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Value of the Backlist ? An Older Author?s Re-Entry Into the Publishing World

Posted by allysonmdeese on May 14, 2013 at 2:05 PM

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Value of the Backlist – An Older Author’s Re-Entry Into the Publishing World


Written by Isaiah David Paul

 

I can remember in 1998 when my first novel, A Walk in My Shoes (later renamed Never Too Much) first hit publication fifteen years ago in print and in eBook. As a sixteen year old straight honor roll student who read books faster than water flowed through a socket, I was ecstatic. I didn’t care that the first version was offered for free on my own Angelfire website or that there were only seven copies of the spiral and three-ring bound books in print. I knew two things—I sold quite a few of those spiral bound and three ring binders, and when the Class of 2000 has their twentieth reunion, I’d like for at least one of those copies to make reappearance.

 

Never Too Much has only sold eleven thousand copies in its five re-incarnations under the names Jaeyel Imes and Jarold Imes. I know eleven thousand copies in fifteen years is nothing to brag about—hardly worthy of a bestseller. But for me, I’m more interested in the fact that after fifteen years I’ve been able to see some of the characters grow. In fact, Rahliem “Ace” Victor is a common character who characters appear in many of the Isaiah David Paul novels. When the Isaiah David Paul version hits the shelves in September in commemoration of the novel’s fifteen anniversary, maybe I’ll be able to sell eleven thousand units by the end of 2014.

 

What I love about this book and the eight other titles I’ve published under a variety of names is that with the emergence of print on demand as a means to print books (not to be confused with the vanity and subsidy publishers who’ve given the format a bad name) and eBooks, I can breathe new life into the novel. I can do what the majors do and have been doing for years—revise an older book, make any necessary revisions and corrections that are necessary. Not only will the clean version fit into the secular line I have under my latest pseudonym, but it also gives some background on some of my readers favorite characters. Not to mention I get a chance to give it a modern cover.

 

At first, I was weary about republishing the book again after I lost my last business a year and some change ago. It was one of my bestselling titles and done well as a teen book. The book allowed me to address major teen issues that are just as important to talk about in 2013 as they were in 1998. But my concern was that the book was dated. The slang was older and for a book set in the late nineties, I feared that a new audience wouldn’t enjoy or appreciate the time period. Then I thought about the number of street lit books that hit the stores and book stands and were pushed the trunks of cars. Many of those books started in the 70s and quite a few of them stayed there. The books that paid homage to Donald Goines, Iceberg Slim and Chester Himes were important in setting the foundation for street lit and urban fiction that still sells today.

 

I also thought of some of the romance authors who I’d come to admire like Adrianne Byrd, Beverly Jenkins, Niobia Bryant and Jacquelin Thomas. Many of these authors first novels were published either in the late 90’s or early 2000’s right in the middle of the resurgence of African American literature. Some hit bestseller’s lists right away—some didn’t. But what they all have in common is that as they gain a new reader—they gain a reader who will search for their backlist to gain background knowledge of their new favorite characters. Everyone in my immediate circle knows I love Beverly Jenkin’s books in particular not just for the covers, but for the historical content that I learn and am able to share with fellow history buffs.

 

Some authors who’ve been around since that time period find themselves in a unique situation. Whether they are bestselling, award winning or just hanging around, they all have books that stand to gain them new fans and new sales opportunities. Some books may speak on certain situations and can be promoted during certain times of the year. Some books are classics that will always attract readers’ hearts. Whatever the case may be, I want to encourage all authors to value your backlist.

 

If you are one of those authors (and I’m going to raise my hand first before I call anyone else out) who knows for a fact that your first effort wasn’t edited well, didn’t have a beautiful cover or otherwise didn’t meet expectations, I want to encourage you to try again. Polish the book and reissue it. If that means you spend a year fact-checking your information, rewriting certain scenes and revising the synopsis and even changing the name of your book, do it. I’m keeping the name Never Too Much because it’s uplifting title fits the theme of some of my other Isaiah David Paul novels. But I’m changing the name of one of my upcoming secular reissues to Lifted because it better fits the story and the title also fits a theme I’m going for with these particular sets of books.

 

I’m not saying your backlist will hit the bestseller’s list when it’s reissued. What I am saying is that if you don’t love or respect your body of work, no one else will. Put for the time, effort and value into your backlist and you will reap the reward. Lord willing, all of my books older books will be revised and reissued in a year’s time. I promise if it’s in His will, I’ll come back and let you know how they did.

 www.isaiahdavidpaul.com

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1 Comment

Reply joyce dickerson
8:40 AM on June 7, 2013 
I was your fan back then and remember all of your books in fact I have a list of childrens books that you sent me back in the day that I have past on to younger adults, with kids that have a joy to read and did not have a list of good books to pick from.

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