Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Reminded of Something…

Backlist Memories…

Not a part of my branding series, just me reminding myself of something…

Here is the story. Fact, at the moment Kris and I have about 1,400 titles of one sort or another. We have spent over 12 years of hard work and time and a ton of money to get those all into one form of print or another.

Some make decent money, some make a little money, some don’t sell at all. Normal and expected.

I have to be honest, I can’t remember a bunch of the novels I have written and published. Very few of the 106 published novels in traditional publishing, more of the almost 100 published indie. But not a chance can I remember all of them.

The next part of this story comes from a myth. Like a lot of myths based in old facts, it boils out of traditional publishing. Back then you sold the book, it had a launch and some sales, then went away forever (for 99.9% of all books. Some of my traditional published books are still in print but I make nothing from them.)

Except to the accountants in the publishing company depreciating your book, it had no value to you as a writer. Even if, back in the day, you could get the rights reverted.

Now you write a novel and indie publish it, the book has value to you for your lifetime plus 70 years. You know… copyright is a property and has value.

1,400 titles in WMG makes a steady stream of money in a lot of ways. But I personally would like to have the novels that sell next to nothing be revived and brought to the present.

One series of novels I remembered I had done and would like to write more in the series is THE GHOST OF A CHANCE series. They have, without even a close second, the worst covers of any of our books. They were published in the dark and I put them in Smith’s Monthly and that was it.

Poof, I forgot about them.

Five novels! Really fun ghost novels with ghosts saving people and the world. They are part of the Poker Boy Universe and Marble Grant is also a Ghost of a Chance Agent, but not part of the series. She has her own series. Really fun real world fantasy novels.

Five of them.

So now that WMG Publishing is changing paths, we can finally have some real fun and focus on books like those. We have a wonderful cover artist to do new covers and we might just do the books in a Kickstarter sometime soon.

And that will bring up their actual copyright valuation, add value as a brand and trademark, and introduce the books to a new audience. All because of copyright.

So as I have conversations with writers about why their work is not selling much, even though their most recent book does, I try to remind them of how they control the copyright of all their old books and can bring them forward in all sorts of fun and new ways. The lack of understanding of that concept is just simply amazing.

About 12 years ago I did an article titled “What’s a Backlist, Daddy?” talking about how indie writers in the future will not think front list and back list. Seems I was right about that, but I was wrong in another way. Who knew the older books of indie writers are treated worse than backlist books used to be.

They are now just forgotten, even by the writer.



  • Kate Pavelle

    A friend of mine, who is a queen of organization, boosts all her books in a pre-programmed order using a SM management app called SocialBee, but HootSuite would work too. At your book count, you could boost 3.8 books a day (or almost 30 a week.)
    Now, people notice new products after a number of exposures.
    Considering that creating 3 graphic assets per title, plus doing monthly programming of posts, would run into resource issues, looks like your practice of running kickstarters is more time effective.
    SM exposure like that us great for under 100 books. Anything at your level would require an entirely different strategy. I am curious to see what you come up with!

    • dwsmith

      I have to admit for fear of the wrong conversation here, that I had no idea about these social media management things. I am sure Kris and Steph do, but sometimes I like being an old guy. (grin). I spend ten minutes a day on Facebook and don’t use anything else. So the idea of doing something like you suggest just gives me the shudders. I like spending time writing.

      For the moment just bringing old books back to the surface regularly works great. For example, Bryant Street a few months back.

      Thanks for giving me the shudders. (grin)

      • Kate Pavelle

        Always a pleasure, Dean! It’s kind of fun to give you a bit of your own back after, uh…inventory, sales copy, and other sources of overwhelm that don’t come to me naturally (GRIN)

        To be honest, I found the process of creating SM graphic assets hard. Canva is easier for me than Bookbrush because they auto-size for different platforms. Bookbrush might have updated since I quit it, but I used to have to resize images by hand.

        It takes at least 50 posts to make this kind of an effort worthwhile, with at least 3 posts per book. Some of those posts should be evergreen, some seasonal (various holidays, some just plain fun to leep “social” in social media, etc. It takes a few weeks of consistent effort to set this ip. The payoff is increased visibility and boosted sales.

        Note that organic posts include disseminating blog updates, new story releases, etc. also, it’s good to visit one’s FB author’s group to look like a live human, and treat followers to exclusive posts. Some opeople make short TikTok videos featuring their books, essentially moving ads.

        I burned out on this. It was a ton of work and the time investment ran into WIBBOW. But if a person has the discipline to stick it out and set up a system, it will more than pay for itself and you don’t have to update very often.

        SocialBee had tutorials as to how often to post which kind of posts, how to program for time zones, etc. this info changes as platforms change (TikTok, Twitter…) I wish I was less of a “Look, squirrel!”person and better at system maintenance. I would have 2 days a month scheduled for inventory maintenance, and would roll the SM tool maintenance into it.

        I might still do it, it would be a great eay to send new people to my new Shopify store, once that’s finished.

        If you want to see a good example of how this is done, look up Jackie Keswick. She had a Shopify store attached to her website almost as soon as Shopify introduced more affordable pricing tiers. On SM, you will find a daily samplong of images, book excerpts, etc that lead to her store. Also, her books are a pleasure, but I’m biased’cause she’s a friend 😊

    • BLitchfield

      How effective is SM management if you have about ten titles? Fifty?
      Which platforms have you gotten your best return from?
      (I do next to no SM of any kind, personal or business.)

      I’m asking because I’ve seen writers on Twitter with over 30k followers and numerous daily posts. Clearly, they’re using a SM management tool or haven’t seen the sun in several years. Then I look them up on Amazon and find only one book with near zero sales or reviews.

      • dwsmith

        I will late Kate answer the main question, but I want to point out to everyone that looking anyone up on Amazon these days for numbers means next to nothing about how they are doing in the world. Shopify stores are taking a ton away from Amazon, and most of us who have been around for a time make most of our money on licensing and other ways. Social Media is just an information source for readers in some instances. Means nothing to sales.

  • Steve Perry

    Productive old guy, aren’t you?

    I’ve only had published about sixty books, and I can’t remember the names of them all, either. I have a bibliography written down somewhere.

    Probably half of my backlist is up in e-form, and since I started that in 2008, have, over the years added to my income more than I thought. When I put a new one up, the others sometimes get a little boost.

    • dwsmith

      Just like you… still going strong. And yeah, new books do tend to bump the old ones, that’s for sure.