Building your backlist (and living with it forever)

Authors and musicians have one, certainly. This is the book you wrote seven years ago or the album from early in your career. The book keeps selling, spreading the ideas and making a difference. The album gets played on the radio, earning you new fans.

“Backlist” is what publishers call the stuff that got published a while ago, but that’s still out there, selling.

The Wizard of Oz, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits and Starsky and Hutch all live on the backlist.

Without a backlist, all book publishers would go out of business in no time. The backlist pays dividends long after the work is over.

Advertisers didn’t used to have a backlist. You paid for that magazine or newspaper or TV ad, and within just one cycle, it was gone, forever.

Today, of course, the work you put on the internet has a good chance of staying there for a very long time. The internet doesn’t easily forget.

That TED talk, then is going to be around for your grandchildren to see. The review of your new restaurant, or the generous connection you made on a social network–they’re going to last.

I almost hired someone a few years ago–until I googled her and discovered that the first two matches were pictures of her drinking beer from a funnel, and her listed hobby was, “binge drinking.” Backlist!

Two things are going to change as you develop a backlist:

–You’re going to become a lot more aware of the posterity of the work you do. It’s all on tape, all left behind. Just as you’re less likely to litter in your own backyard, the person aware of his backlist becomes more careful and civic minded.

–You’re going to want people to pay attention to your backlist… in my case, the free videos, various ebooks and printed things I’ve done over the years. In your case, maybe it’s your blog, or the projects you’ve built or the reputation you’ve earned.

Your history of work is as important as the work you’ll do tomorrow.

Seth Godin

 

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