Horror & Thriller & Sci-Fi, Oh My!

Horror, Thriller and Sci-Fi are all genres that have intrigued me. I love how stories develop and the elements that make each element what it is. When dealing with books, there are a plethora of factors that dictate what book ends up in your hand at any given moment. They can be factors as simple as a friend donating books to the library and you seeing one that you want, receiving a gift from a family member, friend or acquaintance, or even going to the library and picking up a book from the recommended list.

Surrounding the “recommended list”, per se, is where I intend to formulate my thesis for this research project. The books that we own are often decided by what’s popular, happening, “in”; the things that are decided for us due to who wrote it and by other factors. The research that I have decided to partake in is much deeper than the question of the bestseller list directly affecting influence of book purchases; it does. But rather in my research project, I plan on evaluating the relationship between book length and success to show if there is any relation between popular books and certain range of pages.

By looking at this specifically, I feel that I may be able to uncover some secret truth behind the best seller list. In this research project, I plan to analyze the New York Times best seller list and the Amazon Best Seller List for Horror, Thriller and Science Fiction texts during September-October of 2010. This is a very prevalent time for things “spooky” and should give me a great data set. I may end up focusing on one particular genre, possibly horror, and I may also decide to look at the best seller of the year list for the genres.

Getting back to the topic of book length and popularity, I feel that this is an extremely specific research question, and I am unsure that anyone else has thought about this connection. Maybe there is a subconscious feature of the brain that not only recognizes quality work, but also recognizes a certain rage of pages that makes a book optimal. What I am trying to iterate is maybe the brain says, “Hey, this is too short to be good” or “Hey, this is far too long to hold my interest” , figuratively speaking of course; we all know that brains can’t talk independently.

In summation, I hope that this topic proves to be as interesting as I perceive it to be. If there is a relation between page length and success rates, authors may choose to write shorter or longer books and this would be interesting to follow up my initial thesis with. By looking at the relation of book length and popularity, I hope to uncover a new truth that could explain a subconscious input into what we consider to be “Best Sellers”.

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One thought on “Horror & Thriller & Sci-Fi, Oh My!

  1. Ira, it’s really cool that you’re working with a correlation! What a nice coincidence! There has been a fair amount of work on popular genres in the book history field recently. You should be able to find some good stuff!

    I wonder what sort of resources you’ll be able to find–or create for yourself? Do you think you might do some ethnographic work on readers’ perceptions of book length, as well as tracking page length and bestseller status? I’d like to see you be more specific about your approach. You should reply to this comment with additional details!

    Now for the “devil’s advocate” part of this comment: is this question “significant”? In other words, if you find a correlation between book length and bestseller status, how will you know if it’s a real correlation? And even if it’s a real correlation, how will it deepen our understanding of how a book ends up in a person’s hands at any particular moment? Or about the particular genre? Or about bestsellers?

    What to do? Looking at book length and thinking about how that connects to genre conventions, for example, could be interesting. In other words, do certain things (plot events) happen at certain places in the book? Publishers of this sort of novel probably have an expected page length; most novels will fall inside it because the publisher knows what sells, but that page length will be characteristics of all novels in the genre. It makes sense to me to consider bestsellers, because they’re popular and widely read (and they help you to narrow down the field to some key examples). You could also consider narrowing down the number of genres you look at. One genre seems about right, as you will have to look at some examples.

    I hope this is some food for thought!

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