The long tail is the life span of a book after the initial sales are slowing down.
Harvard Reassesses the Long Tail
She further concludes: “Although no one disputes the lengthening of the tail (clearly, more obscure products are being made available for purchase every day), the tail is likely to be extremely flat and populated by titles that are mostly a diversion for consumers whose appetite for true blockbusters continues to grow. It is therefore highly disputable that much money can be made in the tail. In sales of both videos and recorded music—in many ways the perfect products to test the long-tail theory—we see that hits are and probably will remain dominant. That is the reality that should inform retailers as they struggle to offer their customers a satisfying assortment cost-efficiently. And it’s the unavoidable challenge to producers. The companies that will prosper are the ones most capable of capitalizing on individual best sellers.”
Part of the intro: “in a typical year, Grand Central Publishing…spotlights just two ‘make’ books, one fiction and one nonfiction, for which the company’s publisher is willing, in her words, to ‘pull out all the stops.’ In the fall of 2007 those books were David Baldacci’s Stone Cold and Stephen Colbert’s I Am America (and So Can You!). The effects of this strategy show up in sales figures and profits. Whereas the 61 hardcover titles Grand Central put on its 2006 front list, on average, incurred costs of $650,000 and earned gross profits of just under $100,000, a wide range of numbers contributed to those averages. Grand Central’s most heavily marketed title incurred costs of $7 million and achieved net sales of just under $12 million, for a gross profit of nearly $5 million—50 times the average.”