Saturday, 27 November 2010

What’s in a name?

Thanks to the magic of Twitter, I discovered the Lulu Titlescorer the other day. It’s a nifty little online tool; you enter the title of your novel, along with some information about the words it’s made up of, and it tells you what chance a book with that title has of being a bestseller. Apparently the program is based on an analysis of 50 years’ worth of fiction titles that have topped the New York Times bestseller list.

The bad news is that, on the basis of their titles at least, none of the three novels I’ve completed to date is going to get me onto that list: Grown-Up People, First Time I Met The Blues and The Celebrity Next Door all scored a measly 10.2% - barely above the minimum possible score of 9%. Slightly more encouragingly, my work in progress, Going Back, scored 20.1%. I’ve been regarding that as strictly a working title, to be replaced by something better at a later stage, but maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to discard it.

Out of curiosity, I ran a few randomly chosen famous titles through the program as well, to see if the professionals are any better at naming their novels. The results were mixed: Far From The Madding Crowd scored the same as me, 10.2%, while Portnoy’s Complaint and Bridget Jones’s Diary both managed a scarcely more impressive 14.6%. Catcher In The Rye (a title I’ve always disliked – shows what I know) did better, with 26.3%, but the winner in this hugely unscientific survey was Midnight’s Children, with a whopping 44.2%.

I’m not sure any of this proves anything, of course, but it does mean I can legitimately compare myself to Thomas Hardy in one respect at least.

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