Last week I considered if pre-publication hype causes weariness. The responses have been somewhat mixed, as some thought that this is how they learnt of new books. On the flip side, when the hype gets to many, the enjoyment of the new books can be compromised.
No matter how everyone thought the hype impacted them (be it positively or negatively), most agreed that the hype leading up to publication has been increasing lately. This led me to wonder, do we appreciate the backlist enough?
What is the Backlist?
Backlist titles quite simply are books that have been published for about a year and more. This is in contrast to frontlist titles which are book that have been newly published. The thing with frontlist titles is that as they are launched, a lot of advertising dollars go into them. They compete for attention, while backlist titles are confined to whatever space there still might be left on the bookstore shelves.
Unless a backlist title has been popular, it becomes more difficult to find it because bookstores hardly carry them anymore, if at all. At the same time, there’s hardly any hype surrounding these books because they are not so visible to everyone anymore.
Lower Purchase Cost
For frugal bibliophiles backlist titles are a wonderful treasure trove. Marketing campaigns have run their course, so the distribution costs average out to be lower. This leads to lower purchase costs for consumers.
While contemporary books might do well to be read as soon as possible after publication to appreciate the most modern setting, other genres remain more timeless. Take fantasy. The settings tend to be so imaginative that you might not even be able to tell if the book was published recently or ten years ago.
From that standpoint, it’s not so critical to obtain a book while it still is part of the frontlist. A backlist title is just as good but costs less.
Series are Complete
The backlist is particularly beneficial when it comes to series. Backlist series have already been published in their entirety, cutting out the waiting time for readers between books. Frontlist series, particularly with the launch of the very first book are exciting but also exceedingly painful for the hearts of bibliophiles.
Waiting for Future Publication
Firstly, there’s the average wait of a year to a year-and-a-half till the sequel is published. During that time it’s easy to forget what happened, which means either rereading the first book or going into the sequel, hoping to remember what happened before. Another problem could be loss of interest. Reading tastes might shift, so a reader might no longer feel inclined to continue reading mid-series.
Abandonment Issues of Frontlist Series
While waiting might be agonizing, the worst problem of all is when a sequel doesn’t even get published in the end. I remember reading the first two books of the Paisley Hanover series by Cameron Tuttle. The third and final book was due to be published in 2011 but the publisher apparently dropped it.
Uncertainty after Publishers Drop Series
Cameron Tuttle posted on Facebook that she would be self-publishing but since the end of 2012 there have been no more updates. I don’t remember anymore what happened in the second book but I do know there was a massive cliffhanger, which was why I looked for updates every now and then. The series wasn’t meant to be a duology and that was very evident in the plot.
When it comes to backlist series, there’s no need to worry about them being incomplete. All the books are there, which is a splendid reason to cherish backlist titles.
Danger of Fading into Oblivion
Hundreds of thousands of books are published every year. Naturally no bookstore will be able to keep all these books in stock. They pick the books that will most likely bring in money. That usually means the frontlist plus popular backlist titles. For the rest there’s the danger of fading into oblivion.
All the more should we make it a point to cherish backlist books. Many of them are great but in a crowded publishing landscape, there isn’t enough space for all of them.
On the upside, digital publishing makes it possible and even desirable to maintain backlist titles. Then ebooks become part of the long tail, ensuring their availability to readers.
Tiding over and Evading the Hype
Since backlist titles more often than not veer off the radar, hype hardly has any effect on these books anymore. This means if you’re looking for a book that caters specifically to your reading tastes, the backlist is your goldmine. You won’t be swept away by the currents of hype and you’re free to form your own opinions without having to deal with crazed fans who get upset when someone less than liked a hyped up book.
I know I don’t like it when someone questions my thoughts on a book. I don’t mind discussing why we disagree on certain points but whenever I’m told that I’m wrong for disliking a book, I get agitated and wish it was a book others don’t know. That’s why backlist books can be rather comforting.
Cherish both Backlist and Frontlist
What I’m saying here isn’t to cherish the backlist at the expense of the frontlist. I say love books, regardless of their status. The point is, don’t forget to cherish older books while you yearn for books that haven’t even been published yet.
I’ve been reading for 43 years longer than I’ve been blogging–literally. So ARCs and backlists are both new terms to me. I would have divided books chronologically as “current best-sellers” or “classics,” with those published between 1970 and last year just being “books.” When I started blogging last summer, it didn’t even occur to me that it was weird to be reviewing whatever books I happened to be reading, most of which were library books and hence just…books. To me, it’s normal to pick up a book at the library, and if I love it, read everything else the author has written, which often means both older and newer works.
I do agree on the series issue, from both sides. Binging on an entire series is so satisfying, and the best way to keep up interest and comprehension. On the other hand, waiting for the next Harry Potter, Hunger Games, or Lunar Chronicles installment is a great bonding experience, as is excitedly sharing responses with fellow fans once we get our hands on that next book.
Also, I’ve become a middle school reading teacher this year, so watching trends and buying new releases has become important to my classroom library in a way it’s never been for my personal reading. In that regard, I appreciate this community’s focus on what’s new.
