Are You Trapped Over or Under?

I recently came across a principle called Amara’s Law (also known as Saffo’s Law and Clarke’s Law). This principle states, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

Wow, this is so true. I recently read the biography of Richard LeMieux. Richard ran a very successful publishing company that published medical and university directories. He grossly underestimated the effect the rise of the Internet would have on his business in the long run. As a result, in the early part of the twenty-first century, he lost everything he owned and ended up homeless, living out of his van for 18 months.

Richard fell right into the trap of Amara’s Law. How about you? Are you falling into this trap with your publishing and marketing?

Ask yourself the following questions regarding current technologies:

  1. Where am I currently in regards to ebooks? Am I only publishing ebooks and missing out on all the print sales still to be had? Or, am I dragging my feet and still hanging onto printing physical books only, underestimating the effect this will have on my book sales in the long run?
  2. How about social media? Am I placing too much emphasis on Twitter and Facebook to acquire new customers today and thus failing to build the right social media strategy to take my publishing company successfully into the future? Or, am I ignoring social media certain that it is a fad that will fade with time?
  3. How about my other marketing efforts? Am I only selling and marketing my books through the Internet, relying on the Web as my sole source of revenue? Or, am I neglecting to tap the power of the Internet for selling books and concentrating all my marketing and sales efforts on in person and print venues?

Overestimating the effect of a technology in the short run often leads to unrealistic expectations. Thinking that if you start blogging your book sales will soar, or that your Facebook page will immediately attract hundreds of fans for you to promote your books to, both fall into this trap of overestimation of a technology. The result is, that when your expectations are not met, you end up seeing your efforts as wasted because you failed to understand the long-term ramifications.

On the other hand, underestimating the effect of a technology in the long run will lead to lost sales. Thinking that social networking is a fad or just for young adults, or that people will still prefer print books in five years, will result in your procrastinating to embrace and use new technologies to sell books. In the long run, this will stifle your ability to remain vital in our growing technological and virtual economy.

I urge you to find the balance. Embrace the old, know the new.