Friday, September 8, 2017

Guest Post: Judy Alter



Backlist blues – a happy look at the business of publishing
The backlist traditionally has been the backbone of publishing, providing a steady income in contrast to the spurts and uncertainty of front-list sales. Most of the cost of producing backlist titles has already been covered—and recouped in lucky cases. Backlist sales are often permanent, whereas the front list can suffer from the onslaught of huge returns, cutting profitability in half or more. These days, the backlist would seem to be even more important to publishers as Amazon encourages third-party sales of new titles, often at prices lower than those the publisher offers. Don’t ask me about the economics there, because I don’t understand it.
But what do authors do about their backlist? If they’re with a traditional publisher who does not want to revert the rights to the author, they’re stuck with whatever the publisher does with their titles. But if rights revert, and both major and small presses revert rights although one can’t always figure out their reasoning, authors have several choices in today’s bright new world of publishing.
If you think print copies of the book will sell you can choose POD (print on demand or print to order) and use such agencies as Create Space or Lightning, affiliated with Ingram distributors or it used to be. Easier and cheaper for many of us is the ebook format. You can post a book through Kindle Direct Publishing, Draft2Digital, or Smashwords for next to nothing—and sometimes nothing. Just remember that each new edition—print, digital, audio—needs a new ISBN.
Or you can license your book to a distributor yourself. And that happy occurrence is what happened to me. I have eight young-adult novels. Two are with an academic press that still holds the rights. The other six were with small presses that have since gone out of business, reverting the rights to me. Those six books have been requested and licensed to Speaking Volumes, a company that seems, from its web site, to have a strong interest in writing about the American West. Their list includes an impressive number of important writer of what we sometimes mistakenly call westerns. I will be, however, one of the few living authors. But Speaking Volumes also has a respectable front list—I just seem to be scooting in on the backlist side.
The six books will appear once a month, starting mid- to late-September. The first title is Callie Shaw, Stableboy. After that, I’m not sure of the order of the titles, but they are After Pa Was Shot (my first novel, published by a major New York house now gobbled up in the many mergers and later reverted to me whereupon I licensed it to a small press), Katie and the Recluse, Maggie and a Horse Named Devildust, Maggie and the Search for Devildust, and Maggie and Devildust—Ridin’ High! I am truly excited by this prospect.
Callie Shaw, Stableboy is set at the old Arlington Downs racetrack, midway between Fort Worth and Dallas. Here’s what Booklist said about the novel: “It's 1933, and the only economic boom in Callie's North Texas town is in horse racing. Fourteen-year-old Callie lives with Aunt Edna, who declares that the new race track is ‘the devil's work.’ When the girl loses her job as a maid, she disguises herself as a boy and finds work at the stables. Looking after a race horse becomes a labor of love, but soon Callie is trying to unravel a shady plot to fix races by doping, stealing, and even killing horses. Meanwhile she uses her new contacts to locate her father. As the pace quickens near the end, the loose ends are tied up …. this first-person story will engage readers while giving them a glimpse of bare larders, broken dreams, and stout hearts during the Depression.”
Authors need to remember that their backlist is a valuable asset. No, I don’t expect these books to make me rich at all, but they will provide some income, and they will help get my name and books into the hands of more readers. Every little bit helps, and I intend to be as active in promoting these titles as I am with my front list.
I’m excited about stepping back into the world of young-adult fiction. Another learning experience.


Author Bio


Judy Alter is the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, two books in the Blue Plate CafĂ© Mysteries; and two in the Oak Grove Mysteries. Pigface and the Perfect Dog follows The Perfect Coed in this series of mysteries set on a university campus. Judy is no stranger to college campuses. She attended the University of Chicago, Truman State University in Missouri, and Texas Christian University, where she earned a Ph.D. and taught English. For twenty years, she was director of TCU Press, the book publishing program of the university. The author of many books for both children and adults primarily on women of the American West, she retired in 2010 and turned her attention to writing contemporary cozy mysteries.
            She holds awards from the Western Writers of America, the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Texas Institute of Letters. She was inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and recognized as an Outstanding Woman of Fort Worth and a woman who has left her mark on Texas. Western Writers of America gave her the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement and will induct her into its Hall of Fame in June 2015.
The single parent of four and the grandmother of seven, she lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her perfect dog, Sophie.

Buy link for Pigface and the Perfect Dog:

Buy link for The Color of Fear:

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