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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Classification of Titles: Midlist

This is the third and last post in this series. The first two concerned frontlist titles and backlist titles. This much more succinct post, covers midlist titles.
Many people outside the book industry have heard the terms "frontlist" and "backlist," but I guarantee you few will be familiar with the word "midlist." To be honest, we rarely use the term, and I can count on one hand the number of times I have heard it mentioned at the dozens of conferences and books shows I have attended over the years. I guess it is popular in certain cocktail circles, but since I don't usually stray into those lion's dens, I don't hear it too often.

Basically, midlist means books that sell well enough to justify publishing them (so they are not bestsellers and are not projected to be.) If you find an author who can produce a book that sells decently well, pays for itself, makes a profit for the company, etc., it is sometimes referred to as "midlist" book. Some publishers call these authors "midlist authors."

(And by bestsellers, I am referring to the genre. I am unsure whether the NY Establishment would agree with me.)

I have debated this point with others, but midlist is not really anything like backlist or frontlist (which largely refers to a title's classification vis a vis its release date. By far, most titles are technically considered "midlist."

Why is this important for you? If you produce a "midlist" book for a company, it usually means the same publisher will contract another book from you because of your following, your name, and because the new title will help move your other books.

Sometimes authors get disappointed by sales during the first 60 or 90 days and stop working. Enthusiasm drains away, book signings drop off, that website he was meaning to put up never goes live, and so on. I have a name for that: shortsighted.

Even if your book is not a bestseller in its genre or selling as well as you would like or had hoped, that is not a reason to lay back and stop working. Why? Because of the magic formula I just developed in my head while typing this blog post:

Continued hard work = sales, and consistent sales = midlist ranking, and a midlist ranking = another contract for your next book.

This is not rocket science. (And if it was, I would not be typing this post.)

I hope this series has been helpful.


1 comment:

Robert said...


Loved this series. I worked in trade books for 4 years and now college texts for 12 and I miss trade almost every day. Authors should remember that there is nothing wrong in being midlist and creating a strong backlist. Most NYT bestselling authors didn't start that way. They gathered a following and grew their base. When they took off their backlist took off also which means more $$ for them and their publisher and thus a bigger contract next time around. Sounds like a pretty good life to me!