Astonishingly, statisticians have not yet been able predict the success of a book with 100% certainty, despite rigorous extrapolations from bestselling titles.
This year’s runaway bestseller [The Da Vinci Code] should have had only a 36% chance of reaching the charts, according to Alvai Winkler and his team. Their model fits work by some topselling authors but gives only middling marks to the Harry Potter titles and rules out almost everything by Charles Dickens except for his lesser-known Christmas story The Battle of Life.
But don’t fret. Surely publishers will come to their senses one of these days and turn their attention entirely from the content of books — such an archaic and tedious consideration — to scientific analyses of future earnings based on title, cover art, author photo, and dimensions of the physical object.