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Chasing The Tail: Harry Potter and The Long Tail

If Harry Potter ran General ElectricSaturday begins with my regular stop to Borders. I ordered Google Map Hacks off of Amazon so I could work on some overdue mapping interfaces for ResortPub this weekend. I ordered 2-day shipping but the book didn’t arrive… it’s tracked to Columbus, OH. I think this is the first time that I’ve not received my order from Amazon on time – hope it doesn’t happen again.

Back to my point… I’m at Borders and I happen to see the book If Harry Potter ran General Electric. I’m currently reading The Long Tail and it speaks to the intriguing concept that technology advances in computers, the internet, and distribution are driving sales of products that are not in the top percentiles. It’s a great book. Having just read Freakonomics, this is the perfect compliment.

As I viewed the title of If Harry Potter ran General Electric, I couldn’t help but find it interesting that author Tom Morris, while an established author with great reviews, used the success of Harry Potter to push his book ‘up the tail’. Visitors to Amazon who do a search of Harry Potter will find this book at #30 in their search results. Harry Potter may be the most successful series of books of all time. Children and parents alike stand in line and are hungry for the next book. As they peruse Amazon, I can’t help but wonder how many thousands of them purchased this book.

I’m also curious if this was a deliberate marketing strategy of Mr. Morris and his Publisher! Overall, his book is rated at #66,951 on Amazon while his last book is #154,295. Did Tom Morris simply become a better writer over the last 3 years? Or did his book chase Harry Potter and get him further up The Long Tail?

Robert Scoble & Shel Israel spoke about this trend occurring with Naked Conversations. It’s interesting to think that this could be utilized as a strategy, though!

2 Comments

  1. 1

    Hi Douglas! Thanks for noticing the book! I hadn’t read any of the Harry Potter stories until about 3 or 4 years ago, a young philosopher called me to ask me to write an essay for a book he was going to edit – Harry Potter and Philosophy. I didn’t have time to take on the project, and felt no inclination to, but he was a student of one of my favorite PhD students, so as a favor to him and his teacher, whom he had enlisted in calling me about the project, I agreed to at least look at the first Potter book. I was instantly hooked, and read them all 6 times each! I wrote an essay for the young professor’s book and then couldn’t stop writing. There were so many amazing insights about life and leadership in these immensely popular stories that no one was talking about. Pretty soon I had 300 page – a book! It was called “Harry Potter and the Meaning of Life” but the top business editor, a friend of my agent, got hold of it, saw the level of leadership wisdom in it, and asked me whether I could turn it into a book that would be as much a business book as a life guide. I was dubious at first, but while rereading it became convinced.

    After teaching at Notre Dame 15 year in the philosophy department, I now speak to large business groups all over the country. The Doubleday editor knew that a business title would appeal to my audiences. He said “Everyone at Doubleday loves your 1997 book If Aristotle Ran General Motors and so does every CEO I know, so would you be willing to do a parallel title?” I did lots of research and so did Doubleday, and we agreed on If Harry Potter Ran General Electric as a fun way to go.

    Companies have ordered thousands of copies, CEOs have picked it up and then bought it for all their reports and execs, and now the Harry Potter fandom has discovered it. So it’s my first book since 97 to hit bestseller lists (this summer The Wall Street Journal, CEO Read, BookJive).

    It is an interesting marketing device – a title that is descriptive, evocative, vivid, fun, and that appeals to two very different book buying publics.

    And – by the way – I think that every book I write is the best I’ve ever done, but then years later I love them all equally like children.

    Thanks for noticing!!!!!

    Tom Morris

  2. 2

    Loved this Harry Potter article. Have you guys checked out Harry Potter Forums Thats the first place that posted the news about the latest Harry Potter Movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

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