The Bestseller Code

… is the title of a intriguing book by Jodie Archer and Matthew Jockers (Allen Lane, 2016).   Intriguing, because I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve read about it, and it reminded me of my story Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics.  In that story, I used some very basic textual analysis to judge genre and literary fiction – more tongue in cheek than anything.  Archer and Jockers have gone much, much further, and analysed word frequency, and word groups to “isolate the essence of the bestseller” (London Review of Books, 17 November 2016, Short Cuts).  Some fascinating results emerged, e.g. “Sex doesn’t sell after all, and takes up twice as much space in non-bestsellers as it does in bestsellers.”  Instead, “human closeness” was what sold Fifty Shades of Grey.  That was enough for me to reserve the book at my local library.  (After years of hording books, and failing to give them to a charity shop, I realise the answer was to use a library all along).


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