Reading Style–Deep or Wide?

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

A week or so ago I was discussing the reported across-the-board sales slowdown for newly released novels. Apart from buying habits of the chains and big box stores my theory is that front list is suffering because, with the advent of ebooks, readers are spending much of their book dollars on backlist books. I decided to ask here if that is true of our Books & Such such blog community.

First a couple definitions:

  • Frontlist refers to the front of publishers’ catalogs– those books that are just releasing. Even though catalogs are changing we still refer to new books and important books as frontlist titles.
  • Backlist refers to the books that used to populate the back of those same catalogs– the books that were from past seasons.

My theory? Readers are finding a writer they love and backtracking–reading through that writer’s backlist– instead of trying another writer’s frontlist book. I find I’m doing that now that a writer’s whole list is available to me. For instance, for my recreational reading,Β I’m an Anne Perry fan. I anxiously await her newest book each season. Someone told me that if I liked Anne Perry, I’d like Victoria Thompson who writes the same flavor of Victorian mysteries only set in all the various neighborhoods of New York instead of Perry’s London. They were right. I started Β with her first mystery. I’m now on her fifth one. She’s written fourteen so far so I have a ways to go.

But that kind of commitment to an author means that I’m not actively discovering new authors and reading frontlist books for a while. If others, like me, are reading deeply into one author, instead of widely across a number of different authors, it’s going to affect frontlist sales.

The good thing for authors is that there is no more “front list” and “backlist.” Β It used to be that your book was on the bookstore shelves while it was new and then, well, unless you were a bestseller, it was consigned to oblivion. Now– with unlimited virtual bookshelf space– if a reader clicks on your name, all your books are equally available as ebooks.

So my question for you is this: If you find an author you like, are you buying multiples from their backlist? Or do you read the hot new books coming out, follow reviews and keep to the frontlist mostly.


How do you read? Backlist or front? Click to Tweet

Do you follow an author through all her books or read more widely? Click to Tweet

Deep or wide? How do you read? Click to Tweet

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  1. Kat Laytham says:

    I don’t buy e-books unless I really want to read something and that is the only format available. I am buying from both lists. For example, I came late to the party with Kathy Reichs, Beverly Connor and Linda Fairstein so I have gone back to the start of their lists and am buying them in paperback or hardback. I also keep an eye on new releases; both from established authors and new ones. I use the $4 shelf at kmart, the secondhand bookstore and the library to find new-to-me authors. (Sadly, we don’t have a bookstore in our town.)

  2. Anne Love says:

    In the past, as a reader, I’d read the back list of a particular author I loved. But now that I’m blogging and reviewing, it’s the front lists I’ve been hitting. There is a sort of pressure I feel to review the front list titles. Perhaps it’s because I hope to debut someday and pray that others will return the effort. But, I love the point you make that with virtual bookshelves, the idea of back shelves is rearranged. Perhaps it’s time to include older titles on the review list?

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I understand that pressure to read the newest books. for you, it is to review, to join the conversation. (Good for you, BTW, thinking in terms of building this kind of goodwill.) For me, I need to know the frontlist and the bestsellers so I’ll know where the market is.

    • I see what you’re saying, Anne. As a blogger, I sometimes wish I had more time to read front list books and don’t like to turn authors away. At this point, however, I have so many books in my TBR pile that I have to catch up.

  3. Lori says:

    If I find an author I really like, I definitely will go to their backlist. However, I do not have an e-reader so I have to find their old books via or Ebay if they are not available in print or audio.

  4. I definitely stick with favorite authors. I find myself searching by author’s name online for new-to-me titles to read. Also, when I am at a bookstore sale (or even a garage sale) I read the covers “backwards”, looking first at author, then to see if the title interests me.

    It seems like people read with several motivating factors. (Well, of course there are many factors.) One is to read the current, popular, trending, and likely to be part of a conversation frontlist. Another is to fulfill the need for enjoyment/learning with less risk (reading a preferred author’s backlist).

