Thursday, 6 January 2011

Backlist Books

For my first Thursday Truth post, I’m going to talk about backlist titles, by which I mean books that came out more than a year ago. Since I had no new book out last year all of my titles now count as backlist, which means I’m in the unusual position of being able to focus my full attention on them.

Such books fall into three categories:
Those that remain on the original publisher’s list and are still selling (good).
Those that remain with the publisher but are out of print, or selling one or two copies a year (bad).
Those for which the publisher has reverted rights back to the author (also quite good – see below).

Muse note: The question of when, how, and under what circumstances, rights revert is a complex one that depends on the contract you signed with your publisher so I won’t go into that here, except to say that giving you your rights back does not seem to be high on many publishers’ priorities. So if you are an author under contract and do not feel confident that your publisher will exploit these rights within your lifetime, it is up you to ask for them to revert.

The only time I think it's advantageous to leave an out-of-print title with your publisher is when they are planning a reissue, maybe to accompany publicity surrounding your next book. Chicken House did this for my second novel “Spellfall”, which has now gone through the whole process of being initially contracted, published, reissued, reverted, and – just this week – republished in exciting new e-format (Muse: more about how to do this on Kindle Tuesdays.)

So here is the true story of Spellfall’s journey into the hands of its readers:
First edition published in 2000 in hardback by Chicken House. Sold out Dec 2000.

Paperback edition published June 2001, went out of print in Dec 2003.
American edition published in 2001 by Scholastic US. Launched at the American Libraries Association conference in San Francisco and flagged in the American independent booksellers’ Children’s 76 for that year as the “book most likely to fill the Harry Potter void this fall”.
UK edition reissued by Chicken House in 2007, rights reverted back to me 2010.

E-edition re-published with Amazon for Kindle in January 2011 by Reclusive Muse... moonlighting again, the little unicorn-devil! Well, he does have a horn I suppose. (Muse note: and for all those lovely librarians out there who spotted a bad word in the print edition, I made Katherine remove it!)

I feel quite excited by this journey, because it proves backlist books do not have to die a slow death and stay buried forever. And one of the lovely things about children’s books is that, as one generation of young readers grows up, a new generation of readers is just being born… so if the book does not date too much, then there’s no reason why it should not keep being reborn also, rather like Dr Who, taking different forms for different times.

Muse note: If you have a Kindle and would like to read a free sample of "Spellfall", you can get it from If you haven’t got a Kindle yet, you can download a free app from amazon for your ipad, iphone, blackberry, etc. or your computer and read it on that. Let the Muse know what you think!


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