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Why Every Author Needs a Backlist

February 20, 2012

With eBooks taking the book world by storm and an app available for just about every electronic device, an author’s backlist is a critical component of creating traction.

What’s a backlist you ask?

A backlist is an author’s list of titles, usually published previous to the current release.

A backlist functions on two levels. It foremost proves longevity to a reader. An author with multiple titles is no one hit wonder. Readers want to know they will get to read a favorite author again. Backlist creates the security of a long term relationship.

Secondly, an author who has more than one title out, must not, well, stink at writing. Multiple titles increases that overall meta-message that this author is a safe bet. Other people must like them if they have more than one book out. And the author must have experienced enough success to warrant multiple books.

An author’s greatest compliment is when a reader finishes their book and asks “when is your next title coming out?”

So what if you are a debut author with one title out? Get writing. Work on short pieces for anthologies, that next title and other ways to get your name out there en masse.

It’s that in the meantime factor that brings ‘virtual backlist’ into play.

A virtual backlist is the titles you promote in your book’s back matter (sneak peeks, blurbs, etc. at the end of a book) that are not necessarily your titles.

Step One—Connect with an author in a similar genre to you, one that your reader will likely enjoy, too. Feel free to venture into sister genres to help expand that audience. Just be sure the genres make sense together. Will a non-fiction humor book marry well with a horror novel? Probably not as well as with another non-fiction title, or, depending on the humor content, a romantic comedy title.

Step Two—promote to each other’s work on your product description, in you back matter and on your social media platform. This drives the virtual backlist buyers and gives the illusion of security through that approval of peers. “It must be good if that author I like likes it.”

What does a virtual backlist do for you?

-It gives you control over the recommendation queue. “People who bought this, also bought this.” In essence, it gives you power over who you sit on the internet shelf next to.

-It creates a forward pointing system that keeps titles linked together in sales, helping each author increase them overall.

-It creates that popularity factor that meta-message and buyer security is grounded in.

-It creates cross promotion and thereby, cross pollination.

Overall, it gives you the author a little breathing room while you focus on creating a real backlist through anthology contributions, co-authoring and getting that next book out.

Where do you find authors to cross promote and co-create a virtual backlist with? Put a tweet out, hunt the titles similar to yours, check with your local writing groups. Just like finding a great critique partner, take the time to find a good match with an author with similar goals to create a reciprocal relationship.

Once you do, the possibilities are endless.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. William permalink
    February 20, 2012 1:07 pm

    Excellent point. I’ll keep that in mind for my next book…


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