2.08.2006

Back List

Flem Snopes asked:

Miss Snark said "When I pitch something I talk about what this book can do for them: it will back list well" --does any type of fiction "back list well?" Or is the backlist limited to textbooks, cookbooks, etc?



Textbooks don't backlist as well as fiction. People are always updating textbooks to accomodate new knowledge.

Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird was published (ie front list) in 1960. There are three editions on the shelf today at Barnes and Noble. I just bought one. That's back list with serious muscle.

And it's not just classics. Lots of amazing books/authors chug along under the radar selling nicely year in and year out: Pat The Bunny, Charles Bukowski, Zane Grey, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Orson Scott Card, Lord of the Rings, Tom Spanbauer.

Publishing makes most of its money on backlist. Front list is like Haute Couture during Fashion Week: noisy, loud, demanding all the attention. Back list is where the money is made, like the royalties for the dresses that realy work in real life and never saw the runway keep selling at Bloomingdales all year long.

8 comments:

Bernita said...

If you'll forgive me for mentioning something politically related, I heard that the war in Afghanistan cause a bump in Rudyard Kipling.

Poohba said...

When I think of all the books I've been "meaning to get around to reading" that doesn't surprise me. I very rarely race out to B&N on a Tuesday morning to see what's new, but I will spend ages wandering through the lit section seeing what jumps out at me. I've found some of my favorite books that way.

sidtara said...

Backlist v. front list.
In Romance it seems to be all about a completely disposable front list that makes a quick buck then goes OOP. I wouldn't advise a first time author in romance to pitch his/her MS as a great backlist title. Margaret Mitchell couldn't publish Gone with the Wind today.
Incidentally, is it true that when Harper Lee sent a rough draft of TKAM to the publisher, the editor who got it quit her job and moved south just to help with the revisions?

Eileen said...

So what we need to do is write a novel that is a blend of Little House on the Praire with a few hobits thrown in hanging around with Pat the bunny....

The Green Cedar said...

And don't forget the cotton (or is that under patent?)...

Cay said...

"I wouldn't advise a first time author in romance to pitch his/her MS as a great backlist title. Margaret Mitchell couldn't publish Gone with the Wind today."

Oh, really? I've read GWTW twice and love, love, love that book. : )
This theory never dawned on me, but I see your point.

"Incidentally, is it true that when Harper Lee sent a rough draft of TKAM to the publisher, the editor who got it quit her job and moved south just to help with the revisions?"

Is this sited material? Would love to read it. : )

Sal said...

Incidentally, is it true that when Harper Lee sent a rough draft of TKAM to the publisher, the editor who got it quit her job and moved south just to help with the revisions?

I'm interested in a cite as well.

This recollection fails to mention such a scenario.

Brady Westwater said...

Besides that cite, I have also read in other places about Harper Lee's traveling back and forth to New York in the years it took to edit the novel. It is one of my all time favorite novels.