Indie Corner: Reviewing the Backlist


Vision 76


Indie Corner:

Reviewing the Backlist


J.A. Marlow


Copyright © 2014, J.A. Marlow, All Rights Reserved


As with many things in life, extremes are rarely a good thing. Indie publishing is the same in so many ways, including this:

One extreme: putting out a work and never touching it again.
Second extreme: changing constantly, not leaving it alone.

The first can cost an Indie in sales as trends in covers, pricing and blurbs change. The second won't allow time to see if any particular change does make a difference, cause frustration, as well as drain a writer's precious writing time. The key is to find a moderate middle ground.

First, remember that pretty much everything can fluctuate. A change of sales, reviews, or downloads in a single month does not mean a book has died, or in the opposite direction, is going to remain on a bestseller list forever. Don't panic!

One thing that an help is to set a time to review your backlist and try to refrain from tampering with the book until then (unless there is an obvious problem that needs to be fixed). Put it on the calendar or set an alert on your computer or phone to remind you. Both Joe Konrath (link: and Dean Wesley Smith (link: have spoken on the subject recently. Well, here's another one!

When the time comes for a review of your backlist, what should you look at? Here are a few ideas focused on the important aspects of basic marketing.

1. Categories

Is your book in the right category and listed under the correct genre? Take a good hard look at this even if you think you have it right. Sometimes it can be hard for the writer to see the true genre a book fits in, especially if it combines genre. Try to be objective. Ask your readers or beta readers. See if an adjustment in the categories the book is listed under need changing.

2. Cover

Trends in covers change over time. What once worked in romance, science fiction, fantasy, or other genres can shift and it can mean that your book is no longer competitive in searches and browsing.

One way to see if there has been a shift is to take a look in the main categories at an online book/ebook retailer and look at the bestselling covers. No more headless bodies on romances but instead silhouettes? Couples now tending to look at each other instead at the camera? Fantasy or schience fiction shifting more towards certain colors or an artistic style? Take a look at your own covers to see if an adjustment needs to be done.

A few things to remember: For series keep the appearance branding intact. Make sure the cover still conveys the proper genre. Similarly, make sure your font choice is appropriate to the genre.

3. Blurb

This is the back-copy of a print book or the book description on the product page of an online retailer. This is a critical element of selling your book, so make sure it's good. Look at your description again. Ask yourself a few questions:

Does the first line of the description create interest to invite a browser to read the rest of it? Does the blurb have passive voice in it? Does it indicate the story or is it a listing of plot points (You want the first and not the second)? Does the last sentence in the description send the browser off to buy by creating a yearning to know more? Are there any mistakes in spelling or grammar?

To help with blurb writing, take a look at other book descriptions for ideas to help you craft and adjust your own. There are also classes, workshops, and articles available to help learn this valuable skill.

4. Keywords/tags

Not all retailers have a space to list keywords/tags anymore, but for those that do then this is the time to take a look at the keywords you are using. Most retailers will limit how many you can use, so use them carefully! Questions to ask yourself:

Do your keywords apply to the story? Will your keywords attract the correct reader? If you search an retailer with a particular keyword how many results come up? The key is to find keywords that bring up not too many, but not too few results.

For those sites that do not have an option to list keywords/tags, then take a look at your blurb again. Does it have good keywords within the description to help searching and browsing readers to find it?

5. Pricing

Sometimes pricing does shift. If sales are doing fine, then leave this alone. If sales are dead, first take a look at the above points. Only then, consider that it might be time to take a look at adjusting pricing. No, this doesn't mean going to the bottom of what you are seeing. Sometimes a higher price will result in more sales (look up the concept of "percieved value"). Look at the full range in the bestseller lists and then look at your own and decide if you want to make a change.

As an alternate to this, you might consider...

6. Limited time promotion

Drop the price for a limited time and run a sale. Advertise it, announce it on your website and in your newsletter, let your followers of your social media accounts know. At the end of the promotion, then raise the price to the regular price. This might boost the book, and if it's part of a series might stimulate sales for the rest of the books in the series.

7. Remember why you are doing this

This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Remember why you are doing this. That you love writing what you want to write and the joy of making direct connections with readers. This is not about what a book sells in only a day, week, or month. This is about the long-haul over the years.

Enjoy what you are doing! Stop obsessing. Be happy.

Make the changes and upload. Now, guess what?

It's time to leave them alone again. Time to do what Indies do best: write new work. Have fun with it!