IP Is The New Frontlist (Part Two)

From Kristine Kathryn Rus ch:

For six months now, I’ve been contemplating the sentence, “IP is the new frontlist.” I wrote about the implications of that twice in the past two months, first as part of the fear-based decisionmaking blogs, and then in the previous post called “Untapped.”

First a few terms for those of you who don’t know. IP is intellectual property—which is what you create when you write a book. (If you don’t understand this, pick up the Copyright Handbook from Nolo Press, and read the damn thing.)

. . . .

Frontlist is a traditional publishing term for the new books being promoted to the bookstores. (Trad pub was and is all about bookstores.) Frontlist is the place that traditional publishing puts all of its advertising dollars, in fact, all of its efforts and expenditures.

The backlist is everything they published before. Some of the backlist is still in print. Most is not. Rarely does the backlist get revived.

This is the way the entire entertainment industry used to run. It took a long time for the movie/TV industry to figure out that people wanted to see old movies, for example. Turner Classic Movies was a revelation when it started in the 1980s. It could generate ad revenue, because people liked watching the channel. It took a while for the movie companies to put old movies on video, and even longer for them to see value in old TV shows on video.

Then Netflix came along with its gigantic appetite for content, and back in the days when they mailed you the DVDs on a subscription model, they discovered that people liked to binge old TV shows.

It took a couple of decades for the movie/TV industry to put all of that together. They weren’t sure how to handle it at first, which is why we saw so many old shows getting revived and revamped.

In the entertainment industry, we were all raised to think new is better, so of course, we had to make new TV shows out of old ones, and new movies out of old ones. Slowly, the realization came that new isn’t always better. You don’t improve on greatness.

So when the pandemic hit as the industry was trying to deal with streaming, they were primed to look at ways to change the industry. Prime time—the TV word for frontlist—wasn’t that prime anymore. People watched it at their own pace and in their own time.

That’s happening with books, but traditional publishers still don’t see it. Read the previous two blogs that I linked to above to see what I mean.

The problem is that most indie writers follow the traditional publishing model on everything. Indies put all their hopes and dreams and money into the newest book of theirs. They ignore their backlist. They think the only thing that has value is the book they’re releasing right now.

It’s not a surprise that indies think this way. After all, we were all raised in the same entertainment environment. For the past 150 years, books have been produce—something that spoils as it ages and needs to be tossed out. All entertainment has been based on the attitude that the latest is the greatest.

That attitude has seeped into our subconscious whether we like it or not.

But if you look at your own behavior, you’ll find that you’re not consuming the latest things all the time. You might stream a new show, but you’ll also stream a new-to-you show, based on recommendations from friends.

If you have a big To-Be-Read pile, like I do, you’ll read the latest novel followed by a novel that’s been on your shelf since 2015. None of us consume only newly published/newly released things. Let’s exclude returning to old favorites (which is a blog topic all its own). Most of us consume new-to-us things all the time.

So…step back from that for a moment and think about it.

If new-to-you is the model, then most indie writers are going about promotion all wrong.

Instead of always focusing on the real new product, writers need to focus on the project that makes the most sense to promote.

What do I mean by that? Well, it depends. So you’re going to release a new book in your series. You can market that book to the people who’ve already bought the series and to your newsletter of regular readers.

Or you can revamp and spruce up the series for the new release…and do a new-to-you promotion that will bring the first book in the series to the attention of people who have never read the series.

. . . .

But there are other ways to do a new-to-you promotion. You can pay attention to what’s happening in the culture and promote around that.

Imagine, for example, that suddenly books about Hawaii are in demand—and you just happened to publish a standalone Hawaii book five years ago. Time to put some promotion behind that, to catch the Hawaii wave, so to speak.

But what if you have nothing that’s au courant? What if you have a lot of books and some faithful readers and that’s it?

Well, then, time to set up a schedule to revisit your old titles. Rather than constantly improving the new, think about doing new covers and new promotion on your older works.

Set up a schedule—this series gets new covers and a refreshed interior in 2022, that one gets its revival in 2023, and so on.

Make sure all of your books are available to readers on all platforms. Take advantage of group marketing efforts like bundles—or create bundles of your own—so that readers can get introduced to all that you do.

What do I mean about bundles of your own? Say you wrote five standalone books about pets. Do a pet bundle—buy four and get one free—and sell it on your website for a short time only. Or put all of the books together in a pet bundle and make it available as a gigantic ebook, for a discounted price. (Cheaper than you could buy the books as a standalone.)

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.