The key elements of a bestselling novel

The Independent newspaper had an interesting piece today about a pair of researchers (Penguin UK editor Jodie Archer, and associate professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Matthew Jockers) who have spent the last 5 years using computer algorithms to analyze 20,000 books looking for patterns that make best sellers stand out. The result is a system they claim can predict bestselling books by an 86% margin, which is pretty good.

Naturally, they’re releasing what they learned in their upcoming book The Bestseller Code (and probably marketing their software to major publishers as we speak) however they did release a few interesting tidbits from their research:

“Novels with high or low emotions tend to have a stronger chance of hitting the [bestseller] lists and staying on them.

A couple of pointers from the findings: real people are more appealing to readers than fictional being, so stay away from Dwarves, unicorns, and elves as main protagonists. Those characters who appeal the most are also more likely to “grab”, “think” and “ask”.

The words “need”, “want” and “do” are twice as likely to appear in bestsellers, while the word “okay” appears three times as much. Words like “love” and “miss” appear more often in successful books, apparently appearing three times for every two in lesser selling books.

So, basically, people like reading about other people they can relate to, and stories where the main characters are active and pursuing goals (especially relationships) are what readers want. Now, the word “okay” is an interesting bit, and my interpretation on that is that readers like books written in colloquial and easy to understand language. It may also be a side effect of most bestsellers being modern thrillers and romance novels, so “okay” turns up in modern dialog a lot.

It will be interesting to see the results of this research, and how far it can go. Of course, the publishers would eventually like to have machines churning out their bestsellers like widgets, but I doubt that will happen anytime soon. Also, it will mean a bunch of books which don’t fit the formula will never get the chance to reach a wider audience, because 86% is not 100%, and many good books could fall between the cracks if publishers start using this to cut costs and be lazy.

Rob

Project Play- Aftermath

Today I attended Project Play, London’s first (or is that most recent? not sure) gaming convention of the universal sort. What I mean by that is that there wasn’t just Role Playing Games, or Tabletop Games, or Electronic Games, or Console Games, or Mobile Games, or Tablet Games or Classic Games or even Card Games- there was all of them! And more!

Fanshawe’s Student Union building was filled with game sellers, producers, and players. It also played host to Doll fans, Cosplayers, and Anime fans, who each had their own little areas, and other oddities like the Personal Computer Museum. (Which made me feel quite old as I looked at all the consoles I used to play as a kid, like the Atari 2600, the Intellivision, and the Commodore 64. I remember when the Vic 20 was new!) A nice collection of different smaller fandoms all under one roof that wouldn’t normally have enough people for a con, but could collectively benefit from being together.

I arrived about halfway into the event and I spent my time flitting from place to place and visiting with different people I knew, but mostly I spent time at the Forest City Go Club table playing teaching games of Go with Matt and Mark (who were kind enough to give up their day to man the table). When I first got there the club had been relegated to a back room, but eventually we managed to get moved to a more central location between a number of video game producers and things really started to hum! Quite a few people were interested in learning about Go, and with luck we made a few new Go fans. (And maybe club members! We’ll see in the coming weeks!)

I’d say somewhere between two and three hundred people came out to Project Play today. That’s just a guess, but by the afternoon that place was really moving, and it was a joy to see. There have been attempts to hold Comic and Sci-Fi conventions in London before, with varying degrees of success, but none of them really brought together so many diverse groups and done it so well.

I hope that there’s another Project Play next year, and that it’s bigger and better advertised than this one! I think they’ve only tapped their potential, and will just get bigger and better from here!

Rob

Computer virus hits U.S. Drone Fleet

Everyone who didn’t see this coming, raise you hand?

When you computerize everything, you also make it all vulnerable to infection, especially a networked operation. The only question is who did it, and what other kinds of viruses have also been infecting the systems?

A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America’s Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots’ every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.

The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military’s Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech’s computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the U.S. military’s most important weapons system.

via Computer virus hits U.S. Drone Fleet.