IBPA Recommends AUTHORS.me as Publishers’ Workflow Solution

In their September issue, the Independent Book Publishers’ Association published an article on great workflow solutions available to the publishing industry. IBPA’s Deb Vanasse interviewed many publishers, including three AUTHORS.me customers (Amberjack Publishing, Familius, and Zimbell House, who began using AUTHORS.me to supplement the tools mentioned in the article since press time). In the article, entitled “Workflow Solutions: Software to the Rescue!” publishers can learn about many different project management, automation, and collaboration tools available at affordable prices and that are easy to use.

Of AUTHORS.me, Dana Anderson, Publisher at Amberjack described how she uses our submissions platform in conjunction with other tools like Basecamp:

“Anderson uses Authors.me to handle submissions, crediting the program with helping her Amberjack team locate high-quality manuscripts while reducing inbox clutter. “Authors.me is cost-effective, especially for the analytics feature, as we can make more data-driven decisions,” she notes.

Read more at IBPA

Talking With ‘The Mourning Parade’ Author Dawn Langley: An AUTHORS Success Story

Talking with ‘The Mourning Parade’ author Dawn Langley: an AUTHORS success story

Last  week, AUTHORS submission platform user Amberjack Publishing published The Mourning Parade by Dawn Langley, a book that Foreword Reviews remarked was “told with authority and fine craftsmanship,” that “leaves an impression that lasts beyond its final page.”

With pre-publication promotion at Book Expo America, The Mourning Parade is one of Amberjack’s premier 2017 titles and actually began its journey into their catalog on the AUTHORS platform. Written with gripping prose and heartrending, realistic characters whose drive will propel you through the lush landscape of this incisive novel, this is one book in 2017 you shouldn’t miss.

We are so excited to see the publication of The Mourning Parade and spoke with the author about her experience, process, and look behind the curtain.

Sparked both by her mother’s love for elephants and a trip to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, Langley took a year to complete the her first draft of Mourning Parade and continued to craft and edit for an additional eight months. Once she was satisfied, she queried more than 20 different agents.

A lot of them were interested, but no one bit,” said Langley. “So I decided to go after publishers myself. I have plenty of publishing experience, so simply needed to find someone with whom I could work.”

Want to add The Mourning Parade to your GoodReads Shelf? Click here!

Not long after, Langley sat in on a skype call a friend of hers was having with award-winning independent publisher, Amberjack Publishing, who was interested in acquiring the friend’s book. After hearing their pitch to her friend, she was set on submitting to them.

I liked what they stood for and pursued them myself. “

Amberjack referred her to the AUTHORS submission platform to review her manuscript and platform, which Langley thinks gave her an edge for presenting the best view of her work. “I was thrilled with how professional my query looked,” she added. “I had a great feeling about working with them. They are a small, independent press and three books they are publishing are interesting and diverse. I was thrilled that they wanted to talk to me about possibilities!”

After publishing 30 other books, I knew how the process worked and what to expect,” she said.  “So I wanted to have an active role in the process.” In Amberjack, this veteran published author found a true partner in the craft and prospect.

Amberjack encourages that, and the women there are smart, savvy and supportive,” said Langley. “It’s all gone incredibly smooth and I love having them in my corner. I’m hoping we have a long and fruitful relationship!”

Grab Your Copy
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AUTHORS.me Named Finalist In AustinInno Tech Madness 2017

AUTHORS.me Named Finalist in AustinInno Tech Madness 2017

We’re thrilled to be a finalist in this year’s Tech Madness, especially considering the great companies we find our selves grouped with! On Feb. 1, they announced the 150 finalists and will reveal the 64 who are moving on to the semi finals on March 2.

The list and surrounding events celebrate the innovative start ups that are invigorating the Austin tech community today.

It’s in the spirit of growth that we put together Tech Madness. Tech Madness is a peer-driven competition in the spirit of NCAA basketball’s March Madness. It seeks to identify which companies the Austin startup community thinks will grow the most in the next five years. Community members vote their chosen companies onward through the bracket to reach a Final Four lineup and a champion. — Brent Wistrom, AustinInno

Read the full article and list of other finalists here.

Advice For Writers From Agent & Publishers At DBW

Advice for Writers from Agent & Publishers at DBW

Advice
for
Writers

We spent our time at DBW soaking up as much wisdom from industry insiders as we could, including insights and advice for writers from the best in biz. Here are some of our favorites.


On the role of the agent and editor….

You want to have a pure relationship with the author. you don’t want to talk about money or anything that can sully it,”—Deb Futter, Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Hardcovers, Grand Central Publishing

“The publisher should be the number one biggest fan.”  — Amy Einhorn, Senior Vice President and Publisher, Flatiron Books

“It’s in the author’s best interest to have a literary agent. They play a very important role,”  — Amy Einhorn

 

On what makes a great platform…

“Writers who have an ongoing conversation with readers. “ — Laura Nolan, Aevitas Creative Management

This was something we heard echoed in many sessions and different contexts. You don’t have to have an enormous, nationwide platform if you have a consistent, rich conversation with readers. Many writers do so through Twitter, WattPad, and Facebook. This also means tweeting more than just about YOUR book, but interacting directly with your readers and their conversations, too. 

