Nerd-Author Fun

I’ve spent a few days goofing off from writing. Well, kind off…it was writing-related.

I wrote a Java program that can load and process my novel. Now having done that load work will enable me to add useful tools in the future, but for now I just did some basic word frequency analysis. Sounds like some nerd fun? And it was.

First, technical stuff and then some results:

Technical stuff

Loading it into the program turned out to be more difficult than I expected. Part of the difficulty was how I defined things on the page. When I was younger I’d have told you that anywhere there is a gap between blocks of text then it is a paragraph. In my mind, at least, the concept of a paragraph is stretched out-of-shape by the frequent carriage returns of dialogue.

Is this a paragraph? Two? Three? I’m so confused…

I’m sure there’s probably a technical term (which I’m happy to be told)., but I didn’t want to research it. So, I solved the problem like any fiction author: I just made words up.

Hence forth, for all time until I find a better name, they shall be known as minor blocks (green) and major blocks (blue). The term paragraph may now be discontinued.


(I suspect I’m already in the process of changing my mind…)


Before you peruse the results, you might wonder what possible good a function like this might be? (Admittedly at the moment there is too much information). The tool could be used in the following ways:

  1. There are some words, which are so peculiar or powerful that they should only be used once in a story. This tool will help locate those words. For example: gruesome (0), or horror (4). Wow, there’s a lot of cry (10) / crying (5) going on. I really need to check that… Point proven.
  2. There are also some words that mean-nothing and should be replaced with more descriptive terms, like interesting (3).
  3. It could help expose word-use problems. For example, when my characters want to swear they say “frak”. If I find a “frack” or a “fak” then I know I’ve made a mistake.
  4. Nerdy pleasure (hey, it’s valid for me)

When considering these results please note the following caveats:

  • Not all bugs have been ironed out; give me a 5% margin for error.
  • Contractions are included (so “don’t” and “do not” is counted as 2 words)
  • There are no exclusions yet (“a”, “is” etc are included)

For a novel slightly over 86K words, I was surprised with the results.

  • 8,443 unique words
  • The top 10 most frequent words account for 18,624 words. (the, to, and, a of, he, you, was, his, I).
  • Most frequent words per first letter: Unsurprisingly mostly character names. (A = and; B = be; C = could; D = Danyel; E = even; F = for; G = get; H = he; I = I; J = Jessica; K = Keeshar; L = like; M = Menas; N = not; O = of; P = people; Q = Queen; R = Regent; S = said; T = the; U = up; V = very; W = was; X = Xu; Y = you; Z = Zekkari).
  • Everything above 15 characters long was a processing error 🙂Words starting with letter

Length of words


Are book trailers good?

I don’t know if I should be ashamed to admit it or not, but it was only recently that I became aware of the existence of book trailers. My initial reaction upon hearing about them was really?

Book trailer: Short video adverts which are designed to interest people in a book.

It seems that “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is so 2005. Apparently since 2006 it should now be “Judge a book by its book trailer.” Really?

I think its interesting that most of the articles I could find on the internet discussing book trailers were written pre-2014. Among them were articles praising the merits of book trailers…but the vast majority of these were written by the media companies themselves; not exactly impartial. If there is someone who could sell sand to an Arab, it’d be those marketing folk. They do have to make it sound worthwhile because otherwise the return on investment just wouldn’t add up.

Book trailers are cited as a way to capture those with short attention spans and encourage them to read. With no evidence whatsoever, I say that’s unlikely. I’d be willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of people who happen to watch a book trailer:

a) would buy the book based on the author anyway (i.e. already fans),
b) are more likely to go watch a movie with the same theme as portrayed in the book trailer, and/or
c) will get stuck in the time-vortex that is YouTube

If people have short attention spans that don’t permit them to read a short blurb to see if they like the sound of a book then I don’t think they will go out and buy dozens of hours of reading based on a 3 minute video.

In June 2013, Brett Osmond (Marketing & Publicity Director at Random House Australia) wrote an article that started:

I am rather sceptical about the marketing value of book trailers. In most instances they are watched by a very small audience and there is little evidence to indicate that their use drives book sales. Having said that, at Random House we do have a very successful YouTube Channel to which we add new content almost every day.

Personally I think the reason why Random House has a popular YouTube page is because they have lots of content, not just book trailers.

Show me the Stats!

The only real stats I could find were in this article:

  • Readers are 64% more likely to purchase your book if they see a book trailer that effectively promotes your book. (Source: ComScore)

Effectively is a nice weasel word. How exactly is that determined?

  • Using a book trailer on a sales landing page can increase conversion rates by as much as 80% (Source: Unbounce)

Does this mean they exclude sales by customers who were planning on buying the book before ever seeing the trailer?

  • Visitors to your author website stay an average of 2 minutes longer than on author sites that do not use video. (Source: ComScore)

That’s nice. So the visitors stay and watch the video… maybe some or all of it – but how many of those visitors actually part with hard-earned money?

  • 92% of mobile video viewers share videos with others. (Source: Invodo)

I thought this stat was the best of the lot until I actually checked it. It gets a little complicated, so stick with me:

  1. This is the Invodo source (page 6).
  2. The stat is footnoted as “the etailing group. Delivering Superior Shopping Experiences Via Video”. The link is dead.
  3. When I google “delivering superior shopping experiences via video” the first result is
  4. This page then links to a whitepaper which has the title “Delivering Superior Shopping Experiences Via Video – Consumer Insights and
    Retail Execution”
  5. Then what should I see, the report is sponsored by Invodo. Nice and circular? I can’t say I read the whole report, but I did a word search for “share”, “others” and “92%” and couldn’t find the result.

Aside from that the stat is unclear. Which videos were shared? (Book trailers, or funny cat videos…it looks as though it is videos in general). How often were videos shared? (Does a single video-share count towards the 92%?).

  • Authors who use book trailer video in email campaigns can experience Open Rates [increases] from 19% to 300%! (Source: Forrester Research)

So they open an email? Excellent, or not. And email campaigns are not exactly the friend of the consumer.

Not Convinced

For me to be convinced that book trailers are worthwhile I’d want to see some real and unequivocal stats:

  • How many viewers of a book trailer purchase a book they weren’t already intending to buy?
  • How many viewers share the video with others?
  • What is the cost of a book trailer compared to the sales that it generates?
  • How often are book trailers successful?

Brett Osmond finishes with

However, I have to say I’m more inclined than not to lean away from a book trailer idea when it is presented to me.

In the end, if a book trailer doesn’t meet the expectations of a savvy public, it might, in fact, have a negative impact on book sales. And that’s something we want to avoid.

Book trailers could do great harm: a novel of poor quality could gain readership only because of a flashy video; which would disenfranchise readers.

I am willing to concede, however, that book trailers would be beneficial to the young, but for the older market I’d think it is useless.

Maybe I’m just getting old and grumpy, but I still say really?