Monday, March 16, 2015

Front list, back list, spring list, black list, no list?

Traditional publishers plan long in advance for books to become available at specific times. There's generally a “fall list” and “spring list” (or maybe a “fall/winter” and “spring/summer” list) of new books. Books may also debut for the winter holiday season, summer vacation, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Election Day, etc.

Although I have not been able to find any, I assume that at one time publishers’ book lists were simple one-page price lists that salesmen used when selling to bookstores. Now many “lists” are thick color catalogs, website pages or PDF downloads.

In addition to the seasonal lists, books are listed (i.e., classified) according to importance. A “front list” book is new, expected to sell well and receives a lot of promotional effort. A “back list” book was probably published years ago. Sales are not so dismal that the book goes out-of-print, but it receives little or no promotional effort. A “midlist” book, as you might assume, is between front and back. Most books are midlist. Midlist and backlist books are important in publishing because they bring in money year after year with little or no effort or expense. Some writers are referred to as “midlist authors.”

The front, mid and back designations relate to the position of a book in a publisher’s catalog -- or state of mind. Being on the backlist is not necessarily an insult. Simon & Schuster’s backlisters include Pulitzer-Prize-winner David McCullough and Nobel-Prize-winner Ernest Hemingway.

A black list, on the other hand, is a list of things or people to avoid. Try not to be on one of those.

(From my 1001 Powerful Pieces of Author Advice

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