AN ALGORITHM WHICH PREDICTS WHETHER A NOVEL WILL BE A BLOCKBUSTER. Jodie Archer and Matthew Jockers have used a computer to analyze 5000 novels and have developed an algorithm which they say can determine whether a book will be a bestseller. Their book is entitled THE BESTSELLER CODE. Nick Richardson in this review at the London Review of Books website reports on some of the conclusions of the algorithm.
One finding is that the proportion of the different subjects of the novel is more important than the actual subjects of the novel. Richardson says: “Bestselling books are about fewer things than non-bestsellers, taking up 40 per cent of their pages, on average, with just four subjects. A third of John Grisham’s paragraphs are about ‘the legal system’; a third of Danielle Steel’s are about ‘domestic life’.”
A second finding of the algorithm is that many bestsellers share a specific plot structure of alternating emotional ups and emotional downs. Richardson lists some authors whose plots have a similar structure, according to the algorithm: Stephen King, Jackie Collins, Dan Brown, Sylvia Day, Danielle Steel, Lee Child and James Patterson.