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A couple of blogs back I mentioned “midlist” writers. So what is that about? What is a midlist? A front-list? A backlist?

During the heyday of traditional publishing, the houses would have had different lists, tiers of front-lists including recently published and highly promoted stars, and then a tried-but-true mid-list of writers who aren’t such big stars, but still strong sellers. There would also be a backlist of older but still dependable books kept in print.

However, the publishing business has changed. Now publishing houses are feeling the squeeze from self-publishing and print-on-demand systems on the one hand, and a drop off in readership due to competition from games, TV, films, etc. on the other. Many of the houses are reducing their efforts for author development and looking only for front-list stars who they think can sell a big volume of books. This pushes more of the mid-list writers out of traditional publishing and into the non-traditional system of self-publishing. I’d guess there’s hardly any backlist left at all.

The irony of this situation is that some of those same authors who have been pushed out of traditional publishing are very popular, which further squeezes the big houses. Not only that, but they’re doing their own promotion, which means there’s a big opportunity for new means of promotion.

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