The Long Tail
An Introduction

The business world is abuzz with the term, The Long Tail. What does this term have to do with self-publishing writers? More importantly, what does it have to do with you?

What Is The Long Tail?

Chris Anderson of Wired coined the phrase in 2004, to describe a phenomenon many considered counterintuitive.

Anderson noted that collectively, low demand products make up a larger part of the market share than do the best sellers.

Everyone wants to have the best seller. Manufacturers do. Moviemakers do. Writers do.

But consumers want much more than the best sellers. Although many of us do buy the best seller, we want more. As readers, we buy other books, too.

Perhaps a non-publishing example will help.

Think of drill bits. When I find myself in the local building supply store, I don’t ask for the most popular drill bit. I ask for the one that will create a certain sized hole in a specific material that I'm using on a particular project.

I have no idea what the most common bit is. I couldn’t care less. I want the drill bit that meets my personal need right at that time.

The same is true of most other items and services for sale. It’s also true of words. Think of all the words in the English language. It turns out that the word the accounts for 12% of all words in English. That’s a huge part of the market share. Each common noun is left with less than 1% of the share. If you were a word in the market of words, which word would you want to be?

In spite of how common and necessary the is, ask yourself if it’s the word you’d choose if you were restricted. I can safely bet the farm that when you are desperate to communicate, you don't blurt out, "The!"

Is this the conversation your parents had when you said your first word?
Honey, Sorry to call you at work. Johnny just said his first word!. . .

No, dear, he didn’t say Da-da. . .

Well, no, he didn’t say Ma-ma, either. . .

He said, “The,” the most common word in the English language! He’s got 12% of all discourse handled already and he’s not even two years old!
Of course that telephone conversation would be absurd. Even though the most common words get used all the time (that’s what makes them the most common, after all), it’s the other words we turn to when we have to express individual need.

Just like it’s a specific item I’m looking for when I visit the building supply store.

It’s all those other words, all those others drill bits, that make up The Long Tail.

And if you are a writer, especially if you are a self-publishing writer, The Long Tail is very good news. That’s what the rest of the articles in this series are about. . .

. . .the good news for writers.

The Long Tail deals with three aspects of getting your material into the hands of others.
  1. Publishing
  2. Distribution
  3. Filters
I’ll explain those three factors as they relate to you.

I’ll also show you how to use The Long Tail to your advantage through different publishing venues. I’ll discuss
  1. Hard Copy
  2. E-books and other digital products for sale
  3. Web publishing
Ready to move on?

Part 2: The Long Tail And Self-Publishing
Part 3: The Long Tail And Self-Publishing Filters
Part 4: The Self-Publishing Kangaroo On The Long Tail




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