I was looking over the title sample from my last post, and I realized that even though I removed “series” and “novel”, most of the top words were showing up most often in the parenthetical series names that followed the actual titles. So, just for fun, I removed all of the subtitles and series identifiers and ran the word cloud again. Here’s the new image:
Turns out Shadow and Clockwork are still leaders, but “Chronicle” fell off completely and “Dark” dropped down a few tiers. This leaves us with Shadow, Clockwork, Heart, Night, City and Moon–pretty similar, but at least we’re showing a little bit of variation. Heart’s a little lighter, right? Let’s see where a few of those entries came from:
Or maybe not.
Next up? A look at covers from a slightly different angle inspired by Maureen Johnson’s CoverFlip.
The other day I came across a pretty old, but very cool post about YA covers that was linked to from a book review on Grantland. In the post, author Jillian Audrey does a visual analysis of recent YA covers and points out a few pretty pervasive trends (the mope is my favorite–if I see another bedraggled looking girl in a dreamy prom dress I may scream). It got me thinking about titles and covers, and since I just saw my own cover for the first time, I thought it’d be fun to follow Jillian’s lead and look a little deeper. I’m also an analyst by day, so nerding around with numbers and trends is kinda my thing.
That said, here’s my first attempