Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Bestseller Code

The Bestseller Code

Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel

Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers

St. Martin's Press

The Bestseller Code READ AN EXCERPT →

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"When a story captures the imagination of millions, that's magic. Can you qualify magic? Archer and Jockers just may have done so."—Sylvia Day, New York Times bestselling author

Ask most people about massive success in the world of fiction, and you’ll typically hear that it’s a game of hazy crystal balls. The sales figures of E. L. James or Dan Brown seem to be freakish—random occurrences in an unknowable market. 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 Junot Diaz, Jodi Picoult, and Donna Tartt had telltale 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 of Grey 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 twenty thousand 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's a big-idea book about the relationship between creativity and technology 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.

EXCERPT


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THE BESTSELLER-OMETER, OR, HOW TEXT MINING MIGHT CHANGE PUBLISHING


 


Back in the spring of 2010, Stieg Larsson’s agent was having a good day. On June 13, The Girl...

Reviews

Praise for The Bestseller Code

“Non-formulaic, eye-opening, deeply-researched — and really worth your time.”— GQ

"Reveals the diverse directions in which popular fiction may be taken. . . the bestseller-ometer may find its most noble application as a democratizing force” — The Atlantic

“[T]his is a delightful book to read. I would recommend it as both an entertaining and educational read for anybody interested in the business of books” —Digital Book World Daily

"This interesting little tome shares some of the Bookputer’s insights with us, just in case we want to become author-millionaires too. And who doesn’t? . . . Fascinating” — The Times Review

“Aspiring novelists who thumb through this volume will find plenty to think about. . . [T]his book actually represents an opportunity for literary scholars” — Public Books


“Archer is not some Silicon Valley whizz-kid looking to reduce the novel to 0s and 1s, nor is she a pretentious academic coming over the hills to sling around jargon about middlebrow novels. . . [She] is smart, savvy and full of ideas.” —The Times of London


“A laboratory is a more compelling setting than a church.” — The Wall Street Journal, which named The Bestseller Code one of the most-anticipated books of Fall 2016


“[The] claims are eye-grabbing. . . [and] also highly plausible.” —The Spectator

Archer and Jockers “are ‘literature-friendly’ and want good books to succeed.”— Wired


"When a story captures the imagination of millions, that's magic. Can you qualify magic? Archer and Jockers just may have done so." - Sylvia Day, New York Times bestselling author

The Bestseller Code excited me, scared me, and generally blew my mind. Archer and Jockers have built a reading robot that can teach readers, writers, and publishers a great deal about how popular fiction works. This is a pioneering work in a new science of storytelling.” — Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human.

"Archer and Jockers take an astonishing insight into the DNA of bestsellers and turn it into a gripping page-turner about how we read. Truly remarkable!"—Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, co-author of Big Data and professor at Oxford

“May revolutionize the publishing industry.” —The Guardian

"The Bestseller Code is an intriguing read and its analysis of what makes a plot tick and how readers are grabbed is compelling."—Literary Review

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers

JODIE ARCHER bought and edited books for Penguin UK before decamping for the doctoral program in English at Stanford University. After earning her Ph.D., she worked at Apple as their research lead on literature and has since consulted with many writers and businesses about literary success. She is now a full-time writer.

MATTHEW L. JOCKERS is the Susan J. Rosowski Associate Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he teaches and directs the Nebraska Literary Lab. His text-mining research has been profiled in the New York Times, The LA Review of Books, The Sunday Times of London, and more.

Jodie Archer

Matthew L. Jockers

From the Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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