Who Has Time For Publishing’s 'Long Tail'?

Image - iStockphoto: zwilling330
Image – iStockphoto: zwilling330

‘Sales Are Down For Most Authors’

Sales are down for most authors. You don’t see blog posts about it or tweets, but it’s a reality. And the reason is simple: there’s more content out there than ever before.

That’s the self-publishing  author-turned-publisher Bob Mayer in a blog post at Digital Book World (DBW), The Content Flood And Authors Whining. The “authors whining,” Mayer tells us, are the writers of the Authors United group of traditionally published protesters of Amazon’s negotiating tactics. Authors United’s most vehement detractors are other writers. Criticism of them has exposed a bitter rift in the author corps. You can learn more about this in the author Hugh Howey’s recent Snowflakes United and Books Were Once Like Razor Blades.

Mayer, in the process of taking the Authors United group to task, touches on something his own Cool Gus Publishing seems to be weathering with enviable finesse. He writes: “Our sales are up 22 percent this year.”

Damned good. We can do no less than congratulate him.

Bob Mayer
Bob Mayer

But when Mayer writes that authors “have more competition than ever,” don’t think that competition is the problem only of traditionally published authors, united or otherwise.

In truth, Mayer’s books have more competition than ever, too, which makes his Cool Gus performance all the more impressive.

Everyone’s books have more competition than ever. Your mother’s memoir is going to need a push. A big one. Your father’s lawnmower maintenance handbook will need hand-cranking.

Early on, Mayer quotes the “tsunami” of books phrasing that Amazon’s Jon Fine uses in presentations. Mayer is right, in fact, when he writes that the peculiar thing about this metaphorical tsunami is that it doesn’t recede: “This is a flood that is going to get deeper and deeper.”

Those fathoms are increasing both for writers he perceives to be the just and the unjust, the self-publishing and the traditionally published. Remember that Bowker’s Laura Dawson reports the agency can “see” 28 million active titles — and that doesn’t count thousands upon thousands of books not identified by ISBNs.

Howey, in his “razor blades” piece, tells us why it’s so hard to touch bottom — it’s a happy reason, in fact, for a mounting problem:

Every book you write will be in print for the rest of time. They won’t grow old. They won’t grow dull…Every undiscovered book was launched today. They will launch every day. New readers will come of age; old readers will rediscover a lost love of reading; the next generation of readers are being born right now…Write knowing that your works will never expire, and that no one can deny you the right to publication.

Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

This is, in fact, one of the glories of the digital dynamic. Where even a “big book” of the kind written by some of the Authors United group once had a matter of mere weeks to find traction in the marketplace before losing its spot on a bookshop’s front table, diodes are an author’s best friend: your book now can live in shimmering cyber-beauty everlasting , the ebook-eternal, text without end, amen and amen.

And is there hope there? Well, of course there is. As Howey is saying to his colleagues:

Books are now forever; they remain fresh; they’ll never go out of print. It’ll be decades before most people adequately appreciate this. Get ahead of them by writing today.

He is right.


It may also be decades before anybody can get around to reading your book. If anyone ever does. Granted, it will be there waiting, as new as the moment you pushed the “publish button.” But so will everybody else’s books.

Howey is not wrong, you see. But what he and all authors face — whether they wave to each other as comrades or shake their fists at each other as far-from-United opponents — is that soon they may not be able to see each other at all. That crashing, crushing wave of content enabled by the digital dynamic is rolling in, higher, higher, higher.

How big is your to-read list now?

Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson

Writing on the Ether: Telling ‘Tails’ in Gothenburg: Who Has Time For Publishing’s Long One?

Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.ThoughtCatalog.com



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Publishing Technology infographic on mobile reading as jpeg 7 October 2014


Under construction Monday in the Frankfurt Book Fair's outdoor Agora, Samsung's standalone pavilion announces the company's presence this year to attendees.
Under construction Monday in the Frankfurt Book Fair’s outdoor Agora, Samsung’s standalone pavilion announces the company’s presence this year to attendees.


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