On writing to fit in a trend…

Don’t do it. 

The overwhelming comment on this was that trends, in an editorial sense, are often conflated with fads. So, just because a lot of vampire novels are coming out right now doesn’t mean the way you will get published is if you write a vampire novel. As Amy Einhorn pointed out, in each success there is nuance.  You get published because your story spoke to something in the publisher or agent, usually a combination of the impact of the story and your marketability, which brings us to advice….

On what makes a great story…

Narratives with conflict, characters and settings filled with specific, concrete details and experiences. 

Collectively the panel of literary agents agreed on these criteria because within specifics lie universal truths and experiences that readers can relate to on a visceral level. 

“All of us are exactly like the consumer–we’re readers. And we want the best product we can give them.” – Deb Futter, Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Hardcovers, Grand Central Publishing.

 

On query letters….

“If the love doesn’t come through on the page, it’s a no go,” said Deb Werksman, Publisher of Sourcebooks.

Workman and others echoed phrases like “if you could meet the author, I know you’d love the book” in query letters, but that’s unfortunately not a productive metric. In other words, YOU might be lovely but you need to get that to convey on the page. The consumer doesn’t have the benefit of meeting you and falling in love with you, so the publisher has to act of the same accord. 

Most editors want to see midlist titles for comps, not the book that blew everything out of the water.

Maybe your book is as good or better, but there are too many mitigating factors to say that it is actually a comp title without doing a thorough analysis of the book, audience, and author platform. 

 

On the children’s market…

“Within the children’s market, we want a writer who has at least two out of the following three: compelling writing, a compelling hook, and a compelling platform.” — Ginger Clark, Curtis Brown Literary Agency

On market entry…

“Sometimes it’s not about starting with the book,” commented Regina Brooks, President and Lead Agent of Serendipity Literary Agency  “It starts with the right medium, and then moves to the other lucrative property options.”

Brooks doesn’t always begin with the sale of her client’s book, but instead movie rights, audiobook, merchandising, etc. 

On rights sales and contracts….

“Every division in your publisher isn’t going to have the same enthusiasm for a title,” commented Ginger Clark, agent at Curtis Brown. “You can’t force passion.”

This one requires a bit of context. Part of the benefit of an agent is that they have your back at every juncture of the negotiations process, including the sale or protection of foreign rights to publication. Clark pointed out that the concern over those rights–be they foreign or format-specific–is not simply about money for the agent and writer, but consistently working to find the right home for the book in each market and across each medium.

Who Does It Better,  Humans Or Machines?

Who Does it Better, Humans or Machines?

Who Does it Better?
Humans or machines?
Machine Learning and the Future of Creative Development
human-v-machines

Data analysis and data mining have been applied to traditional retail spaces for the past two decades. In recent years, some companies stepped into that space to cater to publishers and booksellers to benefit marketing and sales. And even more recently, the phrase “machine learning” has entered the conversation in that industry.

In a nutshell, machine learning “lets computers learn without explicit programming. In analysis, the technology uses algorithms that learn from the data, and, in turn, grow and change when exposed to new information, ultimately uncovering those all-important insights.”[Google]

[aesop_quote type=”pull” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” width=”40%” align=”right” size=”2″ quote=”Computer science isn’t as far removed from the study of literature as you might think.” cite=” Inderjeet Mani ” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

Could this technology be applied to the entertainment industry at the point of acquisition or as an enterprise quality control? The results across other industries who have adopted it (like manufacturing, retail, healthcare, travel, hospitality, financial services, and energy and utilities) are incredibly promising.

In “How Analytics and Machine Learning Help Organizations Reap Competitive Advantage,” MIT Technology Review in partnership with Google Analytics 360 Suite reported  that companies in the top third of their respective industries using data-driven decision making were “on average, 5% more productive and 6% more profitable than their competitors.”

So that’s not just an increase in their own profits and productivity due to implementing a new tool. That’s over their direct competition. But what could this technology do that it isn’t already doing for the entertainment industry?  

What if instead of waiting on sales reports to identify trends post-publication, content trends could be projected based on historic data?

What if machine learning could help publishers, agents, and studios not just identify consumer trends and habits, but predict content reception?

Consumer data is extensive, detailed, and can indicate not just what consumers are responding to, but why. Once those similarities are established, couldn’t a computer identify the less obvious but no less resonant comparable qualities, discovering fresh possibilities for titles new and old?

In short, it can.

 

To consider this in earnest, it’s important to understand that while books hold cultural weight, ultimately they are all data. But unlike the consumer data that, even formless, has proven itself so valuable, text has inherent rules and formations. And each deviation from one rule has its own set of rules and acceptable actions.

These rules are grammar, syntax, and archetypes (which are themselves the subject of data scientists’ attentions); those deviations are diction, literary devices, colloquialism and dialect, pastiche and tone. When book clubs discuss the obvious connection of the blue door to the heroine’s inevitable death, they are discussing the pattern identified in a semi-closed system. They are performing one tiny fraction of the computational potential of an algorithm trained on literature.  

Considering this perspective, it’s not difficult to imagine how a computer could evaluate and identify traits of a book. But could it identify a bestseller? (The short answer is yes, but it’s quite complicated,  according to Jellybooks founder Andrew Rhomberg)

At its core, that question belies the understandable fear that a computer will determine what is “good” and cast off the rest. But doesn’t that fear in itself really short-change humans in general? Like any tool, it is as strong as those who wield it and as multifaceted as them as well.

OK, so a computer can do it. But should it?

 

Many think, yes, it should. Take book discovery for an example.

Though now a foregone conclusion, book discovery was the concern du jour of data-minded publishers 10-15 years ago. How would we get readers to the books? How would the reader discover the books? As a result, a flurry of startups emerged that gave consumers new ways to discover, consume, recommend, and interact with their favorite stories. It wasn’t that the traditional methods of consumer discovery weren’t working, but they could work better and produce more consistent, profitable results.

The same logic can and should be applied to the systems in the entertainment industry that acquire and produce consumable media. There’s no lack of raw material, sure, but is the current query and acquisition system bereft of room for improvement?

No.

Simply put: A human cannot read as much as a computer, because a human gets tired, distracted, hungry, etc. A computer does not feel, so it does not want or need. It simply does. And where computers finish, we pick up.

Humans are amazingly creative, observant, and resourceful. But at a certain point, your brain just can’t process any more data any more quickly.

A computer doesn’t have that problem. An algorithm doesn’t get a tension headache from the hours spent reading. Machine learning  software doesn’t tire of reading a story they think they’ve heard before and move on; it reads the entire book in a few seconds.

QUOTE

RATHER THAN JUST REPORTING INFORMATION AND TELLING YOU WHAT’S WRONG, MACHINE LEARNING TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP YOU FIX IT. [AND] HELP YOU DO MORE OF WHAT’S WORKING—AND DO IT AUTOMATICALLY.

One benefit of a computer doing the analysis is that it can discover the latent aspects of a novel. So, while authors may have their own identifiable style, there are underlying components of a novel that a computer can see better than humans. And what we’re betting on is that underneath the facade of a book lies a story that connects a reader to that text. That’s what we’re uncovering.

So, could such a program recognize the outlandish genius of someone like David Foster Wallace, James Joyce, or Kaye Gibbons? I wouldn’t bet against it in the future; but that’s not entirely the point.

If we only adopt technology that feels familiar, safe, and ultimately just performs parlor tricks, we do ourselves and our industries a disservice.  We leave the possibilities of customization and adaptability of machine learning and artificial intelligence behind.

This does not necessarily mean that the goal of machine learning or artificial intelligence is to replicate human creativity (though it might at Wattpad). But instead amplify it, to embolden the editors, agents, and publishers with more data than they could ingest in a lifetime, distilled into actionable insights.

“In this digital future, using machine learning platforms can provide publishers with opportunities to get real-time information about their readers, figure out what is working in the marketplace, and, perhaps, make the bestseller lists more of an accurate depiction of what readers want to read, not simply what is available,” commented Intellogo founder and CEO Neil Balthaser in an op-ed in Digital Book World.

Imagine a day when we take all our data about what people are reading and provide publishers (and authors) ideas of what people want to read, where to find those audiences, and better ways to reach them. This is the model that the film and television industries are already moving toward—with the help of Netflix and Amazon—so why shouldn’t book publishing take advantage of this market information? This type of decision support has not been possible up to this point, and publishers have often published books blindly, hoping that they would find the right audience and sell well.

Though ‘big data’ can be a taboo subject when we talk about the romance of publishing, there are undeniable benefits to be had from using platforms that give publishers and authors information from which they can make informed decisions on how to invest their time and money.

Distinguished Google engineer Sagnik Nandy explained to the MIT Technology Review that where traditional analytics relied on the idea that people would access tools and already know what questions should be asked, based on the data.  

“But today, everything is changing so fast as businesses evolve, and there’s a lot going on that you might not be able to see,” Nandy noted.

The beauty of machine learning, as Nandy put it, is that extracts “all the information you’re not asking about. Once you have that information, you can generate insights even before a question is asked. That can be a huge competitive advantage.”

Whoever you are your competitors will implement machine learning and will take the advantage. The question entertainment companies should be asking themselves shouldn’t be “Will this threaten/cheapen art,” but “How can I implement this yesterday?”

In the end, this is just one more tool to add to the creative, entrepreneurial arsenal. As  computational linguist Inderjeet Mani so eloquently described in Aeon,

Those who resist the temptation to unleash the capabilities of machines will have to content themselves with the pleasures afforded by smaller-scale, and fewer, discoveries. While critics and book reviewers may continue to be an essential part of public cultural life, literary theorists who do not embrace AI will be at risk of becoming an exotic species – like the librarians who once used index cards to search for information.


Further Reading

Writing the Book on Artificial Intelligence: LBF Quantum’s Nick Bostrom” by Mark Piesing, Publishing Perspectives.

“Machine Learning and Bestseller Prediction: More Than Words Can Say”by: Chris Sim. Digital Book World.

Quantifying the Weepy Bestseller” by Andrew Piper and Richard Jean So Republic.

Little Pickle Press To March 4th: Why?

Little Pickle Press to March 4th: Why?

One of our earliest adopters, Little Pickle Press, is rebranding. CEO and Chairman Rana DiOrio discusses the change and how it fits with their mission statement. 

by Rana DiOrio, Chairman & CEO of March 4th, Inc.


March 4th, Inc. We recently changed our corporate name from Little Pickle Press, Inc. to March 4th, Inc. Our partners at AUTHORS.me asked me if I’d like the opportunity to write a blog post to explain why, and I accepted their kind invitation.

Why change the name?

Earlier this year I wrote an article for The Independent titled, “It’s the Why that Matters.” The “Why” of Little Pickle Press has been “to create media that fosters kindness in young people and to do so in a manner congruent with that mission.” Just like the audience for whom we create stories, we’ve experienced growth and change since launching in 2009. This has led us to broaden our purpose to better reflect that maturity and to adopt the name March 4th in support of that change. As March 4th, we remain steadfast to our original “Why,” yet we now aim to magnify its impact by “inspiring character development in young people.”
March 4th imprints Little Pickle Stories, Big Dill Stories, and Relish Stories
We further determined that our expanded “Why” would best be met through changes in our corporate structure. The “Little Pickle” brand will continue as one of three marketing age-appropriate stories and related products to consumers—Little Pickle Stories (ages 0-10; @LP_Stories), Big Dill Stories (ages 11-14; @bigdillstories), and Relish Stories (ages 15+; @relishstories). We also established two wholly owned subsidiaries—March 4th Properties, our intellectual property (IP) holding company, and March 4th Productions, an operating company tasked with leveraging that IP beyond publishing (e.g., videos, feature films, merchandise, audio, and apps).

Why March 4th?

“March 4th” is the only date in the year that, when spoken, is also a declarative sentence (try it: “March forth!”), and not just any sentence, but one that connotes forward momentum and strong character traits such as decisiveness and courage. The fact that March 4th acts as both a homophone and double entendre is a fitting homage to our literary roots.

Why should you care?

The recent US election only deepened our belief that if society is to flourish (well, survive), it must imbue character traits such as kindness, honesty, bravery, and patience in young people, both by example and through education. The challenge is that people, especially children, learn best when they are unaware they’re learning—that’s where March 4th comes in. We view this challenge as an opportunity to shape our future by providing young people and their caring adults an ever-increasing selection of stories and products that engage and entertain young minds while relaying the value of character and inspiring its development.


About the author:

Rana DiOrio has been helping companies grow since graduating from law school. As a lawyer, investor, and investment banker, she has assisted hundreds of management teams in achieving their goals. Becoming a mother inspired Rana to find a way to align her career and values. Her solution was to become an entrepreneur, founding Little Pickle Press in 2009 as a social mission company. Rana sits on the Advisory Boards of GrapeSeed, Stepping Stories, and Vanderbilt University School of Law. Her personal pursuits include fitness training, practicing yoga, reading non-fiction and children’s books, dreaming big dreams and helping other entrepreneurs realize theirs, and, of course, being global, green, present, safe, kind, and American (foreshadowing her next title, which will pub in 2017!). She lives in San Francisco, California with The Cowboy and her three Little Pickles. Follow Rana DiOrio on Twitter at @ranadiorio.

Ripple Grove Press Joins AUTHORS.me

Ripple Grove Press Joins AUTHORS.me

rgp-logo-2Ripple Grove Press, a children’s picture book publisher based in Portland, Oregon, joined AUTHORS.me to manage their submissions and find new projects through our intelligent query matching system. We’re thrilled to welcome them to the AUTHORS family. Ripple Grove is home to captivating children’s titles like Monday is Wash DaySalad Pie, and Mae and the Moon.

ripple-groveAs a get-to-know-you, below is an essay by Ripple Grove founder and President Rob Broder covering what writers need to know about the submissions process and what he’s learned from it as well. Read more about Ripple Grove here.

 

You Can Judge a Book by Its Title, and Other Wisdom from the Submission Pile

We have received over 2000 submissions at Ripple Grove Press (RGP) since we opened our doors in 2013, and we have read them all. Only a few make it into our “revisit” folder for another look. Many do not make it there for a simple reason: they do not follow our submission guidelines.

Follow the Submission Guidelines

Our website clearly states that we do not accept stories with a holiday or religious theme, yet my inbox receives submissions with a holiday theme or a religious mention, or submissions about God or the stars in the heavens. Not only do those stories get passed over, they make it difficult to want to move forward on any project with that writer. By not following our guidelines, that person wasted their own time as well as ours—not a good sign.

The same concern comes up with people who email RGP about “what type of format to submit” their story. It feels like these emails are only a way to get our attention. If you want to know about format, there are industry standards, go look them up. Don’t try to get my attention with email questions, your story will get my attention. Just submit.