  5. Norma Horton says:

    I read both, Wendy. My daughter and I have a constant rotation of books between us. We are fiercely committed to some authors, but get excited when we find a new one.

    As to the e-reader, I am so old school. I have a RELATIONSHIP with books, which is totally dorky. But she and I will be traveling most of fall 2014, and short of sending boxes of books to Bucharest, Istanbul, and Pompeii or something (we’ve actually discussed doing this), I’m going to have to become hip and trendy, and make peace with an e-reader. (Bummer.)

    • Are you going to Pompeii?? I may know someone who was there recently.

      • Norma Horton says:

        Yes, we are going to Pompeii. She graduates after four straight years at one of the toughest engineering schools in the States, and the Horton Girls’ World Tour is her graduation present. We’ve never seen Pompeii, although we’ve traveled a lot. And it’s on her “hit list,” so she and Mama are doing it! I know the Italian government is taking some heat because they’re not maintaining it well, and an Italian contractor has offered to donate two-million Euros to restore the site, while UNESCO is pressuring Italy to take care of the World Heritage Site. Should be REALLY interesting.

      • I was there in June and it is AMAZING!!! It is very well kept and I’m amazed to hear there’s talk of it not being well cared for. Wear good walking shoes or boots. Bring a lot of water and load up your memory card. And wear a hat. It will be hot, even in Fall.
        (Cough hint cough…I may know someone who’ll have a blogpost about Pompeii in the next two weeks.)

      • Wendy Lawton says:

        So how do we join the Horton Girls’ World Tour?

    • Jeanne T says:

      I know this is totally off-subject, but I loved Istanbul. πŸ™‚ If you go there, I hope you enjoy it!

      • Norma Horton says:

        I love Istanbul too, Jeanne, and I was there in 2010 as part of an archaeological/theological survey. It’s one of my three favorite cities on the planet. So evocative, such a hybrid. Oh, I just know my daughter is going to love it. Can’t wait.

      • Jeanne T says:

        Wow, Norma. I just went as a tourist. πŸ™‚ How exciting for you to do archaeological work there. Such a rich place to study!! And how fun for your daughter to go.

        I went in 2002, so it’s been a long time, but it’s had a lasting impression on me.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I’m surprised to see so many avid readers still sticking to traditional books but I understand the “relationship.”

      • Norma Horton says:

        I would refer to it as a “committed” rather than “casual” relationship, I’m afraid. But I shall convert before fall of 2014 (she writes with a grimace).

    • (Oops! I was wrong! I already did the blogpost on Pompeii…)

      • Norma Horton says:

        I’m going to look for the blog post now. And thanks for the tips about the shoes and water. I have a stash of sturdy shoes disguised as lovely shoes, and those wait for these trips abroad.

        Regarding the UNESCO complaints about Italy’s care for Pompeii, it’s all anchored in their currency fiasco, and refusal to embrcae austerity. So they’ve cut corners where it would garner publicity. Hence, UNESCO’s involvement.

      • It’s under “Day Four, Amalfi and Pompeii”.
        And it the Italians think they have the right to complain about their antiquities? They ought to go to Greece!

      • Norma Horton says:

        Greek antiquities made me weep. Such disarray. But it’s nothing compared to the wanton, reckless destruction in Syria right now. Once the rebels and Assad are finished, they’ll be nothing left to rule.

    • Norma Horton says:

      BTW, Wendy, I couldn’t find the “reply” button to your joining the Horton Girls’ World Tour, so I’m sticking my response here. I’m afraid to qualify you must have a certain gene pool OR survive four years without breaks of geological AND mechanical engineering OR and be preparing for graduate work in environmental law. We’re even limiting Ranchman the Superhero on this one: he’ll do the transatlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2 with us, but then returns to ride his motorcycle all fall. And probably eat all the junk he never eats when I’m home. (I have spotted a doughnut and Sonic trend…)

      But I’ll have photos!

