How to boost backlist sales

How to boost backlist sales

Since the world moved ‘online’ over the last 18 months, there are a number of exciting opportunities for publishers to use their websites to drive online sales. One of these new avenues is to open up your backlist titles online; backlist sales are crucial for any publisher but are far too often overlooked. Through direct and social media marketing to enriched product pages, there are numerous ways to enhance title visibility for your backlist and boost backlist sales from your website. We’ve compiled the five key ways that publishers can enhance their backlist. 

1) Direct and Social Media Marketing

Social media has become an important marketing tool for publishers and booksellers, as readers from all over the world take to social platforms to talk about and promote the books they love and recommend. Both social media and direct marketing channels help engage and expand your audience globally and this, in turn, boosts sales. So which social and direct channels do most people use? The answer is all of them! Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, YouTube, BookTok, Instagram, email… the list goes on. The Bookstagram hashtag has over 65 million views, some BookTubers have hundreds of thousands of followers and the newest craze #BookTok now has 26.5 billion views

Yet despite the rise of social media book marketing, direct channels such as email marketing still have the highest sales conversion rates (3 times that of social media) as your own users are more willing to buy again and accept your recommendations. 

We suggest using a combination of all the channels to lead and guide users either to your book details page for purchase, or even better to a specific landing page with a ‘one click buy button’. 

In terms of content messaging, tailor your content to each platform. For example, use a ‘Call to Action’ with strong imagery and engaging content for Facebook; post short, punchy messages on Twitter; and post engaging imagery, book covers and videos on Instagram. 

Manchester University Press, one of Supadu’s University Press customers, is a brilliant example of how to use TikTok to promote backlist titles in an exciting and creative way. By posting short videos of upcoming releases and flash sales, they’re engaging and expanding their community. You can visit their TikTok page here.

2) Flash Sales & Landing Pages

Flash sales are a great way to sell a backlist and drive a sales spike. Notre Dame University Press, another Supadu customer, ran a series of flash sales by creating special landing pages with discounted book collections. This incentivises their visitors, drives traffic, engages users and drives sales.

Landing pages - not to be confused with book details pages - are destination pages with a clear message and goal. They might be encouraging sign ups, driving direct sales, promoting an event or highlighting another promotion. Landing pages compliment a book detail pages and are great sales converters, brilliant for SEO and increasing user engagement and title visibility. Landing pages can easily be shared on social sites, which further promotes visibility and can enhance your backlist tiles. At Supadu, we have a landing page builder driven by our Supafolio API. Please do contact us if you have any questions.

3) Enriched Metadata & Product Pages

Complete metadata is essential for all your titles, especially online, and a great way of enhancing your backlist. Metadata helps users searching online find your titles in search engines, third party websites and in social channels. That metadata is driving traffic to your websites and once in the website, good metadata helps users find what they are looking for.

We encourage publishers to have as much metadata as possible, but in particular data for your book title, subtitle, book cover, contributor bios, title descriptions, keywords and reviews. The Nielsen Study 2020, showed that just 5 elements of descriptive metadata made a positive impact on publishers’ online sales.

Book details pages are also key to enhancing backlist titles. These pages display your metadata straight from title management via metadata delivery platforms such as Supafolio. These pages done correctly will give you the best chance for your titles to ‘get noticed’ online. So providing full and accurate metadata allows your product pages to be enriched and will improve backlist visibility.

4) eBooks - ePUB and ePDF

First, what is the difference between ePUB and ePDFs? ePDFs are essentially the printed book in electronic form - they are static and unchangeable but easy to distribute and share. ePUBS, on the other hand, are editable and the XML and XHTML makes ePUBs accessible and compatible with most software tools. 

How can these formats help enhance my backlist? In 2020, US eBook sales were up 15.6% to $1.1 billion and total online growth of sales across all sectors in the US was up 44%. This may not be surprising considering the overwhelming shift to online sales due to Covid but what it does show is how significant eBooks are in the market and this is only growing. eBooks allow another channel of sales and arguably a broader one with less rights restrictions. A great way to monetize your backlist is to add as many formats to your titles as possible and allow your visitors to choose the formats. 

5) Website Search

Being able to find what you are looking for quickly is so important on a website. Around 43% of organic users go straight to a search bar and users typically try out 3–5 search queries before abandoning the site if there are inadequate results. Making sure your search gives a full set of results is therefore crucial to driving sales and helping your backlist titles get discovered. Your search also gives you useful insight into what your users are looking for which, in turn, enables you to tailor your content, messaging and adapt your metadata for backlist titles if necessary. 

If you want to find out more about how to boost your backlist, you can watch our recent webinar with AUPresses here or get in touch with us at

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