A few weeks ago, Publishers Weekly noted that Gone Girl was about to drop from the top of its best-selling frontlist titles. The book was still selling well, but it had been out for a year and was about to become "backlist".
On one level, dropping the book makes sense. PW is a trade publication, so tracking the best-selling new books is a service to its readers and the industry.
But do seasons or a single year really make a book "old"? In a recent post, "The frontlist is dead", James Woolam argues that the answer to my question is "no":
Amazon (other online retailers are available) levels the playing field between old and new books – publication date is not a distinction that their algorithms or sales ranks recognise.
Woollam, who is the managing director of F+W International, describes two of the publisher's best-selling books. They date back to 2008 and 2010:
These are two examples of many, but illustrate the point that the traditional frontlist/new book focus is arguably now irrelevant. Much more important is the context that we’re operating in and what the best opportunities are to meet that context. This has some fairly big implications for workflows, focus, sales and marketing.
His post then uses my Berlin talk, "Disaggregating supply", as a touchstone to argue against an over-reliance on "the container model of publishing".
It's encouraging to see a senior executive question longstanding publishing orthodoxy, particularly because it is becoming more common to do so. As the industry shifts, we benefit from "the growing relevance of what was once a challenging set of ideas."