One of the little known truths about the book biz is that big publishing houses make most of their money each year not from the sale of new books but from old ones, from what publishers call “the backlist.”
Think To Kill a Mockingbird or The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath or The Outsiders, The Princess Diaries or The Joy of Cooking.
John Grisham or Scott Turow thrillers.
Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts and Susan Elizabeth Philips romances.
Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit tales, which still sell millions of copies a year, or The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which sold 25 million copies the two years the movies of the same name were in U.S. theaters—a 1,000 percent increase at the time.
Yes, when we talk backlist we are talking classics by the likes of Louisa May Alcott and Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemmingway, Kurt Vonnegut and Raymond Carver, and novels by Amanda Quick and Jennifer Crusie.
And maybe that’s because if you were to ask me when I was twenty-one or 101 to name my favorite book—the book I would take if I could only take one book with me to a desert island—that book would not be one of the latest bestsellers but rather one of my old go-to favorites: Little Women, Five Smooth Stones, or Wuthering Heights.
So how about you?
One book. A desert Island. What one book would it be for you?
And while we’re sharing, if you could take all the books of one author which authors would it be? Robyn Carr? Sandra Brown? Linda Lael Miller? Gena Showalter. Stephenie Myers . . . what author’s books would you be willing to live with, forgoing all others?
— Jeanne Devlin