How To Maintain a Backlist

A couple of days ago, I explained why “Backlist Maintenance” should be an ongoing task for indie authors.

Only, what is it?

Put simply; you review aspects of your older books to ensure they’re up-to-date and correct. There are various ways of organizing these reviews to make the process efficient, which I will cover in a few days’ time.

Here’s a basic overview of eight major “parts” of a backlist review, which I’ve pulled from my own backlist review checklist. And yes, I would strongly urge you to build and continuously tweak your own backlist review checklist. Believe me, when you have over 120 titles to manage, a checklist ensures you don’t miss any tiny-but-vital details.

A checklist also reduces a review to a near-mechanical process you can swiftly work through because you’re confident you won’t miss anything.

Housekeeping

This is the “metadata” of a review.

If you’re keeping a journal or timeline for your book that includes major movements (release dates, new edition issues, hitting best seller lists, etc.), a formal review can be added here.

This is also where you clean up and organize the files and directories associated with the book. Remove duplicates, archive older files, rename files and folders. Bring any files hiding in weird places on your hard drive back to the central folder so you can find them in the future.

Don’t forget your cloud storage, especially if it doesn’t auto synchronize.

Status & Future Plans

Consider the book’s performance to date.

  • Collect and/or array sales date for the title, over its lifetime. How has it sold?
  • Review numbers (and on which sites), star average on each site, numbers of ratings without reviews. Any trends?
  • Sell-through on the series the title belongs to, and how much the percentage drops (or rises) for this title in particular. Large differences can signify problems with the book.

The aim of this phase is to gather enough data to make decisions about the book’s future. Does it need repackaging? Relaunching? Would an ambitious discount promotion be worth it? A change in pricing? A review drive?  Does it need (and can you justify) a re-write?

Plan out the next year or so for the book.

Meta Data

Check the book’s metadata stored outside the book (changing the interior of the book comes later). Update the book description file, the ISBNs associated with each edition, your author bio, keywords and categories.

If you use reader or pro review quotes in your book descriptions or anywhere else, update them now.

Site Work

The page/section where your book appears on your site should be checked to make sure any buy links are still pointing where they should be. Also, update the book description, your bio, any price changes. Check every detail that appears on your site concerning the book and update where necessary.

Often overlooked: Check the preview image for that page – is it your cover, or an anonymous blank grey square?

If you have a page for each series, don’t overlook checking the book’s series page to make sure the details are correct.

Supporting Systems

Email Sequences

If you have autoresponder sequences that deal directly with your title, check them and make sure they are still relevant, that they include the current cover, that the descriptions are up to date. Make sure any buy links are correct, and links back to your site page are correct.

Universal Book Links

If you use universal book link (UBL) apps or services, such as Books2Read, head over to your book’s links and check them. Click on every link and make sure you end up on the retailer’s page for your book. UBLs often grow stale and throw up 404 codes.

Book Interior

Open the master file from which all ebook formats are compiled. Usually, this is a Microsoft Word file, but you might use Google apps, or another text editor or compile directly from Scrivener.

Concentrate on the front and end matter, first. Update your book description, the cover, add new reader and pro reviews, update your “Other Books By…” page, the copyright page, the reader magnet page. Fix errors, typos, dud links.  (This is where you’ll most often find yourself appalled at how out of date everything is.)

The story itself: This is your chance to make any corrections and fix any typos you missed in the heat of first launching the book. If you have a street team or ARC readers who have sent you typos they’ve spotted, you can decide if you want to make those changes, too.

Now: Make those same changes to every format of the book you’ve produced. Print. Large Print. Hardcover. Traditional audio is likely to be unchangeable at this stage, but if you’ve produced an AI Audio book via Google Play’s new service, then you will need to recompile the audio file on Google Play, when you get to uploading the new files.

Book Exterior

If you’ve added pages or eliminated pages in your print editions, you will need to get a newly re-sized cover made to match the new spine width. (Amazon, in particular, has no tolerance for even a one-page difference.)

If you’ve updating the cover, go ahead and commission the new one or make the changes if you do your own covers.

Don’t forget to update all the print editions and the audiobook edition (both traditional and AI-produced).

If your book is available in other languages, can you update the covers to match the English version?

Recompiling & Reuploading

Once all your updating on the book itself and its metadata is done, you can finally upload all the editions to all retailers where you distribute.

While you’re uploading, update the book description, your bio, keywords and categories, and the price, if you’re changing it. Freshen any quoted reviews.

Also, while you’re on the retail site, type your book’s name into the search bar and make sure it comes up. Work with the retailer if there are any issues.

———–

As you review your backlist, you’ll become efficient at moving through your checklist, too.

Some of the points I’ve mentioned won’t apply to you, or a particular book. You may also have your own major areas that I haven’t covered here. But this list will get you started.

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2 thoughts on “How To Maintain a Backlist”

  1. This post is awesome. Though it makes me tired just reading it and thinking of all the updates I need to do. Can’t wait until I can hire a virtual assistant. (Is Mark for hire?) Great post, Tracy!

    1. Hi Diana!

      Yes, backlist maintenance is one of those chores that are just made for VAs. Unfortunately, Mark needs his own VA!!

      Believe it or not, I’m still doing my own backlist reviews. They get squeezed into my day, 10 minutes at a time (you’d be surprised how much ground you cover in ten minutes–especially if you’ve been keeping up with maintenance, and the last review was only a year ago!)

      t.

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