Four Ways to Efficiently Maintain Your Backlist, No Matter How Long It Is

I’ve spoken about Backlist Maintenance being a “thing” that productive indie fiction writers must worry about. It is an invisible non-issue for newer indie authors with only a handful of titles.

If you have a dozen or more titles, then you know what a time sink it is to, say, scramble to update your bio on an older series, because you just noticed that the one that is there is embarrassingly out of date.

Save your sanity and systematize your backlist maintenance. Here’s four ways.

Add each individual title to your calendar at least once a year

If your backlist is not yet into the triple figures, like mine, then you might find it simpler to sit with a calendar in January and plug in each of your backlist titles across the year, so they come up for a formal review at least once for the year.

This system becomes unwieldy once you have a lot of titles, though. If that’s your situation, then try:

Review all the books in a series when triggered by an event.

This is a reactionary system that works quite well if you’re still producing titles for all the series you’re writing.

The process is: every time you release the latest book in a series, you formally review all the books in that series.

A review of the series isn’t triggered just by a release, either. If, for example, you land a BookBub Featured Deal, you can also do a review of the featured book’s series.

Similarly, any big event can trigger a series review; being included in a big-name book bundle, or a book winning an award. If the event means many new eyes will see your book, you should consider reviewing the series.

The drawback of this system is threefold:

  1. Standalone titles, if you have them, are often overlooked, because they get far fewer triggering events.
  2. As soon as a series is completed, it will fall off your review radar.
  3. And if you’re only rotating through three or less series, you’ll start skipping reviews because you just completed one…and the series will build dust while you’re not looking.

Review all series on a rotating basis

This is the system I use. It’s simple in theory. Build a list of every series you’ve completed and any you’re still writing. Add to the list any standalone titles. Put them in any order you want.

Earmark a block of time in your day for backlist maintenance. I currently do 20 minutes a day, and get to it most days.

When your backlist maintenance time bucket pops up, you turn to the first series on your list, start with the last book in the series, and set up a formal review for it.

Why you should work from the last book backwards

Any changes you make to URLs, UBLs, etc., for that book, can be easily incorporated into the previous book, when you reach it. Whereas working from book 1 onwards means having to go back to previous books to update links, etc.

Depending on how much time you can give to backlist maintenance, it might take a couple to a few days to formally review a single book. Once the review is finished, move on to the previous book in the series.

Once the series is done, you move it to the bottom of your series/standalones list, then pick up the book or series at the top of the list and review that. And so on.

Every time you start a new series, you add it to the bottom of your list. The new series will receive mini reviews and updates as you’re writing it, but by the time it drifts up to the top of the list it’s possible that you won’t have looked at the earlier books in the series for months…or more. If you feel the series is fresh enough that it doesn’t need a formal review, just drop it down to the bottom of the list once more, and pick up the next book.

Delegate Your Backlist Maintenance

If your backlist catalogue runs into mid triple figures (and I know at least one or two indie authors who manage that many titles), and you have the budget for it, backlist maintenance is a prime task to delegate to contractors or virtual assistants. You can pay them to spend the time you don’t have to review your catalogue and keep it sparkly and fresh.

Build a robust, all-inclusive checklist of items to be completed for each formal book review, and a list of books to be reviewed. Monitor the reviews closely for a book or two, then run random checks every series or so.

Pick a system to try, or take the best from two or more. I rotate through my series, but if there is a big event focused upon a book, I will do a fast, thorough review of that book’s series, too (then drop the series to the bottom of the list).

Don’t leave backlist maintenance for sometime/never. You’ll lose sales because of broken links, out of date bios and descriptions and the general air of neglect and disinterest your older titles give off.

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