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Your Backlist Is a Veritable Gold Mine

21 April 2011

So, what’s a backlist?

There are really two definitions, one from a publisher’s viewpoint and one from an author’s viewpoint. For a publisher, a backlist is the collection of books the publisher has kept in print for a long time. For an author a backlist is the collection of books the author has written in the past whether they’re currently in print or not.

For indie writers, Passive Guy would like to expand the definition to include manuscripts that haven’t been published.

Amanda Hocking famously self-published nine of her novels at the same time in April, 2010. All of them had been rejected by agents/publishers.

Joe Konrath has described the role of the backlist of previously-published books for an indie author in great detail.

Author Carolyn McCray provides suggestions for how an author can use the backlist to promote sales of all her books.


With the seismic shift in the publishing industry and the explosion of the digital market, it turns out the Internet is a really big place full of people who have never heard of your book(s) and are eager to purchase it. They don’t care if the book came out two years ago or yesterday, they only care that it meets their educational or entertainment needs. This opens up an entire market for your backlist.

. . . .

What most in the industry have not yet embraced is that with digital sales platforms and the power of social media, you can now market your backlist as nearly new material (it is, after all, new to that stranger on the Internet). Not only does marketing your backlist bring in a whole new stream of sales, but someone introduced to backlist title #2 and enjoys it is then prone to buy book #1, #3, #4, and so on. Imagine your backlist titles as gateways towards new readers for your next big release.

. . . .

5 Points to Help Increase Your Backlist Sales

  1. Set goals for sales for each of your backlist title. Be realistic to start but expect GROWTH.
  2. Choose one title as your ‘gateway’ title and value price it (usually 99 cents to $2.99)
  3. Dedicate a certain percentage of your marketing budget (whether financial or social capital) to your backlist titles
  4. Treat each of your backlist titles as a mini-release and rotate them to keep your social media followers engaged
  5. Set up blog review or Internet radio tours for each of your backlist titles and keep your name/titles out there


So here’s a question from Passive Guy: If an indie author has a bunch of unpublished manuscripts of middling quality, do the positives of the “backlist effect” outweigh the negatives of self-pubbing what may not be her best work?

Link to the rest of Carolyn’s article at Digital Book World