Thursday, January 09, 2014

Authors, Your 84% chance to ensure you write a Bestseller!

Hold your horses, and consider this, you aspiring best-selling author you:

Three computer scientists at Stony Brook University in New York think they found some rules through a computer program that might predict which books will be successful.

And they maintain that their algorithm has an 84% chance of success!
Yechin Choi

That’s better than the chance of success you get from tea leaves gazing, asking-friends-to-review-your-novel, copying the beats of Blake Snyder in Save the Cat! and countless other success-assured methods parlayed by countless experts.

Three scientists from Stony Brook University in New York - Vikas Ganjigunte Ashok, Song Feng, and Yejin Choi - have found some correlations of success (let’s call them the Ashok-Feng-Choi Success Styles) for best sellers after an in depth study of many books.

So what did the 3 Wise Scientists do? They used statistical stylometry (now there’s a phrase to casually drop into your next dozen or so discussions!) which is a statistical analysis of literary styles in different genres of books. This let them identify stylistic elements that are more common in successful books than in unsuccessful books. Here’s Wikipedia on stylometry.
Song Feng

So the lesson for aspiring authors is to Follow the Algorithm to worldwide best-selling success.


They found that successful books made great use of conjunctions to join sentences ("and" or "but") and prepositions than less successful books. They also found a high percentage of nouns and adjectives in the successful books; less successful books relied on more verbs and adverbs to describe what was happening.

More successful books relied on verbs describing thought processes rather than actions and emotions. The results varied by genre, but books that are less successful, the researchers reported, used words like "wanted," "took" or "promised." Successful authors employed "recognized" or "remembered."

"It has to do with showing versus caring," Choi said. "In order to really resonate with readers, instead of saying 'she was really really sad,' it might be better to describe her physical state, to give a literal description. You are speaking more like a journalist would."

Communications researchers believe journalists use more nouns, pronouns, and prepositions than other writers because those word forms give more information, Choi explained.

"Novelists who write more like journalists have literary success," she said.

This should come as no surprise since many great novelists--Dickens and Hemingway to name two--began their careers as journalists.

Choi emphasized that she was describing a correlation, not causation, but the results could be predictive.

And you can read their whole paper in the link in the above article, or by clicking this: http://aclweb.org/anthology/D/D13/D13-1181.pdf

Here’s another gem from their study, about how to measure success of a book:

In this study, we do not attempt to separate out success based on literary quality (award winners) from success based on popularity (commercial hit, often in spite of bad literary quality), mainly because it is not practically easy to determine whether the high download counts are due to only one reason or the other. We expect that in many cases, the two different aspects of success are likely to coincide, however.

They also found that:

Also, more successful books use discourse connectives and prepositions more frequently, while less successful books rely more on topical words that could be almost cliche, e.g., “love”, typical locations, and involve more extreme (e.g., “breathless”) and negative words (e.g., “risk”).

And if you write Adventure novels, consider this finding:



And perhaps you should steer clear of using foreign words:

It can be seen that prepositions, nouns, pronouns, determiners and adjectives are predictive of highly successful books whereas less successful books are characterized byhigher percentage of verbs, adverbs, and foreign words.

Best of luck!

PS Once you've written your bestseller, check out my book for hints on how to publish it on Kindle and Amazon: Your Purrfect Way to Publish & Promote Your Kindle & Amazon Book.

 


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