Backlist to the Future

Everything in book marketing requires advance planning. So even before your beloved project reaches the eyes of millions of readers, we are strategizing ways to sustain a productive life long after it publishes. We do this because evergreen and backlist titles are huge assets to supporting the press as a whole. So when the excitement dials back after a book’s release, we look for ways to support it long after as a backlist title.

A book typically becomes a backlist title a year after it publishes. However, when one of our books moves away from our frontlist, we continue to support it through marketing. We mostly do this through digital promotional campaigns done on our social media accounts by paying attention to how audiences are responding to our catalogue as well as through our Backlist Sales Initiative (BSI) projects.

A book like Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before (Ooligan Press, 2014) by Karelia Stetz-Waters has astonishing selling power, particularly digitally, so we keep a close eye on that title even though it was released long ago. Creating social media campaigns around books like Forgive Me allow us to continue building an audience long after its release. Social media marketing also keeps our followers aware of backlist titles on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.

Strong-selling backlist titles can contextualize audience reception for future releases as well. The excellent Close is Fine (Ooligan Press, 2012) by Eliot Treichel provided information on how audiences would respond to A Series of Small Maneuvers (Ooligan Press, 2015) years later. Having Close is Fine as a backlist title also supported A Series of Small Maneuvers as a promotional asset we used to market his follow up. Additionally, booksellers use backlist titles as comp titles by the same author—or books with similar themes—to gauge audience reception. If one of our backlist titles has a meteoric rise in popularity with newer audiences, or wins an award as Treichel did, it adds prestige to our press.

Bookstores are also finding that audiences are buying more backlist titles. As Publishers Weekly reported last year, bookstores are reprioritizing bookshelf space to carry more backlist titles. We are aware of this as a publishing trend, so our marketing efforts react accordingly. This is particularly worth paying attention to when one of our backlist titles spikes in interest at specific bookstores.

We spend much of our time discussing our frontlist and future titles at the marketing department, but we are also nurturing our backlist behind the scenes. We do this because backlist titles are an important revenue source that assists in funding our future book projects, add prestige to our press, and they make for great promotional assets that support upcoming titles. And the best part about promoting the backlist is that it takes nominal effort, so it rarely takes time away from promoting our frontlist and it’s inexpensive to do. So as we look forward at our frontlist, let’s not forget the books on our backlist that also make the press great.

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