I originally wrote this post in November 2010, and was going to reinsert it back into my blog’s timeline (it was one of my missing posts). However, it occurred to me that the subject I was discussing then, is even more pertinent today, so I’ve brushed it down a little and updated it to get your opinions now.
Please forgive any generalisations made to get the point over…
We all love ‘new’ books – titles hot off the press, piled high in bookshops on the promotions tables, featured in the ever-decreasing review sections of papers etc, Richard & Judy picks, nominated for major prizes, etc.
But what happens to a title when it moves out of company with the new?
If it’s lucky, it’ll have had a hardback first edition and go into paperback up to a year later, giving a second bite at being flavour of the month. As likely these days, the book may have been published straight into paperback. The initial publicity campaign for whichever format won’t last for more than a couple of weeks, unless the author is willing to tour the festivals.
After that though, it’s onto the dreaded midlist or backlist, and you’ll hear authors groan that once their books lose their shiny new book du jour status that it’s a slippery slope towards ever-diminishing royalties and eventually being deleted off the backlist due to straggling sales. They’re only as good as their latest book in the cutthroat world of publishing.
What can we do to help?
Bookshops have limited shelf-space for mid and backlist titles whether they are worth reading or not. They have to choose their stock carefully to keep sales going. This is where I believe that bloggers and book groups can play their part.
Often book groups choose titles that have been around for a while, and many groups actively prefer to opt for paperbacks to keep costs down. However, too often, we choose classics by dead authors, prize-winning bestsellers or the newest paperback releases. I’d like to encourage book groups to opt for more adventurous choices To not always read the latest new best thing, to read more books that were published some years ago.
In buying new copies of backlisted titles for book group reading (if we can afford it and don’t already own a copy), or borrowing books from the library, we are doing our bit to help.
Word of mouth is a powerful thing.
This is where bloggers can play a bigger part. There are many bloggers who specialise in reading older titles, who manage to successfully combine reading occasional new books with more of the old – I salute them!
But, if you’re like me, you’ll have an out of control TBR pile, due to concentrating too much on the new, yet unable to stop adding evermore titles! I’d like to encourage those of us addicted to the new, to take a pause occasionally and read a backlisted book or two from those languishing in your overflowing TBR piles. Believe me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Then spread the word about those mid and backlisted books, the authors will thank you.
I do need to force myself to turn away from the new though. I don’t take part in many challenges, but I do the TBR Dare each January, and am taking part in Cathy’s 20 Books of Summer challenge this year. (I’ve just read the 6th out of my 20 and am very pleased with my choices so far. )
There are so many good books out there from recent decades, written by living authors who would welcome attention and the royalties. Let’s read a few more of them…