Looking Back and Moving Forward
~ By Margaret Ethridge
I’m looking back toward my future.
It will be about maximizing income from backlist titles. Something I’ve been neglecting. Whether you have forty books in your backlist or four, your front list should be driving readers to backlist, and backlist driving readers to front list and preorders.
I know this is an area in which I personally have fallen down on the job. I’m not sure if it’s because I rarely read my work once it’s through the editorial process, or because as writers we’re always told to get on to the next book. One of the first things we hear when we’re starting out is to build our backlist, but few people actually talk about what to do with it once you’ve got it.
I’m not claiming to be an expert. In fact, I’m claiming to be a backlist pimping failure. But that’s all going to change. I’ve already started my goal setting for 2019 and I’ve resolved that my main thrust for the year will be to promote my backlist books while prepping for the next to come. Sounds pretty ambitious, doesn’t it?
I’ve thought about it a lot, and I decided to take a dual-pronged approach to tackling my backlist.
But first, we should define backlist. I think it means something a little different for every writer, and it’s okay for you to set your own parameters for what you consider backlist. Personally, I consider backlist any book that is not my most recent release. For example, I had a release in August, 2018, therefore everything that came before that release is backlist. Even though some of those books were released in 2018 as well. Some authors consider a backlist as anything that has reached a certain age, say six months or a year. How you define backlist is truly only important to you, so don’t let anybody tell you that you’re wrong.
I have a large backlist, which makes my task fairly daunting. Some of my titles were small press published back in the day and the rights have since reverted back to me. I have re-released a few of those, but I still have five titles sitting on my hard drive. I also have a number of active, traditionally published books.
The hybridization of a romance author’s career requires us to take varied approaches to how we let promotion work for us. Personally, I am reluctant to lay out large sums of money to promote a title that technically belongs to a publisher and not to me. I am more willing to dedicate funds for independently published titles because a larger chunk of that income is flowing back to me and I’m more likely to recoup that expenditure. Again, your mileage may vary.
Therefore, I’m taking a varied approach to how I plan to breathe new life into my backlist in 2019.
First, I’m getting those out-of-print titles off of my hard drive and back into the marketplace. They’re not doing me any good gathering dust, but I can’t just shove them back out into the world. These books were written 6-8 years ago. As we all know, technology has changed, the fashion industry has evolved, and so too have other lifestyle trends. For this reason, I’m giving these titles a light re-edit. In other words, I’m removing the answering machines and making everybody talk on their mobile phones now, which, believe it or not, wasn’t the norm just a few years ago.
So goal number one is to re-release at least three of the five titles that I have sitting on my computer in early 2019. I have a target date to re-release the other two later in the year, but they will require even more repackaging and a slight repositioning due to my author branding and their contents.
The other facet to my backlist strategy is to promote publisher backlist titles via social media and other low-cost methods. I plan to do this by using a theme-targeted approach. For instance, I have a couple of books that feature collegiate basketball coaches. I’ll promote those titles in February and March so that I can tie them in with the March Madness hashtags on social media in hopes of appealing to readers who enjoy collegiate athletics. I have a collection of novellas that span a calendar year, so I will promote those in December as if you are buying a new calendar for the upcoming year.
I’ve gone through my list and matched up a title to each month because everything is already out there. All I need to do is create some fresh graphics and post them throughout that month. If an ad seems to be doing well organically, I may decide to give it a budget-conscious boost on Facebook or Twitter.
So that’s my plan so far.
* What do you do to promote your backlist titles? Got any hot tips or tricks for me? *
By day, Margaret Ethridge/ Maggie Wells is buried in spreadsheets. At night she pens tales of people tangling up the sheets. You only have to scratch the surface of this mild-mannered married lady to find a naughty streak a mile wide. The product of a charming rogue and a shameless flirt, she just can’t help herself. Maggie is represented by Sara Megibow of kt literary and has just finished drafting her 40th book!