Give Books New Life

Why you Should Promote Your Back-List Books

Author Alexis O’Neill has just released a video for one of her back-list titles. Most authors promote heavily newly released books, but don’t do much for titles a couple years old. I’ve asked Alexis to explain why she’s focusing on her back-list books and give us a few tips about back-list promotions.

Q: What is the title and when was it published? Can we see the trailer?

worstbestThe Worst Best Friend (Scholastic 2008).

Here’s the first trailer for The Worst Best Friend.

Q: Did the book receive any awards, special recognitions, etc?

queenThis book is a companion book to The Recess Queen (Scholastic 2002) and they are often purchased together. Both are books about the ups and downs of friendship – one featuring girls the other, boys. While The Worst Best Friend hasn’t received awards, The Recess Queen has won many, including Children’s Choice in two states and a nominee in seven others.

Q: Do you have newer or forthcoming titles with the same publisher?

Q: Why did you decide to promote this particular book at this time? Have sales dropped and you just wanted to give it a boost? Do you expect your efforts to help keep the book in print?

As long as a book is in print, it’s alive! My friend, Tina Nichols Coury, created a book trailer for the launch in 2008. She recently approached me and asked if she could try another slant on the trailer, and I said. “Go for it!” Among other differences, the first trailer is narrated, the new trailer has only background music.

Just think of this: a book is back-listed within six-months of publication. That’s hardly enough time to get the word out about it. I think that our promotional efforts should keep on going as long as the book is in print. And I think that fresh material on a variety of platforms introduces your book to new and diverse audiences. Look at how popular Twitter and Facebook have become in just the past two years. Having fresh material is an “excuse” to post a new link.

There is no magic bullet for promotion, so expecting a book trailer to do all the promotional heavy lifting for you is crazy. Frankly, what keeps my books in print is that I’m invited to do tons of school visits every year. (Bully and friendship themes are evergreen issues in schools.) But keeping your name – and your book title – in front of the public can’t hurt! And the more platforms we use, the more likely it is that we will find new fans.

Q: Some authors hesitate to put time, money and effort into promoting backlist titles. When should you do this? What difference do you hope it will make in sales? When should you not do this?

If you are a career author, books are the sum of your parts. I don’t spin my wheels over sales figures. I’m proud of each one of my books, and I want to make sure that they stay in print and continue to connect with kids. Most authors pump resources launching their newest book. While this is important to build buzz, why give up on the others? I have a friend whose books were published in the early 1990s, and republished in paperback in the early 2000s. They are still going strong. Why? Because she’s out doing school visits, making new promotional material and keeping her books in the consciousness of readers.

Q: Any other tips, cautions, recommendations?

  1. About the financial investment – there’s no excuse for authors not learning how to create book trailers and other materials themselves. There’s lots of software and step-by-step videos to guide you through the process. If you’re not adept with visual media, then barter with an illustrator friend: you write the content for his or her brochure, website, blog, etc. in exchange for a book trailer.
  2. In terms of promotional videos, think outside the box. Most book trailers focus on the content of the book. Why not create videos about the making of the book, too? Teachers, librarians and kids love this kind of background information.
  3. One-minute videos rock. Two-minute videos are okay. But today’s viewers have little patience with anything beyond that.
  4. My final recommendation? Play! It’s so hard to prove any one-to-one correspondence between promotion and sales, so do what you can (without breaking the bank) and have fun creating ways for your Backlist Darlings to stay on the planet!

Here’s the new trailer for The Worst Best Friend.

11 responses to “Give Books New Life”

  1. Thanks for posting this interview, Darcy and Alexis! I agree. Keeping your book alive by mixing things up, creating a new trailer, and continuing to promote your book is the way to go! Love the new trailer!!

  2. Wow! That second trailer really rocks. I tapped my foot the whole time. It has great energy. Yay, Tina. And of course yay for Alexis who writes books with such great kid appeal.

  3. Thank you, Darcy and Alexis, for an informative and thoughtful interview about promoting back-listed titles. The new trailer is fantastic, as are these suggestions for back-list promotion.

  4. Darcy and Alexis,
    Great questions and excellent answers to the problem of generating “buzz” for a back-list title. I especially liked tip #2,think outside of the box– the making of a book.

  5. An excellent, succinct, side-by-side comparison that lets all of us see what a wide range of things can be done with the very same material. Nice job on the interview, too!

  6. Dear Darcy,
    Love your name! Were your folks a fan of Jane’s Pride and Prejudice? :-))
    Loved your interview with Alexis! How wise of you to do this. Not only has Alexis great advice, but did you know one of her books not mentioned in the interview, Loud Emily,
    was cataloged in hardcover by the Library of Congress in 1949, came out in paperback in 2001, and is still in print? (I called my local book store today and it can be ordered immediately.)
    Pardon the plug, but Loud Emily is dear to my heart. (The info I gave is direct from the inside cover.)
    Bravo for a fine interview!
    Jackie Imrich

  7. Alas,all those good ideas make me feel so lazy and hopeless! Wouldn’t it be sooooo nice if our publishers did these things? It seems to be all i can do to write the boks and over-eat.

  8. Hi All,

    Loved the interview. Ditto the new trailer. And Alexis is always there with the most useful, practical information.
    Hope to see you at the SCBWI La Convention.

    Thanks to Darcy, Tina and Alexis!

    Gillian Foster

  9. Whoops! Sorry Darcy and Alexis! I was looking at some Library of Congress date and should have put the copyright date of 1998 for Loud Emily. Please forgive the error.
    Thanks again for a terrific interview!
    Jackie Imrich

  10. The second trailer is definitely a hit, and it’s interesting comparing the two to see how things can be improved. I haven’t entered the world of book trailers yet for my own books, but this has started me thinking.