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Tail Wags Dog September 8, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, ideas, VIPub, web & computers, writing.
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How ever can a VIPub author make a living off tiny monthly sales when the legacy publishers are selling tens of thousands copies? The answer isn’t obvious but it is real. The long tail.

Check the article in Wired for a good description. Note that this is 7 years old, so the idea isn’t a new one. That doesn’t make it out of date, though. If anything it is more relevant now because of Amazon’s Kindle and its increasing role in book sales..

How things have changed: legacy publishers give you a chunk of money (the advance) upfront. You will probably never see another dime but if you do it is likely three years or longer down the road. In effect, this is a loan rather than actual earnings. The publisher has a good idea what your book will earn and this is it. (One author has discovered a discrepancy–a huge discrepancy–between online tracking and what the publisher is paying in royalties. Another plus for the digital age is being able to check sales numbers and realize you might be systematically underpaid). With publishing reality what it is, your book has about 17 days to sell and then it is history.

The other way is VIPub, putting your ebook for sale and not getting very much in any given month in sales. This is where the long tail comes into play. You can make as much as the advance over a three year period with a trickle of sales every month. And the book remains on sale the entire while, which is especially beneficial if this is part of a series. Who wants to buy book 2 in a series if book 1 isn’t available?

Below is a graph from Wikipedia showing the difference. A legacy publisher gets the green area. Big sales in a short time. You get the yellow sales, small sales for a very long time. The amounts are the same but the cash flow is different. Best of all, you control the book the entire while during the long tail. Want to change the cover to enhance sales? Do. Change the description? Do it. Bundle it as part of an omnibus volume or put out an enhanced deluxe edition? Your choice. None of those options is available if your book is published traditionally. With change accelerating, you need to be agile and take advantage of trends. Relying on the long tail can do that for you.

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