Backlist titles – The invisible Disruption

I have turned in my revisions for My Dangerous Pleasure (Book 4 of my My Immortals series) and am now FREE, FREE AT LAST for a while and can totally concentrate on The Next Historical, which is shaping up to be awesome. I am hoping I get to keep my malfunctioning door hardware scene.

Other Historical Book News

I have my rights back for two of my historicals, Lord Ruin and The Spare, and hope to be hearing something on another in about three months. My exciting news is that I am in the process of getting new cover art for Lord Ruin and hope to have that available in digital formats and POD by the end of this month or early February.

Publishers Not Leveraging Backlist

It’s always been interesting to me that publishers and other industry professionals like to point out that Publishers make quite a lot of money on backlist titles. But they’re always talking about Books We’ve Heard Of. Makes sense, since many of these titles sell a lot. To Kill a Mockingbird, anyone?

But there’s a hidden backlist that publishers have not been taking advantage of, and that’s the vast pool of genre fiction. For the purposes of this post, let’s limit the discussion to Romance. There are out of print (OOP) titles that consistently show up on lists of reader favorite, years after they were first published. The only way to get these OOP books are to find them used (if you haven’t saved your copy) or find a pirated version.

Invisible Demand for Out Of Print Books

There is a pent up demand for a lot of OOP Romance titles but it’s largely invisible to publishers because the titles were mass market and intended to have a short life and, to my knowledge, publishers aren’t tracking demand for used books– which is (almost) the only way to get your hands on these OOP titles.

The reality is that publishers were wrong about the short shelf life. This might be true for certain titles or certain authors — the book or writing is mediocre, let’s say. (and this is true of literary fiction, too.) The reality is that there are genre authors who are talented, amazing writers and their stories are worth re-reading. I bet Amazon has the data that proves this, and I bet that data would be very interesting to see. I bet that data shows there are certain OOP titles that are in demand.

I believe Publishers have missed a revenue stream with genre fiction. Popular OOP titles are sitting there, entirely unmonitized except for used book dealers. Digital publishing has created a whole new way to monitize that wide pool, but publishers are in a difficult situation now because 1) they’re blind to the demand and 2) the current system isn’t suited to the digital reality. (And that’s a whole other post!) They’re also not looking at authors with backlist as potential partners in a different publishing scheme, again, a whole other post.

Meanwhile, savvy authors are moving faster.

Until recently, there was nothing authors could do to satisfy continuing demand for their OOP backlist, other than hope readers could find used copies. There wasn’t much point in asking for a rights reversion, because, what would you do with the rights if you had them?

The Kindle changed everything.

Now authors can do something with backlist titles that publishers allow to languish. Now there’s a very good reason for authors to get rights reversions for OOP titles. Those books can now be reintroduced into the author’s stream of commerce, whether as a book that can be purchased or offered free as a way to seed front list sales. Or both.

If publishers were more agile and wired into their authors, maybe they would be thinking of ways to help send that stream of commerce their way. Right now, Amazon is doing that instead. From what I’m seeing and hearing from other authors, there’s another disruption on the way, and that’s the reintroduction of OOP backlist into what is a frontlist-like commerce stream.

I’m looking forward to the Future

I can’t wait for the time when I can sit around yakking about great romances from the past and if a title being discussed intrigues me, being able to pull out my iPhone or eReader and get my hands on that book within seconds. I can’t wait to read a book I love and be able to get my hands on ALL of that author’s backlist within seconds.

What do you think?

Opine in the comments.

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Diane Gaston
11 years ago

Carolyn, on this matter Harlequin has been very proactive! Before other publishers jumped on the bandwagon, Harlequin started publishing all its titles as ebooks and started working on adding backlist titles. Now all my backlist are available as ebooks, through eHarlequin, Kindle, Nook, and possibly other vendors.

11 years ago

I know for a fact that demand is there for many romance backlist titles. I used to sell OOP books on eBay and Amazon. Some early works by well known authors go for 10 times or more of the cover price because readers want to read *everything* by their favorite authors and the only way to get some of the books is through the used and collectible book market.

Those are lost sales to the publishers and the authors. The demand is there. And the data is very easy to gather. I would love to see greater accessibility for midlist authors’ backlist.

Jane George
11 years ago

Bob Mayer blogged about this issue in September.

Seems to me the OOP terms and conditions of rights reversal are now really important parts of a publishing contract.

11 years ago

I hate when I find a new-to-me author that I love but can’t get my hands on their backlist books.

Kristin Tualla of the Desert Rose Chapter of RWA actually sent a post out on the loop recently. Here it is in full:

Everyday I hear about authors regaining rights and either wondering what to to, or re-pubbing by themselves. I do have an option:

When I decided to go rogue 😉 I created a LABEL for indie-pubbed authors. It’s not a publisher – no contracts, no transfer of rights, no dispersement of royalties. It is merely a place where we can link arms and present a traditional front to the consumer.

I post book covers and buy links. All traffic goes where the author wants it to.

BUT (and it’s a big one) – authors have a publisher’s name, logo and website to put on their books AND list on the seller’s pages. It lends credibility to your writing.

Interested? I’m just getting it going:

Amy Kathryn
Amy Kathryn
11 years ago

I have actually found quite a few titles through backlistebooks. New authors join often as they get their rights back.

I totally agree that opportunities are being missed. I am an avid used bookstore shopper because of this. I love to read everything I can from an author I love. I am looking forward to more of your historicals. I tried to get hold of the Spare after I loved Scandal and such but could not swing it.

11 years ago

I have all of the old books I’ve ever read…This is odd, because I just read a discussion at another site about your book Lord Ruin…whether you were ever going to have a sequel? Congratulations on owning your work again!

Even though I still have all of my old books, I’m all for republish or e-booking out of prints. There are a lot of younger readers who are missing out on some great reading.

Elena Greene
11 years ago

I totally agree. There are OOP romances my husband has been searching for online for years and still hasn’t found affordably priced copies. Library copies mysteriously vanish, though I am not sympathetic to the thieves. To me it seems really heinous to steal from a library!

11 years ago

My historical, The Spare, is one of the books I have back. I’m hoping to get that book out there soon.

And yes, everyone, on the difficulty of finding some favorite old romances.

11 years ago

Didn’t the NY TImes recently have an article about the proliferation of romance ebook web sites?

That said, they seem to be making the same mistke the music people and the movie people made and asuming that they can choose which part of the world electronic items can be used. I live in Australia currently, and have been looking to complete a particular series for years. Was overjoyed to find it on an e book website as a bundle, only to realise that it isn’t available to Australian residents. This doesn’t exactly fill me with love for the Austrlian publisher who owns those rights. So when you get those OOP rights, think beyond the borders please.
I have sold a few Stephanie Laurens and Betty Neels through ebay- my husband was shocked at the prices they bring in.

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