Media & Entertainment

Big data’s next frontier: Crowd-testing fiction

10th Jan `14, 01:36 PM in Media & Entertainment

Creative writing is dying, if not dead,” moaned one commenter, and he wasn’t alone. The story that provoked…

BDMS
Guest Contributor
 

Creative writing is dying, if not dead,” moaned one commenter, and he wasn’t alone. The story that provoked this particular episode of hand-wringing appeared in the New York Times’ Bits blog, and had to do with the ability of new e-book subscription services like Oyster and Scribd to track their members’ reading habits. If authors are armed with data about, for example, whether readers finish a book — and the exact point at which they abandon it if they don’t — then, wrote David Streitfeld, they “can shape their books to please their readers more.”

E-book retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble have been collecting information like this for a while now, but they keep it to themselves. Oyster and Scribd — no doubt aware that these days there’s much more money to be made from people’s fantasies of becoming successful authors than there is from actually selling books to readers — have said they are willing to share the data they gather, presumably for a fee. And authors, especially self-published authors, are very interested. Quinn Loftis, a self-published author of YA fiction who reportedly makes a “six-figure annual income” from her books, told Streitfeld, “If you write as a business, you have to sell books. To do that, you have to cater to the market. I don’t want to write a novel because I want to write it. I want to write it because people will enjoy it.”

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