Zeroes and Ones and Your Odds of Writing a Best-Seller

best-sellers

Did you ever suspect the runaway best-seller Fifty Shades of Grey was written by robots?  Well, somebody check E.L. James for vital signs because she might actually be an algorithm.  Check this out:

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Surely a human being would die of boredom before biting a lip in print forty-three times in one novel.

Actually, I’m skewing things a bit.  But it is true that “[s]cientists have developed an algorithm which can analyse a book and predict with 84 per cent accuracy whether or not it will be a commercial success.” (Source)

By downloading books in public domain from Project Gutenberg , scientists from Stony Brook University in New York developed a program called “statistical stylometry, which mathematically examines the use of words and grammar” to determine the popularity of a book, matching the programs results to the sales of works from the past. The experiment involved a wide range of literary styles, from science fiction, to novels, to poetry. Factors in determining sales and popularity included the “style” of writing as well as novelty in plot and character (they do acknowledge that “luck” plays a role as well.)

The program accurately predicted success, or failure, of those works an astonishing 84% of the time.

So what factors seemed to indicate, in a more concrete way, what you should do to increase your odds of becoming a best-selling writer?

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Hey, You Forgot…Oh, Nevermind: Top Ten Books Most Often Left in Hotel Rooms

The most common things left behind in hotel rooms are chargers, “intimate” items, and books.  Every year, Travelodge releases a list of those unfortunate tomes, and here is this year’s top ten, and for your snarky pleasure, comments from Amazon readers.

Topping the list, to the surprise of literally no one who has ever seen the internet, we have the third in the inexplicably best-selling Fifty Shades series.  (So many unanswered questions from the first two, I know…. ).

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1.  Fifty Shades of Freed by E.L. James 

Review:  Be under no illusions Dear Readers, this book is terribly written. It makes Twilight look like Anna Karenina and that is saying a lot since it started as Twilight fan-fiction (if that isn’t enough to put you off then you cannot be saved, good luck to you). I’ve read stories by 5th Graders with more character development and narrative drive than this.

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2.  Bared to You by Sylvia Day 

Review:  Bare to You is as close to Fifty Shades of Grey as a book can get and not be called Fifty Shades of Grey.

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3.  The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst

Review:  Poorly written dialogue & sex scenery* make this book very boring.

(*Sex scenery? What is that, exactly?)

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ZZZZzzzz: Ten Books We Couldn’t Finish

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My home is filled with books. Books on shelves, books overflowing shelves, books on my nightstand, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, on the floor. Most I manage to get through, if not always enjoy. I am a big believer in seeing it through.  Most of my friends feel the same way. AND YET… there are always a few that we just cannot seem to finish.  Some are classics that we know we should complete before the inevitable Rise of the Librarians comes to quiz us with tasers. Others are books friends raved about….or best sellers that have evoked a lot of fuss…for no reason YOU can discern.

Whatever the reason, here are confessions of my well-read friends and colleagues, many of them English professors, so I will have to give them Code Names so their students never find out their dark, dark, secrets.

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1.  Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Dense passage about the physiognomy of whales: the poor man’s Ambien.  We all know that this should be read. And many of us keep trying. It’s our own…. yeah, you guessed it… Moby Dick (Insert groaning here.)

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2.  The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

More Viggo Mortensen would have made this seemingly-endless series more interesting for me. Skipping the endless “songs” moves things right along though. Save yourself some time and listen to some Zep to catch up on everything you need to know about what you glossed over.

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3.  Paradisio by Dante Alighieri 

Another popular snooze-fest, this comment sums up our feelings in general:

 “I can’t finish Paradisio. The torments of The Inferno and even Purgatorio appeal to my sense of schadenfreude, but people in heaven and Beatrice? BO-RING.”

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4.  Anything by Stephen King 

I must say, in King’s defense, that his text On Writing  is one of my favorites. However, King, to me, and many others, is like the Costco of literature. Do you really need that giant box of paper towels? Or that giant stack of largely interchangeable plots and characters?

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