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.
- Night of the Phantom,
- One More Valentine,
- 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.
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 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.