Jess @My Reading Dress says
Totally with you. There are some absolute gems that I’ve found in the backlist. However, this is year is a bit of an experiment for me. I’m going ahead and reading exclusively front list. I know that’s a bit risky, just because there’s a chance I could really destroy my sense of enjoyment, just because many of these are debuts and I kind of have nothing to base my enjoyment off. So far, I’ve been alright so fingers crossed!
Jess @My Reading Dress recently posted Seeking Saturday’s Read #29: A Contemporary To Thaw My Cold Heart, the Secret To Juicing Green and Quiet Before the Storm
I try to read a pretty even mix of backlist & frontlist titles, and I love your disadvantages & advantages for both. For me, part of it is I tend to buy my books used because it’s cheaper(and I’m a pro at spotting books still in good condition), so I end up with a lot of backlist titles on my shelves. One of the things I love about reading frontlist titles on release though, especially for books in a series, is the opportunity to flail over books with my fellow book worms. I love the community aspect of bookish fandoms where I can direct message friends on twitter I know like the same series as we’re reading. Though, there’s few things as great as discovering an old but fabulous backlist title & wanting to shout it at everyone because it’s going to be much more widely available through libraries, used book stores, etc.
Stormy recently posted Book Review: Magnolia by Kristi Cook
I love the backlist because I can get hardcovers for really cheap, even if they’re in perfectly new condition. I got golden for just a bit more than a paperback, and it’s one of my favorite hardcovers ever. And I just got Winger recently, and it 535 pesos in the end, which is around $11. I love backlist books, and I love finding them in bookstores. I don’t really read much new books unless they’re ARCs; I would say I’m somewhat a backlist blogger.
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As you might know, I like to wait for series to be complete :P
I think overall I read 50% frontlist titles and 50% backlist titles, maybe even more backlist titles.
When I like one book by an author I always start collecting their older ones too and I like to search for series that are already complete.
I also read a ton of backlist titles because I’m always late in discovering genres I like. I only started reading YA in 2012, so I had a lot to catch up on and wanted to read ALL the backlist titles. Then fell in love with Fantasy at the end of 2013 and added a ton of backlist titles to my wishlist…
A reason why I also love to read older books is that there is already a ton of people out there who have read it, so I know right away, who I can talk to about it or who even follows my reading progress. I can even talk about it while reading it, throw out quotes and stuff without spoiling the other person.
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Natalie @ Flowers in my Books says
Most of the books I read are backlist – or at least a few years old. I rarely have the money to get books as soon as they’re released and although I’m inclined to get new books if I see an old book that I’ve been wanting to read pop up in my bookstore then I’m likely to get that before it goes away again. That’s just how it’s always been for me. I do, however, pick up newly released books like The Raven Cycle or Throne of Glass etc if I’m absolutely desperate to read them but I rarely think about it.
Natalie @ Flowers in my Books recently posted Book Merch – Visual Week Day Four
Actually most of the books I read are backlist titles. I am hopelessly bad at keeping up with current books so always find myself at least a year or two behind with all the “popular” books. Backlist v frontlist is never something I pay attention to when I’m picking out my books though. It just sorta happens in that way. Like I’ll gravitate to books I’m interested in and it’ll just happen to be a book that’s been out for a while.
Also loved seeing Small Damages in your picture! That was a book that I really enjoyed. I took me a while to get into it and at one point I was even thinking of DNFing it but I ended up so enamored by the story and it’s one of my favourite books now. One that I always recommend to people looking for a slightly less well known book.
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In one of my classes today, we talked about the longevity of fiction books which is only about 6!!! weeks at the point of sale = bookshops. If the title hasn’t proven itself till then, it disappears. Considering that about 1 million books are published each year, there are so many that don’t even get to that point.
I myself am a backlist girl and always have been. Although I do look out for new releases, read through the new programmes and preorder a couple of books, the majority of books I buy are from the backlist. Mostly, it has something to do with the price. I do want my books to look nice, but if I can get them cheaply second hand, I can almost never resist. So many bargains! That’s the collector in me speaking. And since I’ve got a ginormeous TBR pile, which is my personal backlist and constantly grows bigger and bigger, I’m totally fine with older books. There really are just a handful I need asap and most of the anticipated new releases end up on the TBR for years to come anyway. It’s also because I’m really becoming more and more wary about the hype. I’ve been so often the odd one out who dislikes a book everyone loves that I started to wait a little longer for more reviews – and till either the paperback is out or I can get it at bargain price.
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I have no problem reading backlist books, but may of the ones I read end up being old favorites. I’m a big re-reader/re-audiobooker. Newly published books are always in my face, so I have to go out of my way to find backlist books at the library or on Goodreads. It’s nice, though, to read a book after the hype has died down, or one that isn’t hyped at all. I like knowing that my opinions are my own. Also, binge-reading completed series is great!
Actually, I probably read more backlist books that I realize, because I can only read new ones as fast as my library orders them, which isn’t terribly fast at all. So in between, everything else I’m reading is older.
Kara @ Great Imaginations says
I am with you completely. I am all about cherishing the backlist this year. I’m still reading my ARCs but I am reading what I want also. Plus, we do a feature called Forgotten Fridays on our blog where we read and discuss a book that is a year or older. But besides that, I am trying to mood read more this year and read things when I want to read them which has resulted in less frontlist and more backlist. New titles are great, but I missed so many books that I want to read that I never got to. Great post!
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