A Bestseller-ometer? Really? We think so. . .


Ask most people about massive success in the world of fiction, and you'll typically hear that it's a game of hazy crystals balls. The sales figures of E. L. James or Dan Brown, they'll say, are freakish--random occurrences in an unknowable market. So often we hear that nothing but hype explains their success. But what if there were an algorithm that could reveal a secret DNA of bestsellers, regardless of their genre? What if it knew, just from analyzing the words alone, not just why genre writers like John Grisham and Danielle Steel belong on the lists, but also that authors such as Junta Diaz, Jodi Picoult and Donna Tartt had tell-tale signs of success all over their pages?

Thanks to Jodie Archer and Matthew Jockers, the algorithm exists, the code has been cracked, and the results bring fresh new insights into how fiction works and why we read. The Bestseller Code offers a new theory for why Fifty Shades sold so well. It sheds light on the current craze for dark heroines. It reveals which themes tend to sell best. And all with fascinating supporting data taken from a five year study of 20,000 novels. Then there is the hunt for “the one”—the paradigmatic example of bestselling writing according to a computer’s analysis of thousands of points of data. The result is surprising, a bit ironic, and delightfully unorthodox. 

This book explains groundbreaking text mining research in accessible terms and offers a new perspective on the New York Times bestseller list. It is big-idea book about the relationship between creativity and technology, the sort that will be provocative to anyone interested in how analytics have already transformed the worlds of finance, medicine and sports. But at heart it is a celebration of books for readers and writers—a compelling investigation into how successful writing works, and a fresh take on our intellectual and emotional response to stories.

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