No, The Internet Will Not Save You

Today I’m on again about one of my (least) favorite subjects, the “Long Tail Theory” of online selling. For those blissfully or otherwise unaware, the Long Tail Theory says that the internet will overcome the problem of finding audiences for cutting edge, goofy, or just niche type products such as most books. Since things you can’t find easily in the brick and mortar stores are easily accessible online, such items are no longer at the mercy of the gatekeepers, et many a cetera. The internet, in effect, would level the playing field making publishers much less dependent on blockbusters, and authors less dependent on publishers. Instead both would see fewer sales but of many more titles/items (the “long tail.”) and make up the difference in overall numbers volume (ie write more). Promotion through YouTube or its variants would take care of the no longer existent promotional budget.

That was the theory. In practice, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Yes, some authors have done really well going outside the traditional publishing paradigm. Some authors do well, period, regardless of the paradigm. That’s the Law of Averages at work. For other Indies, and in the one area where hard data now exists, the result is: not so much. For indie and online music sales, it turns out like this: 80% of the available items sold no copies. At all. Zero. See the trend? All the revenue came from the remaining 20%. Usually bands which already had a following or were otherwise promoted. One could argue that this is music and we’re concerned about books. I know I am. But think about it for a minute—if there was ever a product that should benefit from internet promotion, it’s music. It takes a minute or less to download sample music from a web site or watch the band’s home-made video on YouTube. You can try lots of new and unknown and indie bands in just a few minutes. I’m sure there are people reading this who have found good new music this way. The rest? No, because most people aren’t going to spend hours and hours downloading unfamiliar bands, any more than they’re going to the trouble to sort through all the ebook samples on Amazon. For most bands, even the better ones, the internet just isn’t working, and I think it’s reasonable to argue that it does not and will not work for writers either, at least and until we learn to leverage it properly. Exceptions? Sure, but how many? Which leaves the 80%. Continue reading

Ebook Reviewing – Nice Hammer. Too Bad This Isn’t a Nail

Not too long ago I was listening to a podcast where the guest was a well-known critic/reviewer in the sf and fantasy field. I was especially struck by an exchange during the interview where the reviewer mentioned owning a Kindle and how much he was enjoying it. So the host asked him how owning the ebook reader had affected his reviewing habits. To which the reviewer replied that it hadn’t affected them at all, because he didn’t usually review books on the Kindle. There’s a reason for that, of course, and that reason—at least in theory—has nothing to do with being prejudiced against ebooks. Continue reading

Year End Report – 2011

We’re coming up on the end of the publishing year, which in some ways for me has been a little thin this time around. There are reasons for that, yes, but they don’t change the result. I’ve published four stories this year in the traditional way, and I use that term loosely since only two of those were print publications. Electronic media’s becoming the new “traditional,” and soon the idea of paper except for very special projects and limited editions will be seen as positively quaint. I was on track to publish five original stories, which is pretty typical for me, but we all know what happened to Realms of Fantasy. So it goes. I started to compile what would have been a very brief summary when it occurred to me that to consider only the traditional venues marginalizes what else I’ve accomplished this year, projects which I am rather proud of, frankly, both for breaking new ground in my attitudes and pushing my comfort zone into the 21st Century. So for the first time ever I’m going to give my yearly breakdown in two separate sections: Traditional, and eBook.

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