The Long Tail Of Value

May 21, 2009

A certain poobah of Twitter was touting his book today and I was reading some of the tweets relating this event.

One of them caught my eye:

This is so obvious a concept that I was somewhat startled to see it explained.

Here it is another way:

A convict from Darlington, England, was released from jail after serving three years for embezzlement.

One day, he happened to pass Mayor John Morel on the streets. Embarrassed and completely withdrawn, this convict pretended not to see the Mayor and walked past him. But he suddenly felt the Mayor holding his hands and turned around instantly to hear the Mayor say, in a cheery tone, “Hello! I am so glad to see you! How are you?” The man appeared ill at ease and the discussion stopped then and there.

Years later, according to the story told by J.H. Jowett, Morel accidentally met the same man in another town. This time the young man stopped the Mayor himself and said, “I want to thank you for what you did for me when I came out of prison.” “What did I do?” asked the Mayor, surprised. “You spoke a kind word to me and it changed my life,” replied the the grateful man.

The above is a paraphrase from a Robert H. Schuller book, Believe in the God Who Believes in You (Google Book Search link).

This is what I call the Long Tail of Value.

American business is FAILing left and right because it’s based on squeezing the juice out of every single penny (which is actually a load of crap; those of you who decry wasteful government have no idea of how wasteful business is!).

This is the very antithesis of life itself, which is based on chance, serendipity, synchronicity, coincidence, and the longest possible perspective.

When the Mayor offered his greeting, was he thinking of its ROI? Did he do a calculation to see what was in it for him?

Perhaps this is why businesspeople — so-called — can’t “figure out” how to use Twitter.

They’ve forgotten how to be human beings.

Publishers Vs. Writers: Writers Will Win

May 21, 2009

HighTalking: Novelist Jon F. Merz on How Social Media is Changing Publishing (Part 1)

Nowadays, people don’t want to go through the traditional publishing hoops of querying agents and editors. They don’t want to wait. They want their stories and articles out there fast. So, instead of even putting a piece of paper into a typewriter, they simply click open MS Word, write their masterpiece, and the save the file as HTML. Uploaded to the site, it’s instant gratification.

Publishing’s response to this has been something along the lines of, “Yes, but we’re the gatekeepers of quality. We *know* what the consumers want.” Bull puckey. That argument might have once held water, but no longer.

I’ll use myself as an example: my novel PARALLAX is a thriller with Science Fiction/Psychic elements. In trying to get the book sold, all the editors who read it, loved it. But because publishing thinks in terms of labels and how to slot books into those labels, the fact that Parallax blurred the lines a bit meant they couldn’t sell it to the committee and the book never got picked up.

Fast forward a few years and I’m tired of having a novel sitting on my hard drive not earning me any money, so I put it out as an ebook. Lo and behold, reader response has been fantastic. So while publishing might *think* they know what consumers want, that isn’t always the case. And Parallax proves that a well-written book will always find a home with an audience if given the chance.

As far as the quality goes, there is certainly plenty of crap out there. People are impatient and they want to believe that their stuff is gold right out of the gate. So, sure, there is a lot of junk. But there are also some really great writers out there making a decent living from self-publishing their own material. If traditional publishers were smarter, they would take advantage of these ready-made audiences and then look to break that author out into a larger market share.

Emphasis added by me.

There are also some very interesting thoughts in part two.