Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cleaning up the Backlist - Finding Gold

When I was at the Southern Presses Conference last week, Don Collins, President of the University of Chicago Distribution Center (CDC) shared an anecdote with me that was pretty profound. CDC offers our Title Management software to its distribution clients as a tool to manage upcoming titles, and distributes that information to the trade via our eloquence service.

Don told me that one of his presses made a considerable effort at cleaning up the information in Title Management for their backlist titles. They went in and added BISAC Categories and Descriptions to as many as they could. They did this, essentially, to improve the listings on the major retail sites, in hopes of inspiring new sales. But what they got back from this effort exceeded their wildest expectations.

What they saw was a 300% increase in backlist sales through Baker & Taylor and Yankee Book Peddler. Incredulous, they called the rep from Yankee to find out why. They were told that they had some category orders from several libraries with open slots. When the rep did a search on their database by category, these titles came up, they looked like a fit, and they slotted them into the order.

The moral of this story is that your books need to be able to be found by customers in order to be sold. It's a pretty simple message, but so often overlooked by publishers that feel that it is simply an administrative pain-in-the-butt to go back and clean up all those old titles. But when you think about it, since the tools were there to take this data (input in only one place) and update databases throughout the trade, this is a pretty compelling argument to manage the backlist a little more closely.

This is the first step in helping 'Fight Obscurity' for your titles. Make your titles easily found. In the future, I'll expound on other ways to fight obscurity.

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