Judged by algorithm

by The Book Consultancy on January 18, 2014

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In the world of electronics and gizmos that have more buttons than the sequins on my 80s dresses, it’s scary to see that technology has breached into what we might consider the most sacred of realms: creativity. Yes, creative minds are the reasons such gadgets exist, but in a recent article I found on PolicyMic.com, research seems to have traveled into the written word. Researchers from Stony Brook University claim they have “discovered the algorithm that will predict the success of a book.”

Scary, no?

I was happy to read that some editors such as Sarah Savitt from Faber & Faber have said things like, “It sounds like a fascinating academic experiment but for me choosing books for publication is such a personal process, and I can’t imagine applying this algorithm to my reading pile.” We writers can all breathe a huge sigh of relief now knowing that some big publishing companies still have one value they hang on to: authors and their creativity.

As all authors know, writing is a process of add, delete, undo, cut and paste—basically any kind of work that shapes the story. And it’s a process we had to learn and wanted to learn. How can any of us put our stories into an algorithm and deem it “good” or “bad” when the effect our words have on the reader is so relevant? When a mere phrase can decide whether or not a reader loves the character or hates him/her?

So, I say thank you, but no thanks. Stories can’t be contained or graded in something as constricting as an algorithm. I’ll take the human heart and experience any day.

Happy writing!

Kelly Mundt


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