      • My Mom and I had to rebuff QUITE A FEW people offering themselves up to join our little mother/daughter adventure. “How deep is your gene pool?” was the first item on the “Why you should you be allowed to join us?” questionnaire.
        The second was “Why didn’t you sign up for adoption years ago?”.

  6. Jackie says:

    If I find an author I like, I buy their entire backlist and work my way through it!!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Me, too. It’s such fun to do a marathon. I like to watch television series the same way. Download a season and watch one episode each night until the end. Total Immersion.

  7. I’m buying the new releases, and lately I’m buying more than I have in recent years. I’ve caught a number of titles on sale–$3.99 or so–and grabbed them up. What’s also helped me is a couple websites that help me save money and give it to me in the form of Amazon gift cards.

    I love reading a new author for the first time, particularly a debut author. So when I find a favorite new author, there often isn’t a backlist. The one exception for me would be Susie May Warren. I just read Take a Chance on Me, loved it, and bought a couple of her other books that were on sale.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      it’s good that as an author you are reading widely. It keeps you fresh– no inadvertently writing the same old plots– you know what’s out there.

      • I’m definitely trying to stay on top of what’s out there! That reminds me–I wanted to ask on FB what recent contemporaries I should read before ACFW. I do want to keep track of what’s going on in my genre.

        Anyone have any suggestions?

    • I’m not sure where this will fall in the reply section, Sally, but I wonder the same about what contemporaries to read before ACFW. There are so many I don’t know how to choose.

  8. Jill Kemerer says:

    Interesting thought–I agree! But, even before e-readers, if I found an author I liked, I would find their backlists through the library or used book stores. I never could find every Jodi Thomas book, but I sure tried!!

    (Adding Ann Perry and Victoria Thompson to my to-be-read list. Thanks!)

  9. Sarah Thomas says:

    I think part of this is that we’re “discovering” authors through backlist books that are free or greatly reduced for e-readers. I know I’ve hit on a few like that (Lawana Blackwell) who made me feel like I hit the jackpot, because I could read all the “old” books while awaiting something new.

    I definitely look for new releases, but love that feeling of untold riches when I find an author I haven’t read before who has a nice, big stack of books for me to anticipate!

  10. I think it totally depends for me. I do read a lot of frontlist books, but if I really love an author, I do go back and read the backlist. Karen Witemeyer comes to mind. I read SHORT STRAW BRIDE last year when it came out and loved her writing so much I snatched up some of her older books.

  11. Good morning, Wendy. Thank you for this post.

    When I find an author I like, I tend to read everything he or she has written. The primary way that I discover new books and authors is through genre. For example, if I am yearning to read something historical, I will scour the historical fiction and non-fiction bookshelves, reading backcover blubs before deciding on what book(s) to buy. (I don’t use an e-reader; I prefer physical books). I do this most often with fantasy and sci-fi. My guilty pleasure is reading Star Wars novels. Many of the Star Wars novelists already have established careers as fantasy and / or sci-fi authors. So if I read a SW novel that I particularly enjoy, I then start checking out some of the author’s other titles. Timothy Zahn, who has written a series called DRAGONBACK, and Troy Denning, who has done a series focusing on elves fighting “archwizards” are two great authors that I discovered through choosing books by genre rather than author. Now I can read not only through their backlist, but be on the lookout for their new books.

    Have a great day!


    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I’m guessing I do the same, Christine. Right now I’m on a Victorian mystery kick but soon I’ll be ready for a complex historical again.

    • Christine, your comment about back cover blurbs stood out to me. It reminds me how important they are at drawing a possible reader into purchasing the book.
      Writing a back cover blurb before I start a story is a good exercise for me. It helps me better define what the story world will look like and the relevant issues I want to address.

      • Wendy Lawton says:

        Right, Jenni. It’s important to do this– keeps us on track and “delivering the experience” we promised.

