Backlist and Branding

One of the most widespread pieces of advice I’ve encountered as a published author is “build a bigger backlist.” Meaning that if you have a lot of books out for sale, each new release will fuel additional sales of the previous releases, giving the author more money.

In theory.

I’m a very literal person. If I don’t know something, I only learn what I’m told. Or what I read. When I was starting out, I saw the “build a bigger backlist” advice and did exactly that.

But no one had talked to me about branding. No one had told me that the backlist should be all the same genre, or all the same gender pairing, so readers would want all of my books.

Flying Books 1

As a result, I ended up with contemporary romances. And paranormal romances. I ended up with male/female romances and male/male ones. And a few menage romances for good measure, and even those aren’t the same; one is MFM, one is MMF, and one is MMM.

On the YA side it wasn’t quite so bad. With the help of a marketing consultation I won, I was able to define my YA brand to indicate that every one of my books under that pen name is about finding the hero in yourself, whether that hero saves the world or just their own life.

But Karenna Colcroft… Karenna didn’t have a strong brand. Karenna just wanted to write stories where people fell in love.

My tagline, “Open your heart” is the closest I had to a brand, and as far as I was concerned, that applied to all of my books. Every one of my books, regardless of genre or gender pairing, explores being reluctant or even afraid to accept love, but finding the one person you dare to open up to. But readers–and other authors I’ve spoken to–agree that isn’t a strong enough brand, because it covers too much.

So I built a bigger backlist over the past several years. A farking huge one: Since March 2009 I have had 49 romances published. Some were freebies through my publishers; some were stories in anthologies; and three are now out of print. But still. 49 total in five years. (The 49th was released on Valentine’s Day. Romance #50 comes out March 4.)

Going forward I’ve refined my brand to be a bit easier to explain. All my books will be contemporaries. All have at least one main character who has post-traumatic stress disorder from past trauma or abuse. All explore the idea that while love is NEVER a magic cure-all for PTSD or other mental illness, having someone to love, who supports you through the rough times, can *help* with recovery and can give someone motivation to seek help if they haven’t already. If we open our hearts and let just one person in, we’re no longer alone with the tough stuff.

Meanwhile, I still have that ginormous backlist to deal with. As I said, three of the books are now out of print, though one of those three has been rewritten and is given as a thank-you gift to those who subscribe to my newsletter. I’ll be requesting rights reversions on a couple of others that have gotten so little attention I can’t even remember much about them myself, and the contracts on a couple of others run out in 2015 at which time those will be taken out of print.

And I have one book that’s been out for three years now that’s close to my heart and hits the brand, and that has garnered little attention because it just kind of got lost. That book, Their Home Port, is available from Jupiter Gardens Press and third-party sales sites, and will be part of JGP’s backlist push, with a discounted sales price. I’ll be sharing an excerpt from it on Thursday. It’s a story I’m very invested in because some parts of Reesa and Micah’s courtship mirrors the early stages of my relationship with my husband–who inspired the character of Micah.

And there are boats. I love boats…

Home Port 200

 

(By the way… although that’s a stock image at the bottom of the cover, that is EXACTLY the view seen from my hubby’s workplace, which was the model for the “Marine Tow” shop in the book. The cranes aren’t there anymore though…)

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