Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Backlist Books: So Many Choices…

With the phenomenal surge of interest in author backlist, I’m suddenly popular not for what I could do, but for what I HAVE done.

Basically, as a lazy person who doesn’t have enough time to practice her favorite habit of slothfulness, making money off something already completed held an immediate appeal. Hey, what else was I going to do with those 45+ titles currently in cartons holding up my box springs? New readers weren’t likely to stumble on them there, unless they were cleaning my apartment. So, how to cash in on this gold mine…

As a history minor, I know a thing or two about gold mining. It takes an upfront investment, its brutal work, and in the end, success often comes down to just plain luck. Hmmm, not looking like the road to Easy Street I first imagined.

Still, while at RWA National, I dangled those 45+ books to see who’d rise to the bait. I got plenty of nibbles from some surprising sources: small and niche publishers, book clubs, my agent who is offering self-pubbing services, an editor from Germany, and even Amazon and Barnes & Noble vying for my business. The only workshop I made time to attend was “Publishing Your Backlist” and it held a wealth of information. But it all came down to choices and the bottom line for every writer: What’s in it for me?

I could: 

  1. Self-publish…but did I have the time to learn a new tech skill?
  2. Turn it over to my agent who would very efficiently handle everything for me…for her usual 15%;
  3. Go with a small press for a small advance and let them absorb the costs and marketing.
But wait, first things first…wrangling those rights back from the original publishers. You’d think that would be easy, until you dig through an old file cabinet to go over those yellowing contracts. Most of my books were sold before e-publishing was even a glimmer, but there were still issues of print rights and even merchandising rights, and prior agent involvement to consider. Every contract held its own row of hoops to go through to reclaim books which suddenly they weren’t in such a big hurry to dispose of. The process ranged from 60 days to 9 months!

Sigh, no quick and easy get rich plan for this author.

Who has a good reversion of rights story to share? Any advice for this mentally weary writer?

1 comment:

  1. Well, Nancy, I don't have a reversion of rights story yet, but I can say you are an inspiration to aspiring writers and your books are great so whatever you choose will be the right one :)