about backlist. We spend a lot of time talking about the future and worrying about the frontlist, but what can set a publisher apart from the rest is a profitable backlist and arguably what can set a bookseller apart from the rest is thoughtful curating of backlist titles.
As much of our business goes electronic and online, publishers need to pay attention to their backlists. Backlist titles have a better chance of selling when they become infinitely more discoverable by being searchable and available online. While we are fussing over the frontlist, it would be wise to invest a bit of time into making backlist titles easier to find.
Embedded author videos and other fanfare are not necessary. But a complete ONIX file is. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve come across an older title online that doesn’t have more than a title, author, cover, price and publisher attached to it. Publishers can’t rely on the back cover to sell backlist because we often don’t stumble upon backlist titles on a shelf.
A book description and author bio are crucial in generating interest. Publishers don’t acquire a book without these so why would we expect readers to be any different? Awards and reviews are also powerful tools when swaying a skeptical buyer to purchase a book. BISAC codes would also help. How else am I to know the difference between an out-of-date science book and a classic sci-fi novel? (Google it? Nah, most of us won’t bother.)
So grab your customer’s attention right away and seal the deal. If you think it’s worth having a backlist title in print, give it chance at survival by filling out a killer ONIX file for it, because not every backlist title is as easy to sell as To Kill a Mockingbird.