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The Mad Scribbler




The Tale of the
Tail Grows Longer


“Our culture and economy are increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of hits (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve, and moving toward a huge number of niches in the tail.”
Chris Anderson, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More

Last month in this column, we looked at a few of the empowering options and opportunities that have emerged for writers thanks to various new technologies and distribution channels which have created the Long Tail effect in our industry: the book market is increasingly shifting (as per NINC 2007 keynote speaker Chris Anderson) “away from a small number of mainstream markets and products towards an enormous number of niche markets and products.” I briefly discussed the most obvious example of this phenomenon, the widespread success of self-published ebooks. We also looked at crowdfunding (see Elaine Isaak’s March 2012 Nink article about crowdfunding and Kickstarter,, and we explored several individual types of crowdfunding efforts employed by sf/f writers Catherynne M. Valente and the team of Tracy and Laura Hickman, who used social media effectively (rather than obnoxiously) and created various projects structured and funded on a subscription basis. Moving along now...

In another blog-launched crowdfunding effort, one which was a one-time endeavor rather than a subscription plan, Saladin Ahmed sought “patronage” for a work of fiction in June of 2012. Ahmed was a muchpublished short story writer in the sf/f genre, his work had attracted significant attention in some prestigious awards venues, and his first novel had been published by DAW Books (my publisher) a few months earlier.

Ahmed posted “Iron Eyes and the Watered-Down World” on his blog in June, the only short story he’d written that had never been published—nor even submitted anywhere, due to being a niche story for which the author had seen no viable publishing markets In his blog introduction to the story, Ahmed candidly detailed some of the pressing expenses for which he needed to generate income. He invited people to read the short story for free and, if they liked it, to consider acting as a patron of the art in question by using the PayPal link to send whatever monetary support they felt comfortable offering.

In a subsequent blog update, Ahmed announced that within 24 hours of that post going live, he had received all the funds he needed for the expenses he’d blogged about, adding, “THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH FOR YOUR MATERIAL AND SPIRITUAL SUPPORT, and for all the kind words about my writing.”

Speaking of PayPal links... Prolific fiction writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch ( and her husband Dean Wesley Smith ( both regularly write blog posts for their online readerships about the craft and business of writing. In particular, they each compose nonfiction books online about these subjects on their blogs, posting chapter by chapter over a period of time until the book is finished (ex. Think Like A Publisher by Smith and Freelancer’s Survival Guide by Rusch), and then they self-publish and sell the completed books. Each of their blogs always contains a PayPal link, accompanied by a short message explaining why it’s there: Writing is their profession, and they hope you’ll leave a tip on the way out if you’ve gotten something valuable out of today’s blog.      

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