Please Don’t

Please do not tell me in your query letter that your story is wonderful and that it will delight me. Every story is wonderful to the person who wrote it. When I see that sentence I get nervous, and it makes me want to move onto the next submission.

Please do not tell me that I “will like your whimsical story” because right there you are telling me that it rhymes and that I probably will not like it. Let your story talk for you.

Do not send a hand-written letter on a hotel notepad, telling me an idea for a story you have. (Yes, I have received that.)

Please do not include where you think the page breaks should be. It’s very distracting and takes away from the story. If we’re interested in your story, then we can work it out together.

Please do not submit a story with a dedication page and five more pages of your biography and an index with a table of contents. Keep it simple, less is more. If we like your story and we need more, we will ask.

Often, I like the query letter more than the story. Sometimes the query letter is longer than the story or more time has been put into writing the query than the story. I get so excited about the query, ready to dive into the story, only to find it was not as well written. That leaves me disappointed. Keep the query and book description short and sweet. Make me want to read the story; that’s what I want to do. I want to be wow’d. I want to say, “Yes, this is it! This is what RGP is looking for.”

Leave Room for the Illustrator’s Input

Please don’t insert “illustration notes.” A picture book is a group project: writer, illustrator, editor, and publisher. The illustrator helps to tell the story as well as the writer. If you wish to enter into this project with a publisher, you have to be able to let part of the story go and share the work of envisioning it. We are all working together to make the most beautiful picture book possible.

Unless you have experience or training as an illustrator or photographer, please do not send rough sketches or photos of what you think the story should look like. It is distracting and doesn’t help your submission.

Please remember not to make your story too descriptive. Telling me that “Tommy wears a green shirt in his blue messy room and has a brownish dog and goes to school four blocks away from his home and it was sunny this particular day and the tree in the yard is a little crooked,” makes it difficult for the illustrator to tell part of the story with pictures. We understand you have a clear perspective on the way your story should be, (after all, you wrote it) but if you want to grab my attention, it will happen with your words, not with your pencil sketches or photos or overly descriptive text.

Judging a Book by Its Title

So, what’s in a title? A title can say a lot. It can provide me with what the story is about, introduce a character or tell how the story will end. But some titles go too far (I’m making these up but they are similar to what we’ve received):

The Grumpy Town – this says to me, everyone in the town is grumpy, except one small child who turns the town around and they are all happy in the end with merriment in the streets. Hopefully it won’t rhyme.

Or Mr. Pajama-Wama the Cat Thinks There’s a Monster Under His Bed. I never thought there was a monster under my bed and I don’t know why I would want to put that idea into a child’s mind. Plus the title gives it all away, and I don’t want to read the words Mr. Pajama-Wama on every single page. And hopefully it won’t rhyme.

There are titles that describe too much and spill the entire story, like, Little Red Hen and the Missing Mitten on a Rainy Tuesday. I know everything before I even get to the first sentence. And… hopefully it won’t rhyme.

If your title mentions your pet’s name or your grandchild’s name, it usually doesn’t pan out. When titles have names that don’t match the characters you created, like Aidan the Kangaroo or McKenzie the Raccoon or Addison the Hippo, it’s obvious the child is sitting right next to you as you write your story. I understand that something special or sweet has happened to your loved one, but that doesn’t mean it has universal appeal. Before submitting your story, share your ideas with friends or a critique group. Ask for their honest opinions. Read your story out loud to yourself.

The titles that make us want to move on to the story are the simple titles that pique my interest and keep me intrigued, like (and yes, these are our books) The Peddler’s Bed… ok, now what? Or Too Many Tables… ok, where could this go? Or Lizbeth Lou Got a Rock in Her Shoe… ok, a little long and I bet it rhymes but you got my attention.

You can judge a book by its title… if words like Hope or Grace or Pray or Johnny Scuttle Butt are there. And although bodily-function writing might be humorous to some, it’s not something I want to read over and over again to a 4-year-old. So please, no poop or pee or burp or fart… not timeless, not cozy. Might fit with another publisher, but it’s not for RGP.

Please Wow Us!

With all this said, I still get excited to read every submission and every story. I want to find the gem, I want to be wow’d. I want to put your story in my revisit folder and I want to like it more and more each time I read it. So please, do your research. And please, oh please, read children’s picture books. Read award-winners, what’s popular, what librarians recommend. Read stories you may not be a fan of; they will guide you to your own voice. Study them: why do they work, what made the publisher choose this story? Match your story with the right publisher. Start by reading their submission guidelines. Hopefully all this work will shine through your story and one day you’ll get that phone call from a publisher who would like to talk with you about your submission.

– Rob Broder, President & Founder of Ripple Grove Press, January 2015

Sentiment Analysis & Book Publishing

Sentiment Analysis & Book Publishing

A few weeks ago, I talked to our developers about a phrase I heard them throwing around a lot: Sentiment Analysis. Once they finished their explanation, I immediately asked them to do a write up for the blog. This is fascinating! The people must know!

