The “Long Tail” of the Self-Publishing Industry

In last month’s course, I read Chris Anderson’s book, The Long Tail, which discussed the evolution of the market and how “hits” are no longer the sole generators of profits in the entertainment and retail industries.

In the case of addressing more traditional forms of literature, such as novels, Anderson didn’t go into as much detail as I had hoped regarding the trends of the industry.

That’s OK!

As an optimist, I decided to give it some thought myself and try to articulate what I feel the trends of the literary industry’s “long tail” truly is and where it will go.

That was quite the brain-melt!

As a requirement for the course’s final project, I had to answer essay questions regarding the text, which gave me the opportunity to express my opinion and I’m excited to see what the instructor thinks of my hypothesis. Perhaps he’ll agree, perhaps he’ll say it’s all rubbish. Either way, it was fun to give it some thought.

Since several of my followers are aspiring writers and novelists like myself, I decided I would share my opinion regarding the current trends of traditional vs. self-publishing in the world of novellas and novels.



I feel that we’re just now beginning to see the start to a major shift in the publishing industry. Right now, self-publishing is a free-for-all. Anyone can do it. The market is being FLOODED with titles from writers of all ages, skill levels, and backgrounds, resulting in more titles that any one retail publisher could ever hope to contain. When there are too many choices, such as what’s beginning to happen now in the literary world, eventually people get frustrated and opt out of purchasing all together. Basically, the tail is getting longer than the consumer market wants it to be. In The Long Tail, Chris Anderson quoted the argument of Barry Schwartz that too much choice is not only confusing, but also downright demotivating:

“As the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear. As the number of choices grows further, the negatives escalate until we become overloaded. At this point, choice no longer liberates, but debilitates. It might even be said to tyrannize.” (Schwartz, 2005.)

I do feel that this is beginning to happen, perhaps not to the extreme of tyranny, but definitely to the level of causing frustration for the consumer. I am under the belief that the inundation of the market will eventually cause Internet sales [primarily eBooks] to drop off, if not all at once, but steadily over the next few years. The major traditional and self-publishing companies will take notice and, after perhaps some intensive research on their own, realize that the drop off is the result of a market with too many choices, not enough restraint, and lack of organization. My prediction is that at this point [which may be a few years down the road] self-publishing companies are going to implement filters of some sort to help slow down the rush of submissions. In turn, this will cut the numbers of “sales” they make, so they will have to raise their prices accordingly.

Again, this will push people away from self-publishing unless they are VERY confident in the quality of their work and have the financial backing to put their money where their mouth is. As a result, the publications from self-publishing houses will begin increasing in quality while dropping in quantity, encouraging their consumption by audiences yet again. This is purely my speculation based on the trends I see in the market, but it does seem most applicable based on the current long tail of the market [the tail is TOO long!] and how I feel the major publishers will respond to salvage their reputations and their sales.


If you have any thoughts or opinions you’d like to share regarding the world of self-publishing, please leave a comment!

Let’s start a discussion!

Optimistic that books are making a resurgence,

~ Victoria Elizabeth



One thought on “The “Long Tail” of the Self-Publishing Industry

  1. I also expect a lot of self-publishing writers to “self-deport” (in Mitt Romney terms) from the market, when it becomes clear there’s no money to be made, so there might well be a winnowing from both sides.


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