Long-Tail Fallacy Continues Unabated–Missing Markets


Long-tail mishmash indeed. HarperCollins CFO Bedi Singh made a comment while reporting on the current state of the publishing giant’s business categories. During his discourse that everything was great (is there ever any other remark senior executives make when discussing their firm’s products and/or services?), Singh said, “We like the way the e-book market has developed; we can monetize our long tail of books very efficiently.” His presentation is exactly why I don’t have much faith in the entire meta-tag argument.

I had an independent publisher brag to me last year about recently receiving a graduate degree in business with a concentration on optimizing meta tags. I immediately dropped this individual from my “list,” deciding never to work with this person again (the firm recently went out of business). Of course if I ask for a book by name I can find it. And if I ask for a book by John Grisham by title and include his name I can find it. All any self-published or “lightly” published mainstream author has to do to prove my point is type in a keyword, then a keyword phrase, and then make the keyword phrase (hence, the meta data) longer and longer. Eventually, yes, everyone can find his or her own book(s).

But note how expanded the long-tail becomes before the book that’s being sought shows up. Any writer taking the time to do this will understand in short order why I found CFO Singh’s remark so absurd. From my experience, unequivocally, the only instances meta tags worked was when they were close to the book’s title or I had the actual title. And, in the case of the latter, it’s a “duh.” Again, if a writer is depending on some exotic SEO algorithm to direct people to that author’s work, unless the software blocks out everything else, it’s very easy to end up on page 14 on Google or not show up at all on the Amazon list of “also” titles that appears on the “results” screen. I’m a nice guy, or at least I try to be, so I don’t mean this the way it sounds, but I defy anyone to prove me wrong regarding meta-tag dynamics as it pertains to books.

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