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Publishers Making the Backlist More Accessible

The e-backlist has been a long time in coming. Readers, particularly romance readers, are big glommers and they often are searching for the one book their reading buddy says is a must find. Unfortunately, these books are often difficult to find and very expensive. Publishers are being more responsive by making backlist titles easily available in ebook format. Republication of hard to find books in ebook format is a win win for publishers, authors and readers. Readers have the opportunity to easily locate out of print titles and they are affordable. Publishers and authors win because ebooks are not returnable; cannot be sold; cannot be traded. The party that is left out in this scenario are the used book stores.

Sure, there is the possibility of piracy, but for an out of print title, you are capturing a sale and a royalty that would have either not have taken place but been part of the used book commerce stream.

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E-Harlequin is offering an Anne Stuart bundle of out of print, hard to find category novels that were handpicked by Stuart as five of her favorites. The bundle sells for $15.96 and includes the following:

  • Night of the Phantom,
  • One More Valentine,
  • Cinderman,
  • The Soldier and the Baby, and
  • Wild Thing.

I’ve read the Soldier and the Baby in its original iteration and it’s cover is snark-a-licious. In reviewing my reading records, I gave The Soldier and the Baby a B, Night of the Phantom a B, One More Valentine (a 1920-30s Time Travel) a B, and Wild Thing, a B-. I didn’t read Cinderman. The books I really wish would be re-released by Anne Stuart? The Demon Count and The Demon Count’s Daughter. These two very hard to find books were picked out for me by a very dear friend. They are classic examples of the gothic style made popular by Mary Stewart.

Harper Collins

For months, HarperCollins has been assiduously digitizing its backlist, offering up a new author’s backlist every week. Every book by New York Times Bestselling author, Julia Quinn, is available in ebook format including her very first book, Splendid. Cathy Maxwell’s Avon books are all available in ebook format, even her 1996 release, You and No Other which is ironically identified as “out of print” as Ms. Maxwell’s website. There are a whole raft of Avon authors who have received the ebook backlist release treatment such as the fabulous Eloisa James, Sari Robins (whom I have never read), Sara Bennett (ditto), and many many more that I could name but am too lazy to do so. Just look here.

Simon & Schuster

Simon & Schuster is great at pricing and offering up a new book each month as an early release, and its backlist digitizing is impressive. It has smartly capitalized on the growing popularity of USA Today Bestseller, Kresley Cole, by digitizing her backlist. Liz Carlyle’s entire published history is available including her first book, and my favorite, My False Heart. Jude Deveraux’s books, back when she was writing her best romances, are there as well as lesser known authors like Laura Moore whose quiet voice may have gotten lost but for $3.89 she’s worth taking a peek at. I find myself buying more books than I intend to at Simon & Schuster because of the low price. With books under $4.00, I end up justifying buying at least two books because it’s really like buying two for the price of one.

Random House is lagging behind. It offers up some but not all the backlist of even its most popular authors like Amanda Quick and Jane Feather. It’s doing a good job of making its current titles available but I believe in the power of the backlist because readers love the glom and it’s so easy to satisfy the glom with ebooks.

I have to give bad marks to publishers Warner and Penguin. Both release a small amount of ebooks each month and very few backlists are available in ebook format. Penguin, in particular, seems to be lost. It’s ebook page is a study in laziness. It is rarely updated and even worse, lacks accurate information. Oftentimes there are ebook versions of a Penguin title that is for sale at the various online vendors, but not listed as an ebook on its page. Another sign of its cluelessness is when it released JR Ward’s third Black Dagger Brotherhood book: Lover Awakened in ebook format a month before the release of Ward’s fourth book, Lover Revealed. Still no sign of Lover Revealed or the first two books in the series. I regularly curse Penguin for its lack of attention to the ebook segment. I love Penguin’s books like Meljean Brook’s Demon Angel or Nalini Singh’s Slave to Sensation but neither are in ebook format. Both Warner and Penguin need to do a better job in the future of meeting the consumer’s needs.

