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February 22, 2005


Francis Hamit

Actually, there is a better way to do this. For the last year, I've run "Francis Hamit Electronic Publishing" off of this computer. I wanted to experiment with distributing old magazine articles I'd published and see what the depth of the aftermarket was for such material.

That was an offshoot of the Tasini case and the fact that aggregators and large database companies make billions of dollars distributing such material to libraries and corporate intranets.

I, too, wanted to get them on Amazon. Who wouldn't want a market that has 30 million customers and is open 24/7? I found that Amazon deals exclusively with Lightning Source, which also distributes to Powells.com, Fictionwise, Elibron, Diesel e-books and many other online retailers. These firms have affiliate programs and the reach is global.

So I bought a thousand ISBNs from Bowker. You need a new ISBN for every format your publish a title in and there are three (Adobe Reader, Microsoft Reader and Palm) which are handled by Lighting Source. The cost was about $1,400.

Preparing the material for publicaiton requires a lot of work and while I don't have inventory problems, it is only the Long Tail that makes the business viable.

I have about 70 titles up and it is impossible to predict what will sell best from month to month. The market is a mile wide and an inch deep. Single articles sell better right now than bundled product where two to six articles are offered on a common theme. Four months ago, the reverse was true.

By confining myself to the electronic market, I have an infinite supply of pruduct that can meet all demands and a set of distribution channels unmatched in the non-virtual world.

This market has not yet reached the tipping point. Most of what is out there is text and of interest to only very narrow segments of the market. I have to fit the publishing around other parts of my career as a journalist, novelist and playwright and it is pay as I go and learn as I go. Still very much an experiment. We're adding new titles slowly.

But the stuff sells and Lightning Source is encouraging the market by waiving set up fees right now. I encourage other writers to republish their own material this way, but we have not yet arrived at the time when this method of distribution will threaten more traditional methods.

Because of branding and the consumer confidence it builds, we may never get there. We're way short of the tipping point and this will never replace conventional print. Nothing that has to be plugged in will.

But, as a way to get your material out there, the Long Tail works. I suspect it may also pay the rent as more people learn that they can go direct to the source.


Chris, the link to Kevin's Cool Tools post about self-publishing is great. Very useful for authors, musicians and filmmakers. Any thoughts on Long Tail marketing for visual artists, such as painters or people who make limited edition prints?

David Sabel


How do you get recommendations to effectively connect "niche producers and niche consumers" down at the end of the long tail without either...

a. a store with a much bigger catalog than Amazon has today, coupled with their great recommendation model

b. a costly infrastructure of editors who pour over thousands of releases and render opinions

You might suggest "let the community do the work" but I'm not sure a community model/network effect model would work in music the way it does with other things where the variety is more finite (Cars, refrigerators, digital cameras). Generally fans of the band tend to post reviews, and they tend to be postive. Problem is, you don't know what else those positive-review-writing fans listen to so you, as the newcomer, have no context within which to place this great new band they're recommending.

And with sales in the onesey-twosey range, the tail arist won't likely hit the typical collaborative filtering models used today to show up in the "people who bought x also bought y" recommendations list.

Seems like a Catch 22 for the Long Tail musicians. They need to have sales to generate the observations for models to place them in the right context, but to get sales they need to be in the right context to start with.


Yeah, impact on producers tends to be the most misunderstood part of the Long Tail. Glad to see this up.

Another point to make is that artists down the tail are probably more likely to keep producing more art -- and hopefully improving their craft -- if they find an audience, no matter how small it is. I've noticed this with bloggers. Blogs that didn't get any comments start improving dramatically when they do start getting comments. And this isn't even taking into account the whole money aspect of it.

Alex Rowland

A couple of thoughts, David. I think you have to see the long tail for what it is today, a very big but very long term trend that is just beginning to take root. The technologies that are powering this market are still relatively immature, so to look at how the model works today is somewhat deceiving.

In order for the long tail to really work, LOTS of people need to participate. As the model gets off the ground the number of people involved will mean that the current long tail will really just consist of the next order of magitude down the curve. Flattening the curve further is just going to take some time.

But it's also important to note that these technologies won't allow any musician to just post something that they think is great and wait for the crowds to form. Recommendation services will always be one important aspect of the marketing of any content, but never the whole enchilada. It will still make sense for these musicians to generate support for their music by playing various gigs and seeding the networks with some evangelists. The long tail is a more efficient and democratic method of driving good content up from the bottom, but it also doesn't do all the work for you.


Dear Mr. Anderson and everybody who commented,

I am aware of the age of this comment collection, either way, a question is burning on my mind and hope to find suggestions via this way.
In fact, let me explain. I am a graduating student from a university in the Netherlands and busy with writing my thesis.

So, all I could find about the Long Tail theory and was discussed in the book was either justifiable within the B2C or C2C environment. But is there a long tail for B2B environments? I am thinking about a specific example. This would hold a video-ad production company with agencies as their direct client.

I am somehow failing to see a Long Tail in the product such a production company offers. I would appreciate if anybody would comment on this idea.
Again, as we consider talking about producers, I am talking about traditional, professional producers of video ads.

Thank you all a lot,

with all my best wishes and appreciation,


micro sd speicherkarten

Well i good to have a FAQ's for long tail..Because it is completely based on current market condition and i hope you get a proper answer to your questions.Anyways thanks for this wonderful post....

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

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