Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Bet You Wish You'd Listened When the Teacher Was Talking About the Erie Canal Now. Also, More About Backlists.

Checking Facts With Players Who Are Still in the Game by Mike Shatzkin at The Idea Logical Company turned up on my Facebook page this morning. I dropped everything and read it, which says volumes about my work ethic these days. This article is notable for a number of things, two of them being: 

  • Some history about how New York City became the center of the publishing world and why traditional publishing published seasonally. It's as I always told my kids when they were studying social studies: Pay attention to water!! Access to water mattered in the past!! Relating to publishing and history Shatzkin  refers to a book coming out in July, The Untold Story of Books: A Writer's History of Book Publishing by Michael Castleman. 
  • Shatzkin also writes about the importance of the backlist. This is the second thing I've read recently that talked about that. Yet in the '00s new books were going out of print very rapidly. I had two books go out of print at once. Several times I wasn't even notified ahead of time by my very legitimate traditional publisher when a book went out of print. Conventional wisdom back then was that publishers had to pay taxes of some sort on what was in their storehouses, and it was cheaper to pulp books that were no longer current or meeting some sales limit. I wonder now if I'd been publishing just a decade later whether I'd still have hardcover books in print. What would having books in print mean for an author? Schools and libraries like to book children's authors for appearances who have books students can buy, so that's an income source for those people that disappears along with the book. Additionally, libraries sometimes want to replace certain titles. If the book's out-of-print, that can't happen. Or, at least, not easily.
It sounds as if Shatzkin includes ebooks when he's discussing backlists. I do have three ebooks still available through my publisher. Over the years, I have occasionally made an effort to market them. My impression from the writers I see on social media is that they don't. I think many writers think of ebooks as something that just doesn't exist. Hardcover is king. Now maybe that's because I know so many children's writers on social media, and in the past, children haven't seemed to be a big market for ebooks. Adult genre writers are supposed to be far more interested in ebooks.

At any rate, something appears to be happening with backlists.

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