Backlist Is King: Brash Books | Publisher Profile

“The Field of Dreams model doesn’t necessarily work,” says Brash Books cofounder Joel Goldman (below, left). “If you write it, they won’t necessarily buy it.” That’s where Brash Books (, a crime fiction publishing company that Goldman and cofounder Lee Goldberg (below, right) launched in September 2014, comes in. Currently heavily weighted toward backlist titles, Brash Books offers a unique take on the traditional publishing model.

Both Goldberg and Goldman are authors in their own right, with success in self-publishing their respective backlists. When Goldberg approached Goldman, an attorney, with a legal question related to negotiations with the heirs of an author whose work Goldberg wanted to republish, the pair saw a business opportunity in resurrecting well-regarded but out-of-print crime fiction. “We realized,” notes Goldberg, “that we could take great books by authors we know and love, as well as the books that influenced us as writers, the books that influenced scores of crime writers, and republish them right, bring them back the way they were meant to be.”

April15webMysteryBrashBBrash Books’ motto sets the bar high: “we publish the best crime novels in existence.” Goldberg knows that there are numerous companies snapping up rights to various authors’ backlists, especially with the advent of the ebook, and so to set the company apart, the partners focus on acquiring “only the very best, from National Book Award winners to Edgar and Shamus Award winners.” And by courting the best of the best, Goldman and Goldberg are able to generate new buzz and interest for long-dormant series.

Reviving careers

Goldman points to Tom Kakonis, whose Treasure Coast was published last September, the only frontlist title in the company’s 30-book initial launch. “Kakonis had terrific books and was hailed as the next Elmore Leonard in the late 1980s and early 1990s,” explains Goldman. “When we reached out to him, he let us know that he had a book in the drawer and that became Treasure Coast.”

Another example of Brash’s interest in an author’s backlist acting as the driving force for new work is W.L. Ripley’s Storm Warning, which Brash released in February, along with new editions of his 1990s-era series featuring the same character. “For a number of our authors, we’ve been able to give not only their backlist a new opportunity [but] to inspire and motivate them to write new books,” says Goldman. “That’s what we’re telling these folks: seize the opportunity. They thought their careers were over because that’s what traditional publishing said to them.”

One author both Goldman and Goldberg are particularly excited to republish—and hopefully expand her reader base even wider—is Barbara Neely, whose Agatha and Anthony Award–winning series featuring an African American housekeeper-turned-sleuth (Blanche on the Lam, 1992) paved the way for countless writers. “There are several things that are important in building our list,” says Goldman, “but two things that are really important are diversity among our authors and books—and [writers] that were influential. Barbara Neely meets those criteria. She was, for a lot of women and minority authors, the harbinger that said ‘we can do this.’ ” The second book in the series, Blanche Cleans Up, will be reissued in May.

Another influential woman on Brash’s list is Carolyn Weston (1921–2001), whose police procedurals (Poor, Poor Ophelia) were the basis for the TV series The Streets of San Francisco. Not only will Brash republish Weston’s original novels (coming in May is Susannah Screaming), but Robin Burcell (The Kill Order) will continue the series.
—Jordan Foster, Portland, OR

This article was published in Library Journal's April 15, 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.