      • Thanks, Jenni. Absolutely. Back blurbs are vital. If the blurb is interesting, I will read the first paragraph, then glance at some random pages. Even though I love to read, I’m pretty tough to sell to. I’m just about as slow at choosing a book to check out from the library as I am one I going to buy. If the back synopsis doesn’t at least partially hook me, the book’s going back on the shelf. So you are right. As writers, we have to craft the back blurb at least as carefully as we do the opening paragraph.

  12. If I find an author I like and it’s a series, then I will buy them all, like Abram’s Daughters by Beverly Lewis. (One of the best Christmas presents my husband every gave me, BTW. Did you know five books will fit exactly, standing up, into one of those smaller sized gift bags? I had them finished by the time he went back after Christmas break. Well, I digress.) Every time I see Kristen Billerbeck on FB, I want to kick myself for not finishing the Ashley Stockingdale series. (I’ll get back to it soon!) I would love to read everything by both of these authors, and many others, but then I get distracted by a new author. I don’t know how helpful my answer is, Wendy, but it’s some of both.

  13. When I discovered Laura Frantz, immediately after finishing Courting Morrow Little I bought all the rest of her work. Thank heavens for Amazon, or I’d have broken into the Christian bookstore. I’ve read each book about 5 times. First as a eager reader, and by the 5th round, I’m still an eager reader, but I also study how she does her magic. Same with Tamera Alexander. And Dee Henderson. And Jeanette Windle…and now?? The lovely Lori Benton. I read Burning Sky all across umm, Europe. (Here’s my book report: As the sun went down on the Aegean Sea, painting the horizon in ever moving hues of orange, pink and purple, Willa wandered through her myriad layers of grief…I know, put a sock in it, right?)

    I’m currently reading Hampton Sides 2 inch thick biography of Kit Carson, (and yes, pretty much crying all the way through his ‘exploits’ regarding the Navajo).
    Hampton Sides has a unique way of writing a biography like a novel, but even though the reader knows it’s a biography, it’s still a nail biter! I will buy his other books, but not til I have some free time. Probably in December of 2019.

    Like Norma Horton said, I have relationships with books!
    And I have a wicked reading speed, with equally wicked retention skills. I have NO clue what my password for Ebay is, but I can tell you what Red Shirt was wearing when Morrow woke up at Laramie Station.

    I read deep and wide, and A LOT.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I did the same thing with Laura– a marathon. I wish I had your retention, though. I do not. I do read quickly but wicked speed plus retention? *sigh*

      And you are absolutely right about Lori Benton (could it be that I’m a little proud?). Her editor prizes her work so much she’s sending books to influential people with handwritten notes, telling them how much she loves the book. It’s a must-read for authors, to see what gets editors excited.

      • I can tell you, I have POURED over that book. Poured. Over. It.
        And I refuse to lend it very far afield, because I am so taken with it.
        And I do know a wee bit about Mohawk culture, so I’m tickled abut that connection, as well. There might be a bit of ‘word of mouth’ happening, too.

        You have every right to be proud! It’s an awesome, emotional, heart wrenching, beautiful read.

      • Jeanne T says:

        I agree, Wendy. I’m trying NOT to be jealous of Jennifer right now. πŸ™‚

      • Jeanne? Don’t be so jealous, along with my literary retention, there seems to be a lot of cheesecake retention as well. πŸ˜‰

      • Jeanne T says:

        Jennifer, you make me laugh. In the best of ways. πŸ™‚

    • I loved her book. It was so real, so authentic. It didn’t feel like the history was prettified or tamed down at all. I should read it again.

  14. Jeanne T says:

    I read deep and wide. As has already been stated, if I find a new author I love, I will look for all the books by that author to read. But, as I’ve met authors, in person and in print, I tend to buy their books to support them and to read them. I’ve read more front list books in the last year or so, than I have read in years.

