The Bestseller Code

by Steve Laube

Take the Bestseller Code test. I dare you.  [[UPDATE: As of today April 24, 2012 the bestseller code web site is down.]]

The web site is fascinating. Through some mysterious algorithm it evaluates about 500 words of your novel and grades it on a scale of one to twenty (1 to 20).

Does it work? I gave it a try with a recent proposal from a bestselling client. I took the first page and a half and plugged it into the test. It scored 20.0. A Perfect Score!

Then I took the first page and a half from a recent unsolicited novel and plugged it into the test. It only scored 4.6…out of 20. I had to agree, that sample was awful.

Now is your chance for fun. Go to the site and get your score. Then come back here and tell us in the comments, if you are brave.

Disclaimer: Do I need to write one? But in case you aren’t sure, we do not use this for our in-house evaluation purposes. A computer cannot tell if yours is a good story or not. It can only compare word choices and number of syllables. It has no sense of style or storytelling ability. This is simply a fun way to look at the structure and craft of your writing.

But I will say the comparison of a bestselling author to an unschooled first-timer (20.0 vs. 4.6) was rather astounding.

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Your Brand is Not a Limitation

It is All About Expectations

What if you bought a recording from a music group expecting their usual collection of ballads, only to hear guitar anthems? Or what if you picked up a book with a pink cover that promised a love story but ended up reading a novel where hapless and nameless victims suffered gunshot wounds on every page? You’d be disappointed, right? I would be. You don’t want to disappoint readers, so branding has become a consistent topic.

Your Best Friend

Some writers find the concept of branding to be limiting. When they think of branding the TV show “Rawhide”  and Cattle comes to mind.  And despite the awesomeness of such a theme song, they want to keep their options open.

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Let Creativity Flow (Part Two)

I love the ideas you all shared about finding and sparking creavity. It’s fascinating to see how we’re all wired different. My next few blogs will share some additional things you can do to refill the wells of creavity. Have fun!

1. Disconnect from technology. Okay, don’t hyperventilate. But think about it. We have to be the most connected, available, interruptable people ever! Give yourself a break–literally. Shut off the phone, the computer, and anything else with an on/off switch. Focus on the silence. And what God has to tell you in the midst of it.

2. Regain Perspective. Remember, it’s not about you. Sure, it feels like it is, but it’s really not. It’s about what God wants to accomplish. So step away from yourself. Got mountains close by? The ocean? Anything bigger than you? Look at it. Let the sight of something truly huge and majestic remind you of your place in the world. And then remember that the God who created ALL of that beauty and majesty, not only created you, but CHOSE you as his child. And breathed into you His Spirit. And His creativity.

3. Go the other direction. Study something smaller than you (on a physical plane, that is). To to a playground and watch the kids. Take closeup photos of flowers, insects, leaves…whatever is around you. Look at the intricate way they’re made.

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News You Can Use – Jan. 17, 2012

Thank you for the overwhelming response to our survey last week. We had almost 100% confirmation that we should continue this feature. So you are stuck with it!

Publicity Calendar for 2012 – EVERY author should download this PDF and see if there is something they can capitalize on! This is a brilliant resource.

Write for Your Audience – An excellent article from a YA author on the challenge of writing for the market or writing for the acquisitions editor!

Publishers Should Publish Fewer Titles and Monetize Their Backlist – Mike Shatzkin, again, makes everyone think twice about the publishing industry.

The Writer’s Note Taking Tool for 2012 – I use this program every day. Indispensable.

Cell Phone Interrupts Symphony – I love this story. Hurray for the conductor!

Click through to view this great infographic on “Who is an Average Facebook User?”

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Deadlines and Taxes

Two certainties in the life of a writer. Deadlines and Taxes.

You know what a deadlines is. It has the word “dead” in it for a reason. And intrinsic to the reality of taxes is that April 15th filing deadline.

But what about those taxes?

Many articles appear in early April about taxes when approaching the filing date. But I thought we should explore a couple items now so there won’t be any surprises come April.

First, the obligatory disclaimer. I am not a tax attorney or a tax accountant. I am merely discussing concepts and ideas which you may or may not use in your situation. And, as always, when it comes to your taxes, make sure to consult a professional.

Some of you may roll your eyes and say, “I already know this.” But remember there was a time when you did not. I get many “beginner” questions each year from debut authors who are discovering much of the business side of this industry for the first time.

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How Many Critiques Spoil the Broth?

Today I’ll give my opinion on a question sent to our blog:

When an author is trying to find the right Genre to write in for a particular subject, is it profitable to listen to only one critique? 


The author who posed this question is in the discovery phase. Writers who read lots of books and have developed a love for many types of stories often have trouble deciding what to write. Often I receive proposals from new authors who tell me they have written, for example, romance, women’s fiction, and romantic suspense and want me to market all three. From a statistical perspective, that makes sense. Isn’t it more likely that three proposals going to thirty places will be more likely for at least one to find success than one proposal going to six places? Well, no. This is because authors are better off finding their writing passion and pursuing that with the best book they can write rather than researching and writing across the board. For instance, romantic suspense and contemporary romance have in common the fact that the story’s main plot point is the relationship between a modern hero and heroine. However, a romantic suspense writer must be willing to learn about police procedure and the law, but contemporary romance authors usually don’t because their books focus on different types of conflicts.

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Let Creativity Flow (Part One)


There are days when it flows as free as the Rogue River (and anyone who’s ever been to Oregon knows that’s free indeed!) When ideas come so hard and fast you can scarcely keep up. When the words fly from your fingers, through the keyboard, and onto the page. When creativity happens, it’s electric, exciting, energizing.

And then there are other days.

Days when you sit at the keyboard, staring at a blank screen. When you type…delete…type…delete…and on and on. Every word is a struggle, every character wooden, every plot point contrived. And you ask yourself, for the 110th time, “Why?”

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Did You Miss Today’s “News You Can Use”?

For quite some time we have been providing various links on Tuesdays under the title “News You Can Use.” This post takes considerable time to compile. But since it doesn’t create discussion or comments we have little idea if anyone is reading this weekly post. Therefore we are asking if …

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