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Keeping Backlist Active

Sarah Bolme is the Director of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) and had an interesting article for authors at the blog Marketing Christian Books, where it ran under the title, Extending The Life of a Book. I include it today because (a) we do have some authors who read this blog, and (b) it offers insights for retailers who have stock on hand and could use some imagination stimulus on how to reactivate certain product.

The other day I was pleasantly surprised when I opened my mail and found a royalty check for a good sum of money. This royalty check was from our foreign rights agent. It was for payment for copies of Baby Bible Board Books: Stories of Jesus that had been sold in Indonesia.

When we secured the foreign rights for Baby Bible Board Books, we were originally paid an advance royalty on the books by the Indonesian publisher who acquired the rights to translate, print, and sell the books in Indonesia. I figured that this advance royalty was all we were ever going to see.

I never imagined that this Indonesian publisher would sell enough copies of the book to continue to pay royalties beyond the initial payment. I was wrong.

There are a number of ways to extend the life of a book. These include:

  1. Placing the title on your back-list.
  2. Continuing to actively promote the title by tying it into current events and issues.
  3. Bundling the title with a newer book and offering it for a reduced rate.
  4. Selling foreign rights for the title.

Selling foreign rights for a title is a great way to extend the life of a book. Not only does the publisher or author continue to sell copies of the title, they do so without any ongoing efforts on their part.

I believe the best way to secure foreign rights for a title is through a foreign rights agent. These agents work to establish relationships with publishers in various countries. They know which publishers in these countries are reputable and will abide by their agreements. In addition, they negotiate the contracts and act as the liaison between the publishers.

Have you sold foreign rights for any of your books? What was your experience? I would be interested in hearing about it.

~Sarah Bolme

Footnote: I believe the first of Sarah’s four ideas above is meant to address the mentality where publishers and authors are only focused on the latest product. In our environment, a key to moving backlist may involve hand-selling product customers may have missed.

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