    That being said, I have an extensive TBR list, I want to get through. Some of the titles in that list are no longer frontline. So, I’m reading them and looking forward to reading their newest titles too. Eventually. πŸ™‚

    • Norma Horton says:

      My TBR list now fills a bookshelf in the office. I need to get busy. ]: (

      • Jeanne T says:

        Mine has overflowed the bookshelf and moved onto some small shelves in our bedroom. Must confine them there by reading! πŸ™‚

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Someday we ought to ask everyone to count the number of titles in their TBR shelf or e-reader. Right now in my physical TBR pile I have 14 books ranging from Mcnair Wilson’s HATCHED and MY iPAD MINI to great novels. On my iPad I have 10 books I intend to read. In my Audible (audio books) “shelf” I have five books. And that doesn’t count client books and potential manuscripts.

      So many books. So little time.

      • Jeanne T says:

        Oh Wendy. I’m impressed. I have over 60 titles in my physical TBR pile, and over 200 (yes, count them) on my Kindle. I’m working through them slowly. I’m also trying to read in genre right now so that I’m more prepared when it comes time to write a proposal. Hence my TBR pile languishes. I have Audible on my iPod, but I haven’t figured out how it works yet.

  15. Jamie says:

    I’m an editor! I read frontlist, of course! I love reading reviews and seeing what’s new. That said, I have several authors I’ve followed for years, and I recently discovered Ian Rankin, so I am (slowly) working my way through his Inspector Rebus books … many of which reside on my Kindle, yes. I love my Kindle for traveling but still prefer a traditional book. πŸ™‚

  16. I read & purchase backlists. Too often I’ve been disappointed by new authors. Not that they weren’t talented—they just weren’t giving me the experience I wanted as a reader. And I love discovering new-to-me authors who have big backlists!

    As a book reviewer in the Chritian fiction world, I like joining Launch Teams. I find it much more fulfilling to promote an author whose writing & ministry I admire, rather then give a day’s worth of promotion to every new book that comes out. As a result, I am reading fewer new inspirational books.

    (BTW, I enjoy Anne Perry & Victoria Thompson. Have you ever tried Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy series or Charles Todd’s Bess Crawford? Different time periods, still so good.)

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Amazon keeps suggesting Rhys Bowen to me. I’ll give these a try.

      You know, Renee, you voiced a concept that every writer should think about: “they just weren’t giving me the experience I wanted as a reader.” That’s the hard-to-describe essence we look for, whether it’s in a book or in a manuscript.

      A novel is an experience. We are looking for those authors who never fail to give us that. Thank you for putting it in words we can get our heads around.

  17. I do a little of both. I read the back lists little by little, but I’m always adding new authors.

  18. The answer for me depends on the market I am reading in. I have multiple blogs, most geared toward books for adults, so I’m reading books from my TBR pile that are at least two years because I’m playing catch up. But for my children’s book blog I am reading more new releases, even though I still have a few middle grade or YA novels that are a year or older in my pile. It’s also more important for me to stay current with the children’s market because this is what I write.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      You are so smart– it is important to keep current, especially with children’s. Too many authors want to write their version of The Little House Books or Nancy Drew but those were the books we loved (and yes, our kids go back and discover them all over again). but the current children’s market is much different.

      Cheryl emphasizes an important point here– we each have a responsibility to read widely in our genre. Not just to do our comparables, but to know what’s out there and where things are moving.

      • Thanks Wendy. I appreciate the compliment. I’m fortunate that my daughters enjoy books in genres that are vastly different than what I typically read, so it’s exposed me to a lot more than I would have tackled on my own: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch, and Cinder and Scarlet being the best examples. These are popular books I never would have read if my girls didn’t want to read them.

  19. I happened upon a book by Rosalind Laker recently and remembered how much I enjoyed her books before. I need to plumb her backlist soon.

    Reading books by debut authors is intriguing because I hope to be in that place someday myself. Recently I read Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson and Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I cannot wait to read what they write next.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I know. Can you imagine the pressure on an author who has a huge debut? Our cautionary tale is Harper Lee. Of course if the only book you’ll ever write is To KIll a Mockingbird, I guess you need not feel pressured to write more.

