Backlist, and then some

Much of my perspective on the business of writing and publishing comes from my twenty years of working in bookstores. There I observed the ebb and flow, the life cycles of books and especially of authors. Anyone who has worked in a used bookstore has an even more varied perspective than with new books, for in the new bookstores, only the faddest of the fad survive from year to year. There you will find your main guys in the different genres hanging in there over time – a Stephen King or a Danielle Steel, for example. Those deemed classic-worthy are also generally available, a Raymond Chandler or even a Cornell Woolrich. Memories are short and fads are even shorter, and the publishing industry will quickly cut off nearly everyone who doesn’t reach some impossible level of sales. 999 of 1000 authors will not see their books last even a few seasons, and those are the 1 in 100,000 who got their books published and stocked in the first place!

What to expect of the self-published author then in the age of ebooks, now that everyone is published and everyone is stocked? We might think of all of these as pre-used (as used cars are now called pre-owned). They all end up on the dusty stacks of the virtual used bookstore, joining those 999 published authors as relics of a passing season. That anyone still reads those old dime paperback novels is a miracle in itself, a fact of random chance and happenstance. Browsers browse and pick out something for some reason – title or cover or price or whatnot. Many of the used books you come across in those old-timey bookstores are by authors long dead and gone, or merely those whose time is. You can only tell the difference by the publication date.

On Amazon Kindle, I get to see the reports of the downloads of my free ebooks there, and I wonder that it’s even still happening. I am doing near zero promotion (you can’t count this blog which hardly anyone sees) so it’s all a matter of Amazon itself and the way the ebook trend is trending and the free-ness of the titles. To me it’s a slow stream winding down, and I imagine it will turn into a trickle at some point in the fairly near future, and then, like any old pulp pocket book in some backwater bookstore, the occasional reader will accidentally come across one or two and check them out.

This is what to expect.

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