Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lost Today But Found Tommorrow?

Last week The Bookseller reported that Bloomsbury were to launch a "lost classics" list and that Vintage are continuing to build their "classic crime" list. To some this fuels the realisation that there is a real potential of pickings to be made from ‘orphans’. We also have Faber and Faber and many others looking to adopt these lost souls and explore the treasure trove of out of print material. With a bit of due diligence and little cost, orphans can be grabbed and claimed back. After all, we could soon see Google’s scanning programme of orphans being both stepped up and given the US legal pardon.

The mining of this wealth of material is not new and many have made a healthy living in spotting the gems, doing due diligence on rights and packaging nostalgia. Add a 50’s looking jacket and a new typeface and you have a new book, a potential POD title and of course a cheap ebook, all for less than many new title advances, with little editorial effort, just a new ISBN and a refreshed copyright notice.

As publishers trawl the orphan pile they know one thing that they don’t with the slush pile – someone once backed it. Whether it is a winner is another challenge and knowing what was a good seller in its day is hard to establish. It isn’t down to reviews or Bookscan as they don’t exist. Even ABE and Alibris don’t really offer a real light on winners. Those individuals who have a great track record in this area are often independent or not around today.

So we believe we shall see more orphans brought back into print, some will be under the nostalgia label and some will merely slip in as new. Those who belief these titles have had their day are probably the same ones who thought their was little to be made out of public domain classics and that back list are not publishing, but the reality is that whatever happens in the Google settlement, many have woken up to the vast published and forgotten pile of books that are now coming to everyone’s attention.

We just hope that they aren't merely taken and that due dilegence is undertaken and royalties where due are paid.

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