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What goes into making a book a bestseller?

Our First Draft Friday video chat covered how authors can now use A.I. in their fiction writing.

 

New A.I. tool takes a lot of the mystery out of creating popular fiction

If you’ve been writing long enough, you may have released a book that became a bestseller; maybe it caught fire, went viral and everyone raved about it. Congratulations. But that glory may have been followed by a sinking low. You released a new book, and there were no accolades, no singing praises, and most importantly for your wallet — few sales.

What happened? The two books were written by the same author, probably in the same genre. You used the same voice. You would think that if you were a bestselling author one day, the next book should also go through the roof, but that is unfortunately not always the case.

What makes a book a bestseller, anyway?

Well, as Matt Jockers, one of the founders of Authors A.I. and co-author of The Bestseller Code discovered, there actually are patterns that exist in the books that make it to the top. By plugging your manuscript into the Authors A.I. tool called Marlowe, you can generate a report that will give you a pretty good idea of where your novel stands before it gets released to the public. This allows you to make adjustments and potentially create multiple bestsellers in a row instead of living in the land of feast or famine.

plot structure graph
The plot structure and narrative arc of “Into the Stars” by James Rosone.

Using the A.I. tool for story beats

I’ve been using this tool for several books now, particularly in my new military sci-fi series. The features that I find most useful in creating my drafts are the graphs of pacing and beats. By looking at the charts, I can clearly identify where there might be a lull in my book so I can incorporate more action there. Alternatively, I can see where I have created too many fast-paced scenes one right on top of the other, without giving the reader a chance to digest what has just happened.

I tend to write intuitively as the story leads me, but even authors who outline their works extensively may get the pacing wrong without realizing it. Not only does the Authors A.I. tool give you a visual representation of the highs and lows of your novel; it actually provides some level of explanation of what could make it better. And because this information comes from an impartial analysis, you won’t get misled by a beta reader that has optimism bias about everything you create.

narrative beats
The major narrative beats of “Into the Stars.”

Dialogue, subject matter and overused words

What else can the tool do? It provides feedback about how much dialogue you have versus narrative, identifies overused words, pinpoints likely misspellings, and helps you make sure you have the appropriate amount of focus on your subject themes. Did you know that books that have no more than three themes taking up 30% of the manuscript tend to be more successful? I have used the A.I. tool to identify in a visual representation what the focuses of my novel are and determine when I tend to spend more time writing about a particular topic.

By plugging my manuscripts into this tool, making adjustments and then using the tool again, I can visually see when I have been successful at making a novel better. We can all take classes on better writing until we are blue in the face, but no other method currently exists to receive this level of analysis and unbiased feedback of one of your novels.

The Authors A.I. tool — which comes with an introductory free tier and a pro version — has taken a lot of the mystery out of creating a bestseller. With enough time and effort, and by using this tool, you too can replicate bestsellers over and over.

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