And…they gave me a blank stare, a kind smile and then promptly went back to work (as they should). So, with their guidance and fact checking, I’ve tried to translate their detailed, data-rich reports and updates for your reading pleasure.

So, to start off, what exactly is Sentiment Analysis and why are we talking about it? Simply put, sentiment analysis is one way of looking at books and is one of the analytic methods we use to analyze manuscripts. Technology can actually interpret the very life and breath within a manuscript.

How does that work?  

Sentiment Analysis 101

At a glance, sentiment analysis is fairly straightforward: text is analyzed and, using natural language processing, each part of the text is categorized positive–happy statements–or negative–sad/angry statements. Within each language, words can be determined positive (elated, kiss, jump), negative (smash, kill, cry), or neutral (the, a, road). Take these altogether and graph the results, and you can see the emotional arc of a text mapped out in a physical form, called a sentiment map.

Recent Sentiment Analysis Study —  Best Sellers

If you’re still with me, maybe you’re thinking: what can the sentiment map tell us about plot? We mapped out three extremely popular best sellers — Fifty Shades of Grey, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl–to illustrate how these novels are constructed and why some books are said to be more surprising than others.

All three of these books buck the conventional trend of a high, happy opening and a high, happy, neatly wrapped up ending: they all have endings that are dramatically lower in sentiment than the highest point of the book or even the beginning. And, looking at the plot points for each, the graphs make sense.

*Spoiler Alert for all three novels*

1. 50 Shades of Grey  by E.L. James

Sentiment Analysis of Fifty Shades of Grey

 

Unlike most romances, the end of Fifty Shades is not happy.  You can see the sentiment taking a sharp decline in the last few pages as the book ends with the main character crying, swearing she never wants to see her lover again.

2. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson


sentiment analysis of Girl with the Dragon TattooThe major dip around 3/4th of the way through the
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is when Mikael is trapped by Martin Vanger and almost dies. The sentiment rises as Lisbeth frees him, and continues to rise as Mikael publishes the expose on Wennerstrom. The sentiment heads back downward through the end of the book as  Lisbeth goes to tell Mikael she loves him, only to find him with Erika Berger (Poor Lisbeth 🙁 hasn’t she been through enough?!)

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Sentiment Analysis of Gone GirlArguably the progenitor of a recent trend in unreliable, potentially psychotic female central characters, Gone Girl’s graph is easy to follow. Consider: in the first half, Nick is looking for his missing/possibly dead wife Amy, during which time it’s revealed how much Nick cheated on her (a LOT) the seriously fatal state of their marriage, meanwhile Nick is named the number one suspect in her disappearance. So, the general downward spiral, errr slope, of the graph makes sense. The brief, sharp climb around point 60 is when Amy comes back and it turns out Nick won’t be going to jail, but the sentiment just plummets right on down because Nick is still unhappy, Amy is still terrifying and dangerous, and life does not seem to actually be getting better.

The final, brief peak at the end is when Amy tells Nick she’s pregnant, but even that is barely above neutral. In this world, news of Amy and Nick spawning is not really good news, and the sentiment analysis confirms that. And, additionally, this bit of information may give us insight to why so many people read this book and thought “WTF IS UP WITH THAT ENDING?!” It’s because most novels don’t end with a fairly neutral ending; so the reader is left feeling unsettled, as if  there is something missing that they can never recoup.

 

Had I convinced my technology-minded colleagues to write this blog, it may have ended with a discussion of linear regression, decision boundary, sentiment vectors. and macro-arcs. But since my background is in publishing,  I will end more philosophically. Thinking about editing and reviewing, this kind of technology is so exciting. It gives an editor another way to explain the pacing of a book to their writer. It gives a publisher the ability to look at the breadth of their work to see what kind of brand and niche they are establishing and where the holes may be that they could fill. It gives writers an ability to objectively see if the impact they are trying to achieve is actually coming across. And these are just a few of the possibilities. Sentiment Analysis and other machine learning actions are just additional tools in the hands of smart literary professionals. It’s a way to analyze across books and within books. And a way to look at thousands of books in the same time you or I can review one or two.

 

More on Sentiment Analysis:

 ACM Digital Library

Mashable

Picking A Genre: AUTHORS Guide & Definitions

Picking a Genre: AUTHORS Guide & Definitions

Picking a genre for your work can be really hard, we know. So many stories have plots, characters, and threads that seem to cross different genre categories. As a result, many writers will slap every genre that touches their story to their query. This is a huge mistake.

In certain ways, assigning more than two (maybe three) genres can communicate that the writer may not have the clearest sense of the story they’re trying to tell. Just as importantly, it may also mean the writer doesn’t fully understand who their audience is. That is not to say we recommend writing to an audience instead of writing to the story, but it’s important to understand how your work fits into the larger publishing landscape. The folks at Write to Done made an excellent point when they said, “your ideal audience uses genre to find your book.” Check out their article for a much more in-depth discussion of market research.

In general, it’s easier for an editor or a consumer to wrap their head around something straightforward. Furthermore, when additional genres are ascribed to a manuscript, the less accurate each description becomes. This is because each genre has specific requirements that merit it. These are largely standardized, accepted definitions across the industry.

