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The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel Hardcover – 20 Sep 2016

3.3 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 20 Sep 2016
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (20 Sept. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250088275
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250088277
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 61.6 x 550.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 294,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

"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."

May revolutionize the publishing industry. "The Guardian""

"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-Schonberger, co-author of "Big Data "and professor at Oxford

May revolutionize the publishing industry. "The Guardian""

"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-Schonberger, 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

"

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-Schonberger, 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

"

"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-Schonberger, 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



-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-Schonberger, 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

From the Inside Flap

Girl on the Train. Fifty Shades. The Goldfinch. Why do some books capture the whole world's attention? What secret DNA do they share? In The Bestseller Code, Archer and Jockers boldly claim that blockbuster hits are highly predictable, and they have created the algorithm to prove it. Using cutting-edge text mining techniques, they have developed a model that analyses theme, plot, style and character to explain why some books resonate more than others with readers. Provocative, entertaining, and ground-breaking, The Bestseller Code explores the hidden patterns at work in the biggest hits and, more importantly, the real reasons we love to read.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had high expectations of this book but it is shockingly lacking in substance. When they do talk about their own study they do it SO unscientifically that it is hard to take away much meaningful at all. The rest (the majority) is just half-relevant waffle.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It’s certainly interesting and it’s very readable. I’m not so sure how practical the information is to anyone apart from publishers, writers and researchers who can get to directly use the algorithm. I’m sure they would all love to feed their manuscripts into the machine to get a percentage rating for probable success. It has substantial commercial potential for deciding what gets published in the future.

What does that means for the reader of this book who doesn’t have access to the algorithm? It’s an interesting read as it’s a fascinating process. The data it comes up with is certainly interesting. Beyond that I’m not sure this book really needs to exist unless it’s just a way to show off/advertise their cool algorithm outside of industry and academic circles. It’s a bit like reading a user’s manual to a piece of technology you don’t own.

It’s also hard to say what authors aiming to write popular bestsellers can actually learn from this information. Especially if they can’t use the algorithm themselves. I only took away two or three bits of advice a writer could use if they were aiming to write a mass market novel (see spoilers).

It’s an interesting read that people into computers might get more out of than readers of bestsellers. It was worth a read but I would warn you not to get too excited unless you can get to use the algorithm yourself for commercial or academic purposes.

SPOILERS (This probably oversimplifies the findings and reveals that I fundamentally misunderstood what I’ve read):

Have the story seesaw wildly between extremes of happy-sad, safe-danger etc. within mere pages of each other to create a rollercoaster of a ride.

The theme of human closeness is possibly the most popular subject matter.

Use lots of active descriptions so the characters are doing things instead of just sitting around not doing things.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a fascinating but ultimately futile use of multi-variate analysis to search for common characteristics in best sellers. The authors are aware of the limitations of their method, and point them out, but they still do fall into them.

Essentially, a multi-variate text mining algorithm looks through thousands of books and extracts features which are characteristic of best selling books, as well as features which tend not to characterise them. The authors do not claim this predicts good books, just popular ones. On some books it does well: against all reason and good sense, Fifty Shades of Grey and The Da Vinci Code were among the very big best-sellers, and this book shows what features they have in common with other best sellers, in terms of story arcs, thematic balance and language, which are not usually shared by books in their genre. On the other hand, Harry Potter should not be a best-seller based on their model (as they admit), nor should the works of Tolkien or anything else which is science-fiction or fantasy related.

If you look at the top ten bestsellers of all time (using the Wikipedia list, for example, but it isn't that different from other lists I've seen), the books which have made it really big tend not to be the kind of books this model recommends, featuring fantasy (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Hobbit, Lion, Witch & Wardrobe, She, The Little Prince), non-domestic situations (And Then There Were None, Tale of Two Cities) and non-topicality.

The problem with multi-variate analysis—as the authors admit—is that you tend to find what you are looking for. What this book doesn't do, and, again, the authors admit this, is find the causal link which produces bestsellers. In reality, it is as likely to be an artefact of the book acquisitions process.
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As someone who has worked in Publishing for many years and also someone extremely interested in "big data", this was always going to be a book for me. If you were not from this background then you may find this a bit of a slog.

I have a serious problem with the way they have looked at the data. I find they have "backfitted" somewhat. For example, if you see that Stephen King has had dozens of bestsellers over the years and then match up the next Stephen King with the Bestseller data then it will obviously give the new one a high chance of success.

Also there wasn't enough time spent on looking at frontlist sales/ backlist sales, distribution, marketing spend, social media hype etc. "Robert Galbraith" was doing absolutely nothing out of the ordinary until it was revealed as JK Rowling (hence why the reveal was made).
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is touted as being a real breakthrough - the authors have apparently developed a robot that can predict whether a book will become a bestseller or not by analysis.

I also have such a device - me. I believe if you give me any book, I will predict whether it will sell or not. For instance, does it have James Patterson's name on it? If it does, it will sell even though the bloke's name has literally been on around 30 books published this year - most of them 'Hot Shot' novellas.

They'll sell because a certain section of readers will buy any old garbage - no matter that he's obviously had about as much writing input into some of them as I did with 'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens.

Anyway, rant over. This book was not what I expected, and although some decent insights are provided and some interesting points raised, I thought it wandered off topic at times, and didn't comply with its own title.

A flawed, though readable enough work, I predict it won't make the bestseller list - unless the authors decide to stuff it full of recipes.
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