Chapter 136 – Algorithm for Success

If you’re fed up with trying to find the perfect writing advice, never fear. Technology is here to save you with an algorithm that tells you whether your book will be a bestseller or not.

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Picture by OVAN

Writing isn’t an easy profession. Ideas refuse to transform into words, characters develop multiple personalities, research only confuses more… When you’re finally done with the story and the book is ready to be read, there’s still a problem: will anyone read it?

Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jocker have developed a tool that predicts how likely a book will hit the bestseller lists. Their “bestseller-o-meter” has analyzed over 20,000 novels and ranked them on a percentage system. Even though the algorithms are advanced, there’s still room for error and the only book that’s scored a perfect 100% (The Circle by Dave Eggers) has never been on any Top-lists.

What does this mean for the publishing industry?

For now, not much. Archer and Jocker have published a book that digs deeper into their algorithm but it’s not used for commercial purposes at the moment. One day publishing houses might put all incoming manuscripts through a predicted-success-software, which would make their jobs easier. No need to read through every slush pile, just read the ones that score at least 60%.

Inventions such as these tend to separate the crowd. Other love it, others hate it, but in any case there will be questions.

Can an algorithm truly understand literature? Could this help authors make more money? Will this help writers focus on the right story? Are self-published authors able to surpass traditional authors?

Algorithms are everywhere. Companies figure out strategies and carry out market research to find the perfect recipe for success, and it’s not surprising this kind of attitude is sliding towards writing.

Looking at this now, the bestseller-o-meter sounds like it could be a useful tool for analyzing and teaching texts. Choose a pile of bestsellers and see what the algorithm picks up, and then make your own conclusions. It might even help people iron out problems with their manuscripts if the algorithm spits out a message along the lines of “not enough action in chapter 7” or “missing emotional dialogue.”

We all know the basic building blocks of a story: plot, characters, world. Then there’s advice on story structure, character creation, dialogue, scenery description, use of metaphors and so on. Finding a tool that calculates exactly how much everything you need sounds like a tempting shortcut to success, but I believe such texts could easily feel too clinical. What would the Top 10 Bestseller list even look like if they all scored 95% on the same meter?

One day tools like this could become common and they might even be able to accurately predict the future. But for now I think we’re better off doing what we know: writing from the heart.

What are your thoughts on bestseller-o-meters? Would you use one, perhaps to choose whether or not to go forward with a book draft?

 

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