Thus, the back list often sinks into obscurity, a limbo where it is technically in print, but isn't actually moving. You, the author, might still be busting a gut to promote it, but you will probably not be able to influence sales sufficiently.
This leads to another frustrating aspect: the feeling that your hard work in writing the
Sometimes, however, a publisher decides that new life is indeed what your work can have. And this, I'm pleased to say, is what is happening to me with Walker Books.
Until a few months ago, the situation was this:
- My brain books (Blame My Brain and Know Your Brain) were ticking along with modest sales, but were well and truly back list, having been published in 2005 and 2007.
- Despite fab reviews, sales of the two highwayman books (The Highwayman's Footsteps and the Highwayman's Curse) were less than modest, in the sense that there was absolutely no need to feign any modesty at all. I was waiting for them to go out of print.
- Yes, OK: Wasted was doing rather well, but that was not going to have an effect on the above books, which are in different markets.
- Walker are planning an ebook of Blame My Brain, updated with new material by me, and lots of interesting links. (Be patient - there's lots to do first!)
- Possible TV interest has arisen in Blame My Brain, after a TV company heard me on the Simon Mayo show. (This might lead to nothing, but I'm hopeful.)
- Both highwayman books have had a huge surge of interest from schools (more of that later) and have not only reprinted twice in the last few months, but are also being put into ebook format. I'll be doing school events in primary schools, as the books are pitched at 10+.
- I hope the fact that the books are good was helpful, so people wanted to buy them even without promotion.
- Blame My Brain continues to be sui generis and I am always being asked to do events, not just in schools but in all sorts of situations: medical, social work, religious.... (Yikes!)
- I have deliberately built a reputation as someone who works hard and will always step up to the plate to help a publisher promote my work.
- Walker Books increasingly see my online activity. Other publishers are also noticing. Profile is important when it comes to selling books and the harder you work the easier that becomes. (Confession time: I couldn't give a toss about profile - I just like talking!)
- Crucially, schools have suddenly bought the highwayman books, and bought, and bought them. The first I knew of this was when a school supplier in Scotland contacted me to say they had heard that the highwayman books were going out of print and could I please urge my publisher to reprint. They guaranteed to order 1000 copies if they did. That is extraordinary. Until then, I'd no idea schools had even noticed them. (I'm going to blog about this separately as I'm going to talk about the importance of school visits and links soon.)
That back-list books can have a new life; that a lot of this is luck; but that you have to keep doing the right stuff to make luck happen. You have to keep working and working hard. So, writers, keep behaving professionally; keep active online and off; keep smiling and seem positive even when you don't feel it; keep being good to work with and keep writing the best books you can.
Soon, to celebrate the sudden success of the highwayman books, I'm organising a major competition, with a category for schools and adults and lots of books to be won. Details later, here and on my website. But I have to warn you: you'll need to read one of the books, otherwise you won't be able to do the simple task I'm going to set. :) So, people, do try the Highwayman's Footsteps and The Highwayman's Curse. Ebook or print, I don't mind! Well, actually, the ebooks aren't live yet...