Home > Uncategorized > Backlist, Not Frontlist, May Be Your Store’s Top Strength

Backlist, Not Frontlist, May Be Your Store’s Top Strength

Good advice appeared in a recent NBC News article on religious bookstores of all types by religion writer Alex Johnson. It starts out looking at “a small independent shop offering a wide variety of books about paganism and anything else religious ‘that isn’t Christianity, Judaism or Islam.’

Further in, the story looks at Christian bookstores including this data from Parable Christian Stores:

Last year, new religious books and goods — the so-called frontlist, as opposed to older books and merchandise on the “backlist” — made up only 15 percent of the top 20 products sold at Christian retail outlets in the United States, it found. By comparison, new books and goods made up 45 percent of the top 20 religious products sold in the general retail marketplace.

In other words, “it appears that frontlist products are moving faster outside of Christian retail,” said Parable, which put an optimistic spin on the numbers by counseling religious bookstores to capitalize on their “backlist breadth” of older materials.

The article also quotes Sarah Bolme of the Christian Indie Marketing Assocation (see the link here on the blog to Marketing Christian Books):

“Starbucks thrived because they marketed themselves as a ‘third place,’ a space where people can share and enjoy a cup of coffee with friends and colleagues away from work and home,” Bolme wrote last year in a marketing report on what she called the decline of independent Christian bookstores.

“Wouldn’t it be nice for Christian bookstores to be a ‘third place’ for Christians and seekers to gather and encounter God without the formality of a church building or service?” she asked. 

The advice from both parties is worth considering. In terms of backlist, there are also frontlist titles that the mass retailers and online marketers simply don’t know about… but you do. A focus on those titles can bear fruit, especially if someone on staff has actually read the book or is passionate about the subject or the author. 

The idea of having the bookstore as ‘third space’ isn’t new. Most of us dream of having a coffee shop or a concert space, but are prevented by practicalities and logistics. Still, even in a small store where there’s not even a place to sit, some incredibly impactful conversations can happen standing in a back corner or over the counter.

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