Pub Rants

Do Cheap Backlist eBooks Poach Frontlist Sales?

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Today a fellow agent and I were having a discussion about eBook pricing. What should backlist romance titles be priced at and does that poach sales for the current release?

Obviously there are a variety of opinions on this subject but here is mine.

I don’t personally believe that a lower eBook price for a backlist title poaches from a current title. I think the romance reader is more likely to then buy both if the backlist title is reasonably priced.

In terms of pricing, most authors are seeing good movement when a backlist title is priced between the $2.99 and $3.99 price range. Higher than that and the sales are flat.

And speaking of reduced pricing for backlist titles, this is a perfect segue albeit for women’s fiction. Need a cheap summer read? HarperCollins is letting you get a taste of NLA client Kristina Riggle for $0.99

Yep, less than a buck. And it’s across all platforms. Here are links for just a few:




Sadly Google eBookstore (that does sales for independent bookstores) didn’t have their version up although they were included in the promotion.

17 Responses

  1. Catherine Blakeney said:

    I like the cheap backlists because it allows me to replace books I’ve already read and loaned out and loved, or in a few cases, worn out with love over the years. It doesn’t hurt new sales from me at all – I’m more likely to snag a new book from an author I love than to snag a backlist title from an author I’m not as familiar with, when given the choice, even if the dollar difference is substantial.

  2. Sally Hepworth said:

    I’m an Australian writer and we haven’t yet seen the same shift toward e-books that the US has seen. I’ll be interested to see how it unfolds. Right now, I can’t imagine having the same love affair with a novel on a kindle as I do with the rustling pages. Then again, I used to think facebook was a load of c#4p, and now I am a self-proclaimed convert.

    I like the idea of 99cent reads though. Who doesn’t?

  3. Paul Anthony Shortt said:

    As a reader, the only time I’d always choose a backlisted book over a new release is when I’m picking up part of a series. The price wouldn’t really be an issue.

  4. Joseph L. Selby said:

    A low-cost backlist cannot poach me from a new release I want. An overpriced new release, however, will cause me to wait and spend time reading the more affordable backlists.

  5. E.C. Belikov said:

    While I don’t read romance and so I can’t comment on that particular genre, I can say that for what I read, the reasonably priced backlist titles are a huge draw. I’m much more likely to give a new author a try at the $2.99 (or less) price point then I am at $7.99 or above. And if I like the backlist title, I’m much more likely to pick up the more expensive ones. I bet I’m not the only one out there with this point of view too, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that not only do they not poach sales but most likely spur them. Of course I could be wrong, I have no empirical data to prove anything.

    Also @ Sally Hepworth, I used to think the exact same thing. Then I gave a Kindle a try and realized that it had nothing to do with the actual paper, that I loved books for their content and the format held little to no intrinsic value for me. Plus because I get eyestrain, ebooks are easier to read.

  6. Anonymous said:

    As a reader, I wish I could say I had a pattern. But I don’t have one when I’m buying e-books.

    The only thing I keep in mind is how much I won’t spend. In other words, there’s probably no way I’d spend over fifteen dollars for any e-book. And the ideal price point for me is between four and ten dollars.

    I honestly still haven’t purchased anything for .99…and I have a few of my own older books with one publisher being sold for .99. It’s just a mental block for me. I see .99 and I think old, tired, something’s wrong with it.

  7. JP Kurzitza said:

    The ever increasing reality is that ebooks, backlisted or new indie-published, are poaching sales from Legacy-published ebooks. $10-15 for an ebook = too much.

  8. Brooklyn Ann said:

    I think cheaper backlist titles make sense, especially in romance since many are part of a series. If I got a deal on book 1 and 2 of a hot trilogy, I’d be more compelled to fork out full price for book 3.

  9. Jason M. Hough said:

    How topical! I just purchased a backlist fantasy title last night (in this case, $1.99 for Kevin J. Anderson’s “The Edge of the World”).

    I think this strategy works especially well for a series of books, in order to get readers who find out about it later an incentive to catch up. I discovered this deal from Kevin’s email newsletter, so chalk up a sale to him for some good self-promotion as well.

  10. ca said:

    What Brooklyn Ann and Jason Hough said — several times one cheap backlisted ebook in a series has gotten me to fork out for the newer books in the series.

    Though it annoys me when the new books aren’t in e-format! Grr!

  11. Anonymous said:

    If one or two people start pricing e-books at .99 it’s going to become a trend, and eventually it’s crossing into dangerous territory. We all have competition, especially in romance. And if all romance e-books start going as low as .99 no one wins. This is why authors and people in publishing aren’t always the best business people. This is why the oil companies are laughing at the publishing industry right now. So those who think they are being clever business people by pricing their books at .99, might be shooting themselves in the butt.

  12. Kristin Laughtin said:

    I’m not a romance reader, but a cheap backlist title has never prevented me from buying the frontlist one. Usually I’m searching for that recent title anyway! If the backlist title is really cheap, or even if it’s not and it’s just something I had wanted to read, I’ll buy both and be super-psyched about the deal.

  13. Caroline said:

    I think it makes sense, especially if you have to buy the new higher-priced title to get the cheaper one. I’d probably be more likely to buy an extra title or two at that price.

  14. Gilbert J. Avila said:

    If I really like an author I’ll hunt Abebooks for back titles. Having an author’s backlist in E-reads would make me happy. I wish some database had the backlists of publishers, especially paperback imprints.

  15. Julie Kibler said:

    I read Kris Riggle’s book as a new release in print, but was excited to add the .99 version to my Nook after she mentioned it–now I can’t wait to read the new one after reading the included excerpt included, and I’m much likelier to buy it ASAP. I think people usually buy backlist in used bookstores or just check them out from the library. If they’re less expensive, the author might get the sale instead! Seems like a win/win to me.

    Also in regard to inexpensive backlist ebooks, I made an interesting transition this week. I’d already purchased Pat Conroy’s PRINCE OF TIDES in mass market paperback. I started reading it (I know, how have I lived this long without reading it?), but was frustrated with the tiny size of the book and the font. I hopped on my Nook to see how much the ebook was–$2.99! I now own two copies. I’m reading the ebook.

  16. Paulie said:

    Ebooks have really changed the way people read, especially in the US. If you’re an avid reader, would you carry around 30 books with you everywhere?

    With ebooks, you download them to your Kindle or whatever, and read any whenever you feel like it. Especially that they’re cheaper since the authors don’t depend on getting publishing deals anymore. They have the internet and can self-promote. I found a really neat place called all you can books where you can download cheap books from a wide range of genres for a small monthly fee. It’s really awesome.

    I’m thinking that’s the actual reason why some books seem overpriced. Even ebooks. They’ve went through the “machine”, so both the author and the publishing company need to make $$$ from that book deal, thus higher prices.