  20. I read a LOT, so I do both. I’ve always loved to find old stuff by authors just discovered. When Amazon made so many available through various booksellers I was in heaven. You could only imagine how much I enjoy downloading them now! Add that to the myriad of ways to discover new authors through blogs and giveaways, I can find lots more to read by an even greater variety of authors.

  21. Donna K Rice says:

    I’m doing both. I find I go to known authors for an e book because I don’t want to clutter my phone with books or samples that I don’t like. I travel frequently and the e book is helping to save my shoulders and back since I don’t have to carry an extra twenty pounds of books along with everything else.

    But…I still love to hold a book in my hand and will purchase a print copy if I want to check out a new author or mark up the book. I’m a constant highlighter and have been known to mark up novels as I see how the author crafts the story. It’s a great way to learn!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Don’t you love traveling light? My perfect trip now is when I board the plane with just a purse. Because my iPad Mini and my iPhone fit neatly inside I have everything that used to require a briefcase filled with a laptop, manuscripts and pleasure-reading books.

      • Donna K Rice says:

        Yes, I love it. I haven’t been able to board with just a purse yet. There’s the Girl Scout part of me that wants to be prepared, so I still have a carry on with things I would need if my luggage didn’t make it. But my bags are getting lighter and less gear all the time.

        I’m really impressed you can just take a purse. Hmm…a new goal πŸ™‚

  22. Unless an ARC isn’t available in digital format, I read almost exclusively on e-reader nowadays. Part of that reason is convenience because I do most of my reading at night while my early-to-bed husband is sleeping. My Kindle Fire is backlit so I don’t keep him awake trying to aim a reading light in just the right spot at allow me to read a print book. However, I also love the portability of having a plethora of titles at my fingertips with relatively little fuss.

    As to what I read, I am eclectic but focused. I LOVE good writing, and I want to be transported. Not asking much, am I?

    I have discovered wonderful books through the comparison feature on online bookstores. Kate Morton (a must if you like British historical mysteries) and Susanna Kearsley come to mind. I read most of Kate’s backlist and loved everything I picked up. However, her stories are consistently branded and very much hers.

    With Susanna’s books, I have been a little pickier just because of the subject matter. I think in Susanna’s case, I love her book THE WINTER SEA so very, very much (it’s definitely in my top 10 of all time), that I had extremely high expectations for her backlist. Someone mentioned that a backlist can sometimes disappoint because of the skill level of the author. I don’t think that was it at all because her writing is brilliant, but rather just a matter of not finding that other books had the same feel/brand.

    What I really love about Amazon in particular is the Wish List function. Rather than having a huge TBR pile, I have a lengthy list. Each time I hear about a great book, I add it to the list. I do not buy a book until I am ready to read it.

    Loving this discussion!

    • Sarah Grimm says:

      I wish I had that kind of self control. When I see a book I want I put it on my wishlist, but I still buy books I’m not yet ready to read. It’s probably why my TBR pile is over a hundred books right now. My goal is to read 52 books this year. So far, I’m not doing too bad.

    • Love my Amazon wish list, too, Kathleen. Now, if I see a book on a blog, I can usually link right through from there and add it to my wish list. Sure makes it easier on my family to know what to get me for gifts. πŸ™‚

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Great tip about the wish list!

      This reading by author is an important reminder to all authors that the reader expects a certain brand (a certain book experience) from you each time they order a new book in your list. Another good reason not to hop around genre-wise, right?

      BTW, when readers try one of your β€œLives of Will Tucker” books, they are going to have to go deep. I just love these. (But you already knew that.)

  23. I buy used MG novels because that’s what I write.

    I’m limited financially so I never spend more than $2.00 plus $4.00 (Amazon) shipping on any book.

    I can’t remember the last time I bought a new book. (Sounds terrible I know)

  24. I have a sort of balance. As a book blogger, I do a lot of “reading wide” and trying new genres and authors. Once I find one I really like, though, I’ll spend my money or use my birthday/Christmas wishlist to get other books by that author. I’m also more likely to keep up with a series than just all the books by a certain author.

