One of the questions I got earlier this year on my panel at Book Blogger Con at BEA was what I thought one of the trends in blogging was. That’s a tough question, partially because my view of the blogging world is skewed by what blogs I read, and the blogs I read tend to be written by librarians or educators (though not all — I read a number of reader blogs, too). But the answer I had didn’t take a whole lot of thought: I think backlist blogging is one of the trends that continues to pop up in discussion of blogging trends, but also in the actual content I’ve read in the blogs I frequent.
At Kid Lit Con in 2011, one of the panels was all about backlist and defining what made a book backlist. According to the publishing representative, it’s any book older than six months.
You read that right: six months.
Books published prior to April this year are what could be considered “backlist” titles. They’re no longer getting the push from publishers or the sort of marketing and publicity bucks that books out this season or in the coming season will be getting. It’s not that they’re forgotten; it’s that they’re no longer the focus of dollars — there are caveats to that, of course.
I think six months is a pretty short period of time to consider a book backlist. But I say that from the librarian perspective. As much as I may be familiar with a book or series prior to its publication and during the initial six months it’s out for purchase, most general readers are not. Even if they’ve seen a review in The New York Times or they’ve seen advertisements in any magazines, they aren’t necessarily thinking in terms of the book being brand new or the book being old. The general reading population isn’t as caught up in the newest or the latest as many of us who blog or write or work in classrooms and libraries are. For most readers, a book is a book. Even those who want the latest book from a favorite author (think Nora Roberts, James Patterson, and so forth) don’t necessarily know the titles or plot lines of the newest book or even when it came out. They just know there’s a book they haven’t yet read and they want it.
Many readers, in my experience, find an author early on and discover they really enjoy the work. Many times it IS a new book that gets them hooked — in the library setting, this might be because they pick up the book on the new shelves which are way less intimidating to browse than the general fiction area. And once they find those great new books, the next thing those readers want to know is what else that author has written and where to find it.
Books that were published 6 months ago or longer aren’t old to those readers. They’re brand new.
For teens especially, backlist titles aren’t old news. New teen readers discover YA as an entirely new world to them when they’re ready to read them — and because they discover new authors and series and stories they love, they aren’t concerned about those books being the latest and the greatest. In fact, aside from some of the huge titles (think the Divergent or Legend series or anything by Cassie Clare), many brand new books end up on the new books shelf in my library when they come out. They don’t always stick around long, but teens aren’t clamoring to get their hands on those books as soon as they possibly can.
Backlist is crucial for reader’s advisory. It’s not only enough to know what’s come out this week or last. You have to always be aware of the books that came out six months ago and maybe even six years ago. No, you don’t need to know them all, but you should have a solid idea of big name authors and series, as well as keep up with the standalone titles published more than six months or a year ago in order to offer strong next reads to those who want them. For many readers who have been with YA for a while, it’s really not that difficult. In fact, it can be advantageous because the titles you read a few years ago can become handy when faced with the need to offer a read alike to someone. Need to offer ideas for a reader who loves books about teen pregnancy? Though a handful have published this year, you’d have to work through backlist titles in order to give that reader a strong list of ideas. This extends further when your reader wants something very specific in their teen pregnancy fiction. You can’t find many books that explore abortion in the last six months, but broaden your range to the last 8 or 10 years, and you can offer quite a few options.
Books don’t expire. And while there can be challenges to acquiring some backlist titles — books do go out of print — there’s a real value in not just reading, but in also talking about backlist titles. Even publishers are finding some backlist titles strong enough to repackage and republish. Look at what Lizzie Skurnick is doing with her imprint at IG Books.
Finding older titles featured in blog reviews or other blog spotlights excites me not only as a reader (I get to find new-to-me stuff to read) but it excites me because it means I have more titles to think about and make connections to and among when I’m faced with RA opportunities. After I wrote about female sexuality in YA books that featured very new titles, for example, I got a lot of recommendations for backlist titles to look at. My reading interests don’t change because the book is 10 years old. Instead, my reading pile grows.
Who is blogging about backlist? Technically, any blogger who talks about books older than six months is covering backlist, but there are plenty of bloggers who intentionally cover backlist titles. Many book bloggers write about older titles through the “Throwback Thursday” meme, which you can Google blog search and catch up on, since there appear to be a few different takes on it.
Some other excellent sources for backlist reading:
- Leila at Bookshelves of Doom. I am sure you’re already reading her blog, but she offers such a great mix of newest books and older books you shouldn’t overlook. Aside from when she posts newer reviews of older titles, she’s got years and years worth of archives of older reviews and book lists — earlier this year, she did a bunch of runs of booklists that were entirely backlist titles about a niche topic that are excellent. Not to mention her book list guest posts are also great. I’d go as far to say as her blog is one of the best resources for backlist in YA.
- Liz does a good job of reviewing a mix of newer and older titles over at Tea Cozy, but her real gem when it comes to backlist blogging is her “flashback reviews” feature.
- Tessa and Rebecca over at Crunchings and Munchings write some of the most creative book lists in the blogosphere, and they do so by including a real mix of new and backlist titles. I love how they pair things up.
- The ladies over at The Readventurer blog have done a few “Wall of Books” features that are mega lists of books on a given topic. Of course, those mega lists include both newer books and plenty of backlist titles. Check these out if you haven’t.
- YA Reading List is Jennie Rothschild’s project for the year, and it is awesome. If you’re looking for a YA book list, this is a go-to, and it is primarily backlist.