For example, you may have written a gripping detective caper that includes a whirlwind romance between the detective and his Girl Friday, but that doesn’t mean it’s a romance. It means you wrote a dynamic character in a mystery novel.

So, for your reading pleasure, below are definitions of the genres we have on our forms (so it’s not exhaustive, but applicable). Note: this is only a list of fiction genres. We will cover nonfiction in another post. Much of this information was compiled from the much more exhaustive  Writer’s Digest guide. There is also a very cool “genre map” from the folks at Book Country if you prefer your research to be a little more interactive. We also found some fun quizzes relating to genre, too. However, they’re more about what you should start to write, not what you have written. Might be good for a day when writer’s block has taken hold. Here’s one from Quibblo and another one from Playbuzz

A-Hi

The key element of the Action/Adventure novel is, you guessed it: action! The action overshadows the characters, setting, themes, etc. Primary conflict is often human vs. nature, as opposed to human vs. human or human vs. self.

Stories and novels whose central characters are African American. African American and other ethnic fiction genres often portray a protagonist of color in conflict between mainstream American culture and his or her ethnic heritage.  

Stories and novels whose central characters are Asian American. Asian American and other ethnic fiction genres often portray a protagonist of color in conflict between mainstream American culture and his or her ethnic heritage.  

Essentially, a true life story reimagined or expanded on by a writer so much that it has transformed into fiction. Uses biographical and historical research to inform the framework of the traditional novel, including conventions of fiction like dialogue, mood, theme, etc. Similar to historical fiction except that characters in a biographical novel are not fictitious, whereas an historical novel may be comprised entirely of fictitious characters.

Female-centered narratives that focus on the concerns and conflicts of the individual protagonist. Often deals with issues encountered by modern women, including, but not limited to romantic relationships, female friendships, workplace issues, motherhood, and more, but in a jovial or humorous tone. May include romantic relationships, but the plot is not driven by them.

Works whose intended audience is a child between the ages of 2 and 16. Extremely variable, as the writing itself as well as subject matter needs to be appropriate for the reader in question. Usually has a vivid opening, strong central character and deliberate, meaningful action.

Christian fiction novels are driven by and exemplify traditional Christian values through the plot, characters, and conflict.

Coming of Age novels center around the protagonist’s entrance into adulthood and all of the baggage and conflict that goes along with such a transition. Major growth and change must be seen in the central character.

Stories that could or do take place during the time they are being written and published. These stories do not cross with other genres.

A story about a relationship that is driven by sex.

This genre takes the family unit as its driving force. The characters will be related and the conflict driven by their relationships. Often viewed over a long swath of time or even several generations. Often used to portray historical/political/social events and developments. Like most of our families, these stories tend to be pretty dramatic.

Fantasy stories depend on magic, mythological beings and original contrivances to drive conflict, plot and setting. Stories often take place in another world imagined by the author, where the author has to create concrete rules and norms for the universe, including social structures and beings.

Based off of stories passed down generations. Can differ culture to culture. Setting may be real or imaginary. Often driven by a moral imperative or lesson.

Stories and novels whose central characters are Hispanic/Latino.Hispanic/Latino and other ethnic fiction genres often portray a protagonist of color in conflict between mainstream American culture and his or her ethnic heritage.  

A story set during a real period of human history. May involve political/social events of a specific time period.

Ho-P

Stories whose conflicts and plots center around major holidays and are driven by events prompted by those holidays.

A story whose central themes and plot center around dread, fear, unknown forces, malignant entities. In essence, stories that give you the heeby-jeebies and make you want to sleep with the lights turned on. Think Poe, Lovecraft, King, etc.

Involves a series of comical or humorous events throughout the plot, or a particularly funny or humorous character.

Very close to mystery or thriller genre, but will focus more on the legal proceedings of the crime in question. Think classic Law and Order, Boston Legal, or most anything by John Grisham.

Stories and novels whose central characters are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or of non-binary sexual or gender identification. Often portrays the protagonist in conflict between mainstream American culture and his or her marginalized sexual or gender identity heritage.  

Works where craft, style and technique are as important as plot, character, and subject matter.

Mainstream fiction is somewhere between literary and contemporary fiction. The stories are not focused on one convention as their structure (such as mystery/romance/sci fi, etc.). A mainstream novel will be driven by depth of character, background, etc. and their conflicts. Comparable writers include J ames Michener, John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates.

New stories blending the worlds/characters/events of other fictions.

Stories where the main characters work in the medical profession and the plot is driven by the relationships and conflict found within that work setting.

Mysteries involve strong characters with strong motivations in conflict with physical, psychological or societal obstacles in a plot in which one or more pieces remain unseen until the end.

Stories and novels whose central characters are Native American/Aboriginal/First Nations. Native American/Aboriginal/First Nations and other ethnic fiction genres often portray a protagonist of color in conflict with mainstream American culture and his or her ethnic heritage.  

