Thursday, February 24, 2011


OK, authors everywhere.  By now most of us should have received our 4th quarter royalties statements.  You know, the ones our accountants keep begging us to give them so they can finish our taxes.  The ones we have been awaiting oh-so-anxiously to know how our year finished up.

Readers loved me in February, when I released a book.  They still loved me in March, when it wasn't too old.  By April it was losing its luster even though it was the same good book it had been in February, and by May it was history.  Especially galling if the book happens to be historical.  EEK!!!

By now I know not much will happen until I release a fantasy historical already getting rave reviews from crit partners who are notoriously difficult to please.  Hopefully, it will be out this summer.  July and August will be good months...September and October leaner months and God help me if I don't release something in November.  My accountant will make another snide remark about writing being a hobby.  

Meanwhile, on my web site, nine bright and shiny once-somebody-loved-me books stare out at the reader like dogs in a shelter, all begging for somebody to take them home.  They'll be good, honest, they promise.  Actually, they ARE good.  There are several 5+ reviews and award winners among them, books that sold hundreds of copies their first week out.  The problem is...they're OLD.  Copyrighted as far back as 2008, some of them.  In a society where your dress can be out of style before it's finished burning up your credit card, they have a problem.

We hear that epub has great advantages because your back list never gets old.  But mine has gray hair and it's giving it to me.  And I hear people talk, so I know I'm not alone.

So who else has this going on?   Or, if you don't, to what do you atttribute your backlist's ability to move--that determined little wriggle like sperm seeking ova or, in this case, book hunting for a home?   And if you're a reader, I'd love to hear your take on whether you buy only new releases.  Is it sort of know, compulsive shopping?  Do you ever find a new-to-you author so talented that you go and buy their entire back list?  I have done that and, believe me, I was a reader long before I was a writer.  So, what gives?  Inquiring minds want to know.




  1. Miriam,

    You are far from alone. Many epubbed authors share your experience. Print published authors sell the bulk of their books during the first three months.


  2. Thanks, Adele. You always have good insights. Sigh. I remember "discovering" Roberta Gellis and then further discovering that she had MORE BOOKS! I was like a kid in a candy shop. I wonder what ever happened to that?

  3. Your accountant sounds like mine LOL! Hobby HE**,my characters are my family. But like you I was a reader looong before an author, I loved finding a new author and than ooooh discovering she had a back list, than of course I'd be searching all over to scarf up all the books. My oldies are getting loney so I too am tap, tap tapping out a newbie. Have a Great Weekend.

  4. Yes, it seems to me you have to be able to turn out new ones fairly quickly and I usually can, but it's a problem if you can't. It was actually the previous year, which I outlined above, when I noted the pattern of three months' shelf life. I need to get back in the swing of things soon, if only to avoid remarks by my accountant! But at least you're setting me a good example.

  5. Ah,but when new fans find you and wonder what else they could read by you, there are your darlings waiting to be sucked onto an e-reader. Most of my back list is just that - a list in the front of my new books. I get mail all the time looking for my old books and the best I can do is point them at used book sites.
    So buck up, darling. The grass is greener on your side of the fence as far as back list is concerned.

  6. Kate, that is what I keep hearing about epub. I just haven't seen it demonstrated yet where my books are concerned. Maybe the economy has to pick up, maybe I need more of a readership. That's why I'm trying to get a feel here for what others are experiencing.

  7. Hi Miriam,

    My accountant and I had "the talk" last year with her advising me that the IRS gives you about 3 years to make a go of a business and after that it rates as a hobby. She said you could change the name but the bottom line, until there is a profit, it's a hobby. Since my office equipment had run the time for business deductions, I let the business part go and figure I'll pick it up at some point in teh future.

    As to back lists, several of mine are still doing quite well. Indentured Bride, book1 of of my Bride series came out in March 2008 and it still sells fairly well. Mistaken Bride, book 2 in that series came out in January and so far it has gotten fabulous reviews. I hear over and over no one likes westerns, but they are both westerns and it seems there are people out there who like them. The bottom line though is, I think, they are romances and romance will never go out of style.

    My other backlist books do okay. I have a four book series and the second book (Her Knight in Shining Armor) is the most popular of them. I suspect because of the promise in the cover.

    As a reader I do look for back lists. Even if all the books in a series are stand alones I still have to read the entire series from the beginning. I know I'm not alone in that.

    Last year I had 5 books released and was in editing pretty much the entire year. I started this year with two books in edits but have finished writing one and a draft on a second. Editing is, for me, an entirely different process that the creative side of writing.

    I recently did a presentation at my local library and received quite a few questions about my backlist. The library told me they'd ordered my print books. I personally find borrowing a book at the library before laying anywhere between $7.99 and $29.99 for a book is a great way to try out a new author.

    I write because I can't not write. It's a part of me and even if I didn't sell, I'd still write.

  8. I agree, Regan, once a writer always a writer. Your series idea is a good one and something I may consider. I have done one series and while the sales weren't huge, they were even, indicating to me that if people read one they went back for the other. Good point.

  9. Regan, are you right about the "business" part? Authors can go for years without making a profit. They way I heard it, authors are an exception. I mean, how many authors can make it in only 3 years?

    Miriam, as for backlist, I agree, the bulk of my sales are in the first month or so. But I still sell some of my backlist, usually one or two a month. I know that when I find an author I like, I want her backlist. Now, with ebooks, I can get the backlist. But I don't think most readers are like me.

  10. I just looked up the IRS rules for small business.

    From IRS Publication 335. Tax Guide for Small Business

    Introduction on P.2
    "Trade or Business: A trade or business is generally an activity carried on to make a profit. The facts and circumstances of each case determine whether or not an activity is a trade or business. You do not need to actually make a profit to be in a trade or business as long as you have a profit motive. You do need to make ongoing efforts to further the interests of your business."

    I'm not an accountant and I was able to figure this out. Talk to your accountant. Of course, they may audit you, but people survive audits.

  11. Linda, thanks for doing this research. I can tell it hit a nerve when I used the word "accountant!" Especially at this time of year. I once had an accountant tell me it wasn't really fair to claim my writing as a business expense until I published because that was like somebody buying a lot of Tupperware and then never having a Tupperware party. ???