Passive Guy has read about unconventional writing techniques.
Philip M. Parker, professor of management science at Insead, a highly-respected business school with campuses in France and Singapore, has developed an approach that is all his own.
Romance authors may find his thoughts on their genre provocative.
Excerpts from The New York Times:
It’s not easy to write a book. First you have to pick a title. And then there is the table of contents. If you want the book to be categorized, either by a bookseller or a library, it has to be assigned a unique numerical code, like an ISBN, for International Standard Book Number. There have to be proper margins. Finally, there’s the back cover.
Oh, and there is all that stuff in the middle, too. The writing.
Philip M. Parker seems to have licked that problem. Mr. Parker has generated more than 200,000 books [PG Note: It’s at least 600,000 now], as an advanced search on Amazon.com under his publishing company shows, making him, in his own words, “the most published author in the history of the planet.” And he makes money doing it.
Among the books published under his name are “The Official Patient’s Sourcebook on Acne Rosacea” ($24.95 and 168 pages long); “Stickler Syndrome: A Bibliography and Dictionary for Physicians, Patients and Genome Researchers” ($28.95 for 126 pages); and “The 2007-2012 Outlook for Tufted Washable Scatter Rugs, Bathmats and Sets That Measure 6-Feet by 9-Feet or Smaller in India” ($495 for 144 pages).
. . . .
Mr. Parker . . . has developed computer algorithms that collect publicly available information on a subject — broad or obscure — and, aided by his 60 to 70 computers and six or seven programmers, he turns the results into books in a range of genres, many of them in the range of 150 pages and printed only when a customer buys one.
If this sounds like cheating to the layman’s ear, it does not to Mr. Parker, who holds some provocative — and apparently profitable — ideas on what constitutes a book. While the most popular of his books may sell hundreds of copies, he said, many have sales in the dozens, often to medical libraries collecting nearly everything he produces. He has extended his technique to crossword puzzles, rudimentary poetry and even to scripts for animated game shows.
And he is laying the groundwork for romance novels generated by new algorithms. “I’ve already set it up,” he said. “There are only so many body parts.”
. . . .
It is the idea of automating difficult or boring work that led Mr. Parker to become involved. Comparing himself to a distant disciple of Henry Ford, he said he was “deconstructing the process of getting books into people’s hands; every single step we could think of, we automated.”
He added: “My goal isn’t to have the computer write sentences, but to do the repetitive tasks that are too costly to do otherwise.”
. . . .
His company, the Icon Group International, is the long tail of the bell curve come to life — generating significant total sales by adding up tens of thousands of what might be called worst sellers.
. . . .
“Using a little bit of artificial intelligence, a computer program has been created that mimics the thought process of someone who would be responsible for doing such a study [project the latent demand for antipsychotic drugs around the world, based on the sales figures in the United States],” Mr. Parker says. “But rather than taking many months to do the study. the computer accomplishes this in about 13 minutes.”
An editor picks the years to be covered, but the computer picks the optimum model for extrapolating sales in various countries, and in alphabetical order produces a chart for each country. “It will then open a Word document and export the information into Word just like a real author would out of their minds, so to speak, or spreadsheets,” he says.
Artificial intelligence researchers say computers are far from being what the general public would consider authors.
. . . .
As part of his love of words, and dictionaries in all languages, Mr. Parker said he has taken to having his computers create acrostic poems — where the first letter of a series of words spells a synonym of those words, often to ironic effect.
Of course, one of the difficulties of generating a hundred thousand poems is stepping back and assessing their quality.
“Do you think one of them is Shakespeare?” he was asked.
“No,” he said. “Only because I haven’t done sonnets yet.”
Link to the rest at The New York Times
The manner of creation raises an interesting question about whether these are spam books.
As facts to consider, PG would point out only three books are for the Kindle and there’s an argument those three use Kindle’s capabilities in an interesting fashion. (More on this below) Additionally, these are not cheap books and the NYT article mentions that his customers include medical libraries.
As always, PG is helpful to his visitors. If you would like to search Amazon for all currently listed Icon Group International publications, click here.
It’s an interesting marketing decision for the company to sell only three Kindle books. Each one is an excerpt from the diaries of Samuel Pepys covering one year. They feature a pop-up Thesaurus for selected words in, respectively, Urdu, Ukrainian and Turkish. The Urdu version is ranked #199,837 on the paid Kindle list. (PG couldn’t get the pop-ups to work in the Urdu sample on either his Kindle or Kindle for the PC.)