A story driven by elements of the paranormal, including ghosts, vampires, werewolves, fairies, etc. Often, but not always, also considered horror.

A story modeled after a well-known story or convention with the goal to satirize or point out ironies within a given situation.

A story whose central characters are politicians or work with politicians and whose conflict is driven by elements of lawmaking, diplomacy, or international relations.

R-W

Religious fiction novels are driven by and exemplify a religion’s beliefs tenets  and values through the plot, characters, and conflict.

In a romance novel, the entire plot is driven by a romantic relationship. There is almost always a happy ending. In many cases, a sexual awakening or revelation is a driving force in character development. Sex scenes are present, but not overly graphic (which would take the text into erotica).

Science Fiction positions science and technology as the bedrock of the central conflict or setting. Often set in the future and may involve speculations about scientific advancement. Often crosses paths with fantasy, but the two genres are distinct.

Spiritual fiction novels are driven by spiritual discovery/awakening through the plot, characters, and conflict. May or may not involve an organized religion.

A story whose central characters are athletes or work with athletes and whose conflict is driven by competition and sport.

A story whose main objective is to incite a feeling of suspense in the reader. The plots are often sensational, involving crimes, violence, espionage, etc. Often a detective story with high stakes and moral certainties.

Urban fiction (street lit/street fiction), is set in a city landscape and often defined by the socio-economic realities and culture of its characters.

Stories set in the old American West (c. 1800s)

Stories set in the late 1800s and early 1900s, often set in England.

Stories that involve Witches, Wizards and magic. Often overlaps with Fantasy. depend on magic, mythological beings and original contrivances to drive conflict, plot and setting. Stories may take place in the contemporary world, with the presence of magic being real.

Similar to chick lit in that it is a female-centered narrative dealing with issues relevant to women, but not told in a jovial or humorous tone (necessarily). The Romance Writers of America define it as “a commercial novel about a woman on the brink of life change and personal growth. Her journey details emotional reflection and action that transforms her and her relationships with others, and includes a hopeful/upbeat ending with regard to her romantic relationship.”

Literally just books written for people between the ages of twelve and seventeen.

Z. Oko & The Dream Keepers: Discovered In AUTHORS

Z. Oko & The Dream Keepers: Discovered in AUTHORS

Last year, Z. Oko joined AUTHORS.me to find a home for her book, The Dream Keepers. Award-winning publisher Black Rose found and fell in love with Z.s book, which was published last month. Today, Z. talks with AUTHORS about her process. 

The_Dream_KeepersAUTHORS: Where did the concept for The Dream Keepers come from?

ZENA: I have always been a dreamer, so I thought why not write a book about dreams.  After all, it’s something that we all do.  I also find dreams very interesting because they are a bit of a mystery, yet I believe that our dreams can be very powerful and relay information back to us from deep within our subconscious.

A: How long did you work on this The Dream Keepers?

Z: I started in November 2014.  Due to me being in full-time employment at the time, I found it hard to continue with such a creative outlet.  I then decided to leave working for an employer and concentrate on my dream.  All in all, the whole book took less than a month to write.

A: What book (or writer) has had the most influence/biggest impact on you, and why?

Z: John Steinbeck.  Steinbeck wrote from the heart and he never sugarcoated anything.  Steinbeck wrote truth, it is evident in his work, for that I admire him deeply.

A: What was your favorite part of the publishing process (besides finishing The Dream Keepers)? 

Z: Seeing it come to life step by step. From the editing to getting the book cover design.  The book that has been in my head was finally becoming a reality, I felt elated!

A: What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Z: The hardest thing is being distracted!  Sometimes there are things that require attention and must be dealt with, housework especially!

A: What’s the easiest thing about writing?

Z:  I am in my element when I write.  It has always come naturally to me and I am truly grateful to be able to explore the depths of my imagination.  It is always interesting to see where it will take me.  Imagination is limitless and that’s a beautiful thing.

A: What surprised you most about publishing?

Z:  For me, I was surprised at how quickly it all happened for me!  I had a dream, followed it, and it paid off.

A: Do you have a favorite character in your book? if so, who?

Z: Mona is my favourite character.  Mona has an innocence about her along with a habit of coming to conclusions too quickly, which can backfire on her in a funny way.  Mona adds humour to the story without knowing it.  She has an open mind and is quite fearless.

A: Same question, but least favorite.

Z: The man in the odd shaped black helmet.  He may have a hidden agenda, or he may be there to do good.  There is a presence about him that is quite unnerving.  Without creating spoilers you will have to read it for yourself and see what he gets up to!  


Z. Oko currently lives in England with her husband and two children. A writer and imaginative daydreamer by day, and a reader and dreamer at night, Z. Oko’s love for writing fiction has always been at the forefront in her life. At the age of seven, Z. Oko wrote a piece which was selected to be sealed into a time capsule which will be opened in 2088. Z. Oko’s aim is to enrich and inspire.

To learn more about Z. and her book, check out her website. She can be found on twitter (@zenaoko), Facebook,  and Google+ The Dreamkeepers is available from for purchase from Black Rose, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK and Amazon US

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