The industry calls them backlist titles. For kids, they're just books.
The calendar officially turns a page on January 1, but in many ways, a different date marks the passing of the year in children's books: the announcement of ALA Youth Media Awards. This year, Newbery wins and honors for Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson, and Cece Bell -- among a wide broad slate of spectacular and diverse winners in all categories -- energized readers, writers, and book lovers.
But what about the 2014 books that didn't win? The Mock Newbery contenders that weren't called out on that podium? The middle-grade books that didn't make it to any bestseller or "best of" list at all?
It's the backlist, baby.
2014 books everywhere are being moved from the "new" shelf at the library to spine-out in the stacks. They're being boxed up in bookstore backrooms and returned to the distributor. Some of them will be remaindered. Some will go out of print.
|Out of Print but not forgotten:|
The Glass Slipper by Eleanor Farjeon (1955 novel from her
1944 play). Farjeon sued Disney for using some of her
ideas in their 1950 film Cinderella. She lost the suit
but I see the similarities, especially in the opening.
The publishing industry moves forward -- that how all businesses works. We writers count on this cycle too -- our debuts, and then our next books. Publishing reps and book bloggers are talking about the books coming in 2015, and editors are acquiring books to be published in 2016 and beyond.
But kids aren't talking about 2016 -- they can hardly imagine it. These cycles don't mean anything to our readers. Ask a 10-year-old what a backlist title is, and she'll look at you blankly. If you told her that Harry Potter and Harriet the Spy were backlist, she'd think backlist was the greatest thing ever.
And it is. The middle-grade publishing is driven by bestsellers, but middle-grade readers are driven by the backlist -- the books in the library, on reading lists, and their older brothers' shelves. This is especially true for kids with under-funded schools and libraries, but not only. More than adults and teens, middle-graders count on the books in the library, on reading lists, on their older siblings' shelves, as well as gifts from nostalgia-minded adults.
When I was a kid and an avid reader, I went through libraries shelf by shelf. I read both popular titles and dusty old books that I was sure I was the first to read in decades. One of my favorites was The Glass Slipper by Eleanor Farjeon, an enchanting fairy tale retelling in the original 1955 edition. (I am delighted to find others who loved it on Goodreads and I now own a copy.)
I still discover books the same way. One of my favorite middle-grade reads of the past year was Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl, an enchanting fairy tale retelling from way back in 2002 that somehow caught my attention on the library shelf.
My debut came out in 2014, and in publishing terms, it's consigned to the past. But as long as it's still on library shelves, it's still has a chance to gain child readers. As long as it's at online retailers, it's still available for people who cannot resist a book about a cursed tree and some dubious science.
The industry moves on, and that includes me as a writer. But books live on, even in the obscurity of the unsung, not-yet-a-classic backlist.
What backlist titles have you discovered in the past year? What books from 2014 and earlier deserve more attention?