The Bestseller Code

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The Bestseller Code

Write a Bestseller

bestsellerAre you driven by the desire for fame? Or do you want to get rich by writing? Perhaps you have read books about how to write a bestseller, or done a course: “Write Your Bestseller in a Week!”

You may have done research, read many bestselling novels, tried to analyse why they are so popular. How did the editors and publishers know they were onto a good thing?

Was it all chance, or did the commissioning editors have a formula which told them what to accept and what to put on the slush pile? So many bestsellers are rejected at first. Surely there’s no arcane publishing secret.

Success £££

We all know the names of the publishing successes. None is bigger than JK Rowling, who allegedly earns up to £80m a year. Gail Honeyman sold 800,000 copies of Eleanor Oliphant last year. The top 5% of fiction writers earn nearly half the total receipts in the UK. The bottom 50% struggle on less than 10% of the pot. Top authors like Lee Child know what makes readers turn the pages. They have plugged into a format which has made them rich and bought the odd bauble for their prescient publishers.

For most, though, paying the bills is difficult. Authors’ incomes have dropped 30% in the last fifteen years. Many work freelance as copy-editors or proofreaders to make ends meet. Freelance copy-editing and proofreading won’t buy them Tuscan villas, but it may keep the wolf from the door. They work from home while striving to pen their bestseller.

The Secret is Out

Or is it…?

bestsellerJodie Archer, a US commissioning editor, was fascinated to find out if there was a set of criteria that could create, or predict, a bestseller. She teamed up with Matthew Jockers, a computer guru specialising in text mining. They researched at Stanford University, Archer working for a PhD. The results of their work were staggering. Maybe there was a way to predict a hot-selling book after all. They created an algorithm to which hundreds of books were subjected. At the end of the process a pattern emerged. The Bestseller Code was born. How does it work? Could it be the answer for you? Find out in my next post.

(I am grateful to Donna Ferguson for her 2017 Guardian article which alerted me to this research.)


By |July 23rd, 2019|Categories: Latest News|Tags: , , , , , |Comments Off on The Bestseller Code

About the Author:

Richard is a director of Chapterhouse. His lifelong love of books led him from the law to publishing. His favourite animal is the rhinoceros and his favourite modern play is Jerusalem. Strangely, perhaps, he is fanatical about football and modern novels.