  25. Sue Harrison says:

    I’m finding myself in a 3-way reading pattern right now.

    1. As a relatively new member of the Books & Such family I’m reading new books put out by the Books & Such authors, some of them new authors to me, and following a calendar schedule of influencing for them, which to me is great fun!

    2. I’ve been included in an anthology of Michigan writers by a University Press and am buying and reading books of fellow anthology authors, which are mostly chapbooks of poetry and short stories, some old, some new.

    3. My backlist of 6 Alaska novels have been picked up and published as Ebooks this past May by a publisher that releases mostly classics, and many of their authors are deceased. (They’ve mentioned how great it is to work with a living author, and I’ve told them that it’s good for me, too…) So I’m discovering and re-discovering authors like Pearl S. Buck and Noah Gordon via Ebooks.

    All that to say that I’m SO BLESSED by books, DEEP AND WIDE!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I love that you are an intentional influencer for fellow Bookies. That kind of support is the best thing about us.

  26. Michele Thompson says:

    I have a Nook and a Kindle Fire, but most of the books I have there I have since bought in paper form.It makes sense to have a lot of books in a small, easy to carry item, but I don’t use them.I prefer the actual, real, book, in hard cover or trade paperback if possible.I’m not even happy with mass market,because they are smaller πŸ™‚
    I read deep, mostly.If I like the first book,and keep liking the author as I read more, even if what they write is varied, I will read everything.I start with the novels, series by series, then start collecting anthologies.I even buy the whole series or all of the books in advance as much as the budget permits, because I read fast and don’t like to stop.I stop reading and buying if I get bored, then usually move on to the next author.My pattern is much like yours. :)Thank you!

  27. Sharyn Kopf says:

    I can’t say I’ve ever paid much attention to whether a book is a new release or not. Same with movies. I prefer to wait until the hype dies down. Which often means I don’t see movies until they go to video but it also means I avoid the blockbusters that turn out to be duds. But I digress. If I see something that looks interesting, I buy it (or get it at the library).

    And yes, if I find an author I like, I’ll go back and read her previous work.

  28. Susan Snodgrass says:

    I read a LOT. I have an ereader but I still buy print books, too, especially of authors I’ve followed for years. I’ve been reading a lot of authors for a lot of years so I always buy their latest; when I find an author whose books I’ve never read, but the one I read is good, I back track and get all their previous books. I keep a list, too, of all the books coming up from authors I love. I follow a lot of authors. I gotta stop, though, because I’m such an addict. I have about 35 in my ‘to read’ basket, about 10 hidden behind the couch and some in my storage building and 324 on my Nook! I might need to go on Intervention. My dream as a young child was to be locked in the library over the weekend. I’d only need a loaf of bread and a pack of baloney. I’m totally serious about that, too.

  29. Rachel Smith says:

    This has always been true for me. Right now I am reading more backlist than anything else because I recently discovered paranormal romance and I’m in devouring mode.

    My next three planned book purchases are backlist books by Sherrilyn Kenyon, and my most recent purchase was also a backlist book because it was on sale.

    I’m still discovering new to me authors though, and buying books when I can.

  30. I’m buying/acquiring exclusively, not from the back list, but from the back-back-back list. E-books of public domain works of those writers who I have discovered recently, either having avoided them as a schoolboy or my teachers didn’t cover them. That’s about 200 years of catching up to do.

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      I spent a couple of years a decade or so ago trying to mend the holes in my education. I could have spent a lifetime. Enjoy, David.

  31. Your post is a great observation, Wendy! Both my husband and I are reading an author’s backlist like we never have before because we each have a Kindle. Just like you said, we find an author we like and look up other titles. But, we are big fans of the “latest and greatest” too, so we have by no means abandoned the frontlist. I think we’re actually just reading *more* because books are so much more accessible (downloading at home) than they used to be and they’re less expensive as well. Thanks for bringing up a terrific discussion!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Same with me. I took a break in my backlist reading to read Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling).

