While one of the great joys of being an indie authors is that you call the shots for your self-published book – you don't have to conform with the norms of trade publishing companies – this doesn't mean you should disregard what works for them. Rather, keep an eye on publishing trends, pick up on the trade's tips and tricks, and then make your own informed decisions about how you operate.
New Zealander novelist Katherine Hayton came across a fascinating new way to compare the manuscript of her next novel, Eating Crows, with bestsellers in her target gene. She is now empowered to try to move her book closer to trade norms, if she wishes to – or disregard them if she prefers to walk to the beat of her different drum (assuming that it is any different at all, that is!) Below she describes her experience of using SCARE, which technophobes might consider an appropriate product name! It's currently still in beta testing, but we'll let you know when it's available commercially.
Are you SCAREd yet?
For a while now, I’ve been using a variety of different software editing programs to help me pinpoint weaknesses in my text. Having been educated during the seventies, my teachers were of the generation where self-expression was very important, and rules could be safely ignored. Damn hippies. Most of the information I now know about writing came from osmosis from excessive reading, advice and corrections from editors, and reviews (ouch) from readers.
So when I heard a podcast about a new analysis method, SCARE, offering in-depth data analysis of manuscripts compared to bestsellers in their genre, I was immediately intrigued. And when I say immediately, I mean I hunted them down and sent off an excerpt within a few hours.
What does it do?
SCARE takes your manuscript, from concepts or chapter segments through to completed full-length manuscripts, and runs the analysis using a blend of existing books, sales data, sentiment analysis (aka opinion mining), and trending data, to highlight differences between your manuscript and successful sales examples within your genre.
The scale of data it uses is enormous. My chapter segment was analyzed using over 325,000 books in my genre, over 2300GB of sales data collected over 6.5 years, and more than 600 sentiment analysis sources.
The sentiment analysis also means that a plot point involving mass shootings in gay nightclubs may provoke different developmental notes now, compared with last year.
The report is divided into sections with each looking at a different aspect of writing. These cover many things from syntax and grammar, through to world building and audience appeal. Each section highlights differences between your submission and their data, and may use examples from within your text to highlight errors or points of difference. The SCARE Matrix – no, I’m not making this up – gives a summary of where the author can focus attention on developing the manuscript into a closer fit with successful fiction or non-fiction titles. For full manuscript submissions, they’ll also analyze your product description and cover.
What is it for?
SCARE helps you tailor your craft so you can sell more copies of your work. The main focus of the SCARE report is how to develop your work in specific areas to fit more closely with your intended genre, using high sales that generate positive reader experiences as a guide. The report is akin to a developmental editor with an intense focus on writing a best-seller.
If you’re looking for advice on craft or writing solely as a form of self-expression through art, this report probably won’t help. There are also no line-by-line tracked changes for you to accept or reject. Any changes made are at your sole discretion using your own abilities.
The story so far
To date, I’ve only submitted for analysis a first chapter segment from my current WIP, Eating Crows. The report I received highlighted issues that I’ve kept in mind while drafting the remainder of the novel. Once it’s finished, I plan on submitting the entire manuscript and purchasing a subscription (an add-on that allows you to submit up to once a day for a month, to check your edits head in the right direction) and give it a really good whirl.
Who knows? I may end up with a statistically-more-likely-to-be-bestselling book yet.
So, over to you. Are you like me and think this is a wonderful new opportunity, or do you think we should run for the bunker because the Rise of the Machines is just around the corner?
- Extra material available exclusively to ALLi members: Katherine has kindly agreed to share her SCARE chapter submission and report privately – we're putting the link on the ALLi Facebook forum, a members-only privilege. (If you're interested in joining ALLi to take advantage of this and many other exclusive services, discounts and deals, visit our membership website: www.allianceindependentauthors.org.)
RELATED POST – A handy round-up of other writing software