What is a backlisted book?

So I had to do a little digging, because Book Date’s category “backlisted book” had me stumped. By swimming against the tide of the internet sea (my Google searches wanted me to be looking for the much more common phrase, “blacklisted book,” which is another way of saying “banned book”) I think I reached a workable conclusion, with two equally valid definitions to choose from.

backlist 1. the most well-known works of a well-known author

When an author comes out with a new work, say, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology (from this handy list of “books published in 2017,” another category for the same challenge), new fans may read the newest book and then refer to the backlist, or that author’s list of published works. New fans of Gaiman would find that he has been quite prolific indeed! The backlist is especially comprised of books that have sold well over time; the non-new books that bookstores keep on hand, because they’re likely to keep selling anyway. So, while any book (besides the newest work or few) would qualify as part of an author’s backlist, his most well-known works might be most exemplary: in the case of Gaiman, works like Coraline or American Gods. (Seattle Times backs us up on this one.)

RT Book Reviews uses the same definition in their own discussion of how well Young Adult (YA) novels tend to do over time, “Backlisted Books: With exceptions few and far between, not many adult fiction books appear on the bestsellers list months, or years, after they are published. However, for YA titles, this doesn’t seem to be the case. John Green’s Looking for Alaska was first published in 2005, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief hit shelves in 2006. And in one instance, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, the book was published last century! (Although it does help that this last title was recently made into a film starring Harry Potter’s Emma Watson.)”

backlist 2. the lesser known works of a well-known author

Meanwhile! The Backlisted Podcast (also available on Facebook) is using a different definition, but you’ll see how they related. In their case, they’re spot-lighting less famous works by famous authors, or just lesser known works worthy of our attention. Author Lloyd Shepherd, who seems quite taken with the book list idea in general (check out his awesome list of lists here), mentions the Backlisted Podcast here. An example from this kind of backlist, or lesser known work of a well-known author, would be The Crack-Up by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who is known for The Great Gatsby.

This second definition makes more sense in the context of Wiki’s entry on Publishing, which explains, “The ability to quickly and cost-effectively print on demand has meant that publishers no longer have to store books at warehouses, if the book is in low or unknown demand. This is a huge advantage to small publishers who can now operate without large overheads and large publishers who can now cost-effectively sell their backlisted items.” If I’m not mistaken, that sounds to me like not wanting to publish too many copies of a book before you know if it’s going to sell or not.

So! That is my handy-dandy two-part backlist definition. Hope it helps!!!

Cheers,
Jobe

 

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