  32. Confession: I usually read books from the library and only buy books if I expect to read them more than once, or as gifts to other people. The ones I’ve bought and downloaded for my e-readers are mostly still waiting to be read because I prefer the old-fashioned kind of book.

  33. Andrea Cox says:

    Great question, Wendy!

    Generally, I have a list of authors I know will provide “the goods” and purchase their newest books for sure when they come out. I also work on their backlist as my budget allows.

    However, I do like discovering new-to-me authors, which then leads to more backlists to work on.

    My goal is to have a healthy mix of frontlist/backlist books that I purchase. I’m doing pretty good with that goal so far, but the actual reading of the books… well, there aren’t enough hours in a day, but I’m squeezing out all the minutes of book time I can.


  34. I just did a back list purchase a couple days ago. I finished a new book on the Kindle, loved the author, and did exactly what you said – found one of her older books and purchased it. With these e-readers it makes it way too easy with the touch of a button to have a new book in minutes. The “other books by this author” feature certainly helps too.

    I think I buy a fairly even mix of front and back list. I also tend to pick up more non-fiction than fiction. I wonder if there’s a different in buying habits between the two genres?

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      There’s definitely a difference in buying habits. Nonfiction is still most often purchased in print. Many of those who read digitally prefer fiction.

  35. Karla Akins says:

    I read both front and back lists. My kindle app on my iPad is full of free books. But if I read a free one that I love, I look for the new releases. So there is a benefit to offering them for free. Like anyone else, though, once I find an author that takes me away, I read anything and all they’ve written. But I must say there aren’t very many that catch my fancy in that way.

  36. Addy Rae says:

    We only have budget for about two books a month, but I’d say my buying habits match up with what you’re guessing. I’m working on Michelle West’s backlist, but I will buy her newest when it comes out in August. I will note that I buy both hard copy and ebook if I expect I’ll want to lend it out, so two copies then, but that’s only a very few series.

  37. Fascinating conversation here today. Wish I wasn’t this late coming into it.
    Wendy, I have three lists:
    1) Frontlist
    2) Backlist
    3) Wish list

    Once I started reading Sarah Sundin’s books, I started buying all of them, in print. (And I just got a postcard for her latest!)
    An independent bookstore here in our rural community sells Anne Perry hard bounds for $2.00. I’ve been scooping those up.
    Rite Gerlach is one of my favorite historical romance writers and I buy her books as they come out.
    My ebooks are on my iPhone and I don’t care for the small screen. I rarely read those.
    I must admit, I prefer my print home library or the public library like Janet.
    I am exploring new authors that have been recommended. May look into a few mentioned here today.

  38. PatriciaW says:

    How about “Deep, Wide or Square”? I’d say I read equally front list and back list. When I find an author I love, I will dive in the back list, but I may not try to read everything. Because I’m also always on the look out for new voices, in part because finding a new author I like is like stumbling upon a four leaf clover in a field of green. It’s magical. I also like to have a sense of how what publishers are publishing is changing, to inform my own writing and my freelance editing. So I’d say I read “square”.

  39. <ore and more I am wary of ebooks, and do not buy them unless that is the only edition available. Then I find I rarely finish them because I HATE electronic books. I want the copy in my hand. I want to flip pages. That being said, when I like an author, I will read whatever he/she has in print.
    The small independent publishers tend to leave their titles available forever. For that reason, as a writer of novels, I would never again aspire to publish with a major house where six months and you're dead.

  40. Tanya Stowe says:

    I love ereaders and the new availability because when I find a new-to-me author, their backlist is available to me with the push of a button and I can read as quickly as I finish! Yes, I read all of writer’s backlist and always have even before they were easily available online.

    Also, I’d like to recommend C.S.Harris and her St. Cyr Regency mysteries. Excellent writer. I’ve also been through all of the Anne Perry and thanks to the recommends by Amazon, just found Victoria Thompson! These new tools have simplified my life and made my reading experience deeper and wider! Thanks for the wonderful topic!