The Pareto principle when applied to business and marketing argues that 80% of sales will be generated from 20% of the product. This holds especially true for the publishing and literature industry, whereby the majority of physical retailers only stock a miniscule percentage of the total books published, in favour of the already popular and already profitable. The publishing industry is notoriously hard to crack and due to the limited shelf space in physical book stores many unknown or smaller authors are not given this elusive shelf space.
Lynn Shepherd an author in her own right published earlier this year an opinion piece written for the Huffington Post, in which she urged that if J.K Rowling cared about writing, she should stop. In this piece Shepherd argues that “Rowling has no need of either the shelf space or the column inches, but other writers desperately do”. She continues on appealing to Rowling that “you’ve had your turn” and other authors need the shelve space. Following the Pareto principle Shepherd has an almost valid concern.
But with the advent of online retailers such as Amazon, Book Depository and even Indie Bound, the Pareto principle is slowly being challenged by the Long Tail effect. The physical limitations of a bookstore is no longer an issue (Anderson 2004). This infinite shelf space allows aggregators like Amazon to connect niche audiences with niche products (Kelly 2008) long after their release date or initial popularity. Due to the infinite shelving space online the growing thousands of books published each year are offered exposure and the breathing space that Shepherd demands.
Shepherd’s piece has been labelled by many to be a publicity stunt, or to be the simple rant of a disgruntled author. As an avid fan of the Harry Potter series and the fiction genre in general I cannot agree more with this view. Authors such as J.K Rowling, Stephen King or Dan Brown should not step aside once successful, if anything their novels bring more consumers to the stores both physical and online. Once there these consumers may even pick up another book from a struggling author, they may even click their way through the recommendation links all the way to Lynn Shepherds. (Although, once there they may note the 90+, 1 star reviews).
Every author, should have the ability to publish and produce content. The aggregate number of the remaining long tail sales outnumber the mass market, which should give hope to every aspiring creator and author.
Anderson, C 2004, The Long Tail, Wired, 12 October, viewed 28 August 2014, <http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html?pg=3&topic=tail&topic_set=>.
Kelly, K 2008, Better Than Free, Edge, viewed 28 August 2014, <http://edge.org/conversation/better-than-free>.