As I read my post over, I realized that I never once mentioned St. Martin’s Press or Tor but the reason for that is they so rarely put out anything in ebook format that I forget they even exist as publishers sometimes. I suppose that is an exaggeration but they don’t seem to have any presence in the ebook market at all.

Until all the publishers realize what a gold mine digitizing the backlist can be, I’ll be spending money at the UBS that could be a royalty earning sale for the author if there was an ebook version.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. May
    Apr 08, 2007 @ 08:19:34

    I had been meaning to ask you, Jane, but have you heard of Belgrave House? They reissue as ebooks out of print novels. Their authors include Carla Neggers, Madeline Baker/Amanda Ashley and Curtiss Ann Matlock.

    Here’s the thing about piracy: It’s already happening. I had a ‘friend’ offer to send me pirated ebook versions of Kay Hooper’s Men of Mysteries Past series several years ago, so clearly there is a market for OOP novels as ebooks.

  2. LinM
    Apr 08, 2007 @ 08:44:26

    OOP ebook re-releases – can I make a shopping list? I have no idea who owns the digital rights to these titles but I want, I want, I want.

    1. Bliss and Dance by Judy Cuevas. I have 3 copies of Bliss which I keep together in hopes that one of them will metamorphosize into Dance.

    2. Forget the Web series by Mary Balogh. I want “A Temporary Bride” and “Dancing with Clara”.

    3. Possession by A.S. Byatt.

    4. When “Metallic Love” by Tanith Lee came out as an ebook, why wasn’t “Silver Metal Lover” re-released as an ebook and that’s just a start on her backlist.

    5. Continuing in the fantasy field, Zelazny & McKinley & Hodgell (ha, ha – it is hard enough to get her books in any form) & …

    6. In the mystery field, I don’t know where to start – it would be nice to see more current mysteries released as ebooks. I’ll ask for the backlist later.

    7. In biography, S&S planned to release “Beau Brummell” as an ebook and reneged – I want that one.

    8. In food – I want Ruth Reichl and M.F.K. Fisher.

    9. In dance – I want “Dancers, Buildings and People in the Street”.

    Oh hell, I’m rambling – time to stop.

  3. club » Publishers Making the Backlist More Accessible
    Apr 08, 2007 @ 10:29:02

    […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptI have to give bad marks to publishers Warner and Penguin. Both release a small amount of ebooks each month and very few backlists are available in ebook format. Penguin, in particular, seems to be lost. It’s ebook page is a study in … […]

  4. Jane
    Apr 08, 2007 @ 10:31:58

    May – I do know of the Belgrave House and I love it. I don’t know why I keep forgetting to mention it. Both Jayne and I buy those books regularly. Joan Smith and Laura Matthews are my favorite authors from that house. I rarely read a bad book from them.

    There is definitely a market for OOP books. I saw in the forum from Jane A that Michele Albert is offering her OOP books for $1.50. I hope alot of people start buying those from her. It’s a great way, imo, to support your authors – to buy them directly from the author.

    LinM- I would go and search out the publishing house for those authors and then go bug both the author and the house to get them in ebook format. I think it requires about 60 ebook sales to make the digitization worthwhile plus some ongoing maintenance costs and so forth so if they get enough requests maybe they’ll think its worthwhile.

  5. Meril
    Apr 08, 2007 @ 15:58:34

    LinM: Your Hodgell wishes have been answered.

  6. LinM
    Apr 08, 2007 @ 18:17:29

    Jane – point taken, off to do homework.

    Meril – oh yea, oh yea, oh wow, oh wow – life is good. Jamethiel and the Kencyrath – I’m off to dance around the room one more time.

  7. Robin
    Apr 09, 2007 @ 00:11:24

    Re. Bliss and Dance, from what I understand, Ivory is working on a third book in this series? And if that’s correct, I’m guessing that reissue of these titles will accompany that new book. Am I correct in thinking that Ivory has the rights now for those two books?

    And oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have Ruth Reichl’s memoirs in ebook? I adored Tender At The Bone. I still have to read Jacques Pepin’s memoir, which I understand is just wonderful, as well.

  8. Roslyn
    Apr 09, 2007 @ 08:04:35

    I’d give my left arm for Roberta Gellis’ and Lisa Gregory’s (Candace Camp’s) backlist. I almost paid $300 for Gellis’ Roselynde Chronicles on ebay. Fortunately I came to my senses. I know Harlequin did two reprints, but apparently they made no money so they didn’t do the rest. I’m so frustrated.

  9. Michele
    Apr 09, 2007 @ 10:57:47

    I LOVE those H/S e-bundles! I recently read Caridad Piñeiro’s Devotion Calls and realized I’d missed the first three or four books of the series, and I found them all bundled over at eReader. Bliss.

    Roslyn, I have Alinor — the original, published by Playboy Press! — and I’m pretty sure my mother has Roselynde. I need to steal it back…

    Other old keepers I’d always want around are Jan Cox Speas’ My Lord Monleigh, Bride of the MacHugh, and My Love, My Enemy. The author passed away some time back, and if I were to ever lose those books I’d be crushed. Being able to replace them via ebooks would at least be a consolation.

    My experiment in selling my OOP backlist as ebooks has been…educational. The used book sellers at Amazon appear to be the main beneficiaries, though I’m thinking it’s more an indication of how many readers are still wary of, or disinterested in, buying ebooks.

  10. DS
    Apr 09, 2007 @ 11:09:44

    Love Hodgell. Godstalk, Dark of the Moon, Seeker’s Mask (paid a lot for this in the Hypatia edition and then bought it again from Meisha Merlin), To Ride a Rathorne– last one I’ve seen. There is also a short story collection Blood and Ivory.

  11. DS
    Apr 09, 2007 @ 11:20:13

    Michele replies:

    My experiment in selling my OOP backlist as ebooks has been-educational. The used book sellers at Amazon appear to be the main beneficiaries, though I’m thinking it’s more an indication of how many readers are still wary of, or disinterested in, buying ebooks.

    I’m usually an early adopter but I can’t seem to get into eBooks. Maybe if there was some sort of combination ebook reader, itunes player, cell phone. portable video player, and PDA available it would be easier. I already travel with a brief case full of technology as it is– my actual files go in a plastic collapsable milk crate thing on wheels I bought at Big Lots.

  12. Keishon
    Apr 09, 2007 @ 16:55:16

    Ah, too bad. I’ll have to pass. None of her favorites were my favorites. I couldn’t even finish Cinderman. There’s one of hers I’ve been meaning to read, Fallen Angel? I think that’s the title.

  13. Roslyn
    Apr 09, 2007 @ 19:23:41

    Alright Michele, perhaps you can leave it to me in your will. I don’t think I’ve ever even SEEN the ones from Playboy Press. I can’t believe Roselynde came out in 1964! That’s the year I was born. Some lucky soul has a special signed hard-back edition of all six. I guess that would cost a kidney and my first-born.

  14. Malle
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 10:42:09

    To DS: Re one device.

    Yes, one affordable device that did it all would be awesome. In the meantime, I use a TREO — it’s great to read eBooks (the screen is sharp and big enough — I am a fast reader and it still works), as my PDA, my cell and I can download music/audiobooks, although I prefer listening from my iPod. One of my colleagues listens to her downloadable audiobooks on the same device and likes it a lot. It’s also a camera.

    Don’t know about downloading video.

  15. Jennybrat
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 10:07:55

    I find myself disappointed that Sugar Daddy’s ebook was only released in one format (Mobipocket) on selected sites – BOB only carries the audiobook; the ebook was listed on Fictionwise but has now been pulled. It’s also not clear if Mine Til Midnight will be released in ebook. Compare this to Kleypas’s entire Avon backlist being available in a variety of formats and the contrast is stark.

  16. Jane
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 10:28:56

    Jenny – St Marten’s Press, Kleypas current publisher, rarely puts its books out in ebook format. You probably need to write the author and publisher and tell them that you want ebooks.

  17. Jennybrat
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 14:48:22

    Well, Lisa’s schedule doesn’t allow her to answer reader mail so she doesn’t have a contact form. I’ll try St Martin’s Press and see what comes of it.

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