Jan 3, 2012

The Comeback of a Backlist Book

What happens when a book becomes a backlist title? Does it die a slow death as the last few printed books are given away to friends and family, or can it be revitalized? Or better yet, how can it be revitalized?

We all know the classics sell well with each reprint, which often coincide with the anniversary of the author's death or birth or the book's first edition. Some books even warrant a celebration, like the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird that took place last year. It was held in Monroeville, Alabama, the town Maycomb was modeled after. The anniversary lasted four days and included a marathon "Mockingbird" reading, tours of the town, and samplings of Monroeville's signature drink—a tequila mockingbird.

As great as that sounds, few books written today warrant that kind of fanfare. So the question becomes, how do authors and publishers get backlisted books back on readers' radars? Sometimes, the answer lands in your lap—like it did for Scarletta's first published book The Litigators. Lindsay Arthur published The Litigators with Scarletta in 2005. Two months ago John Grisham published his newest novel, also called The Litigators. Arthur's book has sold more in these past two months than the previous three years. That's just good luck, but Scarletta plans to capitalize on that luck.

First, we plan to lower the price of the e-book. We want to get Arthur's The Litigators in the hands of everyone interested in fictional legal thrillers. We believe those who rush out to buy the latest Grisham novel will also enjoy Lindsay Arthur's style of writing, but because this isn't a new novel, we don't think readers should have to pay as much for it. We also know it's harder for readers to find print copies of older books, which makes e-books so great.

We're also looking for new reviewers who can tell interested readers why this book is still relevant today, even though it was published 7 years ago. New ads will go out on relevant sites, and we'll try to get the author's voice out on various forms of media, like social media and possibly radio. The point is to remind readers about this great book, especially since the name The Litigators has gotten so much media attention these past few weeks.

Backlist books rarely get this kind of extra exposure...authors are usually pretty wary about giving their novel a title that has already been used. That said, everything else Scarletta plans on doing with The Litigators can be used on any other backlist book. You just have to make the book visible and remind readers of its relevance in their lives.

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