If an algorithm decides the bestseller

What features should a book have to finish on all shelves? To be given for Christmas and brought as a gift to birthdays? To make the fortune of those who wrote it? It is useless to deny that the writer, besides feeding the muse, also thinks about that: to feed himself; in short, to arrive later this month. In a country where about fifty books are published a day , it is difficult to break through. Either you write the masterpiece, or you end up getting dusty together with your unsold volumes. And that’s not enough, sometimes.

It may therefore be useful to have a “bestsellerometro”, a magical device that can help the unfortunate writer make the right choices to shine: better a blonde protagonist or a dark protagonist? Better a verbal form or another? The Jockers and Archer algorithm is here for this. To volatilize doubt and strike at the heart of the reader. At least in intentions.

Therefore, the algorithm merges, breaks up, breaks up and recomposes. Divide into categories, analyze, and eventually spit out a result: the perfect book. All this can be read in an essay, ” The Bestseller Code “, with the title more evocative than ever, just like “The Da Vinci Code”. A bestseller, indeed. And it is from there that we start from a novel adored by the public and yet considered by critics of low value. It is certainly not the only case. And why does it happen?

For five years, their computers have read and reread and shredded over twenty thousand books, successful novels and unknown books. At that point, the algorithm has identified about 2800 features , and the best way to combine them, which to include and which to exclude, which to put with one or the other, to get to the perfect book to sell millions of copies.

On the surface, the recipe is simple . More than gender matters the argument, and the winning one seems to be empathy, the human relationship in general. And therefore love, family, work, crime, even taxes. Not sex, not, according to the algorithm is a niche topic. And if the car says so, we can trust it. A fascinating and mysterious female character, then, does not hurt. Indeed, it is a winner. If then the characteristics are coupled with expertise, bingo. Crimes and children, for example. O love and vampires. The boom is assured.

Also on verbs one must pay attention: better those of action than passive ones. The brilliant protagonist does many things, suffers less. “Fa”, “needs”, “wants”. And the word most used in successful volumes seems to be “okay”. Simple, in common use, not particularly sought after. Certainly more immediate than “swift”, “ramingo”, “jewish” or “randomness”. But equally stimulating for our minds?

If the algorithm says so, who knows more than us (right?) We have to believe it. And we must also believe in the novel that gets one hundred percent according to the “bestsellerometer” index: The Circle by Dave Eggers. The point is that nobody, or almost no one, has ever heard of this Circle . He has never seen the top of the rankings, not even by mistake, not even for a moment. It was, indeed, a half flop. But according to the machine he is the winner, and contains all the ingredients to make his author a star. No one would have bet, but according to Jockers and Archer this is a point in favor of their algorithm. It would give publishers the chance to focus on newcomers or emerging, and not just on big names. Sacrosanto: as long as the quality also appears alongside saleability.

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