Friday, October 27, 2006

The Long Tail (of book publishing)

The Long Tail is Chris Anderson's impression of 'the new economics of culture and commerce', or 'how endless choice is creating unlimited demand'.

It's a very interesting read, but the reason I'm writing about it here is Chris* talks about self-publishing in the book or Self Publishing Without Shame. He mentions, "a new breed of DIY publisher. For less than two hundred dollars, Lulu can not only turn your book into a paperback or hardcover and give it an ISBN number, but also ensure that it gets listed with online retailers. Once it's listed, the book will be available to an audience of millions and potentially side by side with Harry Potter, if the winds of the recommendation engine blow that way."

Heard it all before, you think.

Well consider that Chris states "In 2004, 950, 000 books out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen BookScan [(i.e. proper books)] sold fewer than ninety-nine copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies [and only] 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies." Then consider that the top five self-published books on Lulu have all sold between 5,000 and 50,000 copies. Then consider that authors earn eighty percent of profits, compared to 15 percent for "standard publishers".

Content creation is changing, and not just for writers. This affects film production, music production etc. It's all explained in The Long Tail.

So I highly recommend that all writers do the following:
  1. Read Chris Anderson's book, The Long Tail (do a search on Amazon)
  2. Learn more about
Personally, it staggers me that published authors use the internet so poorly as a marketing vehicle. They often don't have websites and if they do, they're not interested in collecting email addresses offering sample chapters etc. is a great example of how the long tail is being exploited by some writers.

(*) Chris actually wrote The Long Tail based on corrections made to his writing, his thoughts, that were made on his blog over the period of a few months.

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