Friday, May 28, 2010

The 80/20 Rule In Cyberspace

I attended the BEA this week virtually, via Twitter feeds. One of the tidbits I picked up was a tweet that quickly made the rounds.  7% of books generate 87% of book sales and 93% of all published books sell less than 1000 copies each. I found it interesting the speed in which this was retweeted.  I can only assume that people found this information astounding.

I didn't. And I am still a virgin to book publishing.

I come from the world of sales where I learned early on that no matter what you are selling, 80% of your business will come from 20% of your account list. I was taught that most of your attention needed to be on that 20%. I also learned not to ignore the other 80%. The smaller numbers add up and you just never know when an account from the  80% might break from the pack and move into the 20% group.

The idea is not new. It is called Pareto's Principle after the man who first noticed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people. In simple terms a few are vital, many are trivial.

Pareto's idea is more than 100 years old. What I am curious about  is how those numbers might shift as we push further into the new frontier of cyberspace.

The publishing houses support the 80/20  rule. If you are Dan Brown you can expect a lot more promotional support than if you are me, first time novelist with no track record. I already expect a limited budget from the editor who takes a risk on me. And I haven't been offered a deal yet. But that is OK. Because I have a sales background. I know how to market. I understand it is not enough to just be a good writer anymore, you need to be an authorpreneur. You need to be a social marketer.  And we now live in a world when even the "trivial" masses can use the power of cyberspace to be influential.

While I admit to a fantasy of having a stellar New York Times Book Review,  I also understand we live in a world where just about anyone with a blog can review your book. While any review can go viral, the weight a good or bad review from a big name newspaper  once had will never be as influential as it once was.

Moving from books to movies, if I had paid any attention to the reviews coming out on
Sex and the City2 I might not have gotten up early Thursday morning to attend a 9:30AM showing. If I had listened to all the panning that was going on I might have denied myself the two hours and twenty seven minutes of being in the company of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte, who to me, are like hanging out with my best girlfriends.

I wasn't sure about the whole Abu Dhabi thing. But after seeing the movie I saw it's purpose. The direct contrast from the world I live in where anyone (including the 80%) can express an opinion and dress and walk as they please to one in which I would be required (by the 20%) to wear a burka and keep my opinions silent  makes perfect sense for a story line that has been from the beginning about women breaking out of the traditional mold and being heard.

Cyberspace gives us all more equal footing to be heard. Whether we are in the 80% or the 20%.  As  Carrie would say, I just can't help wondering, will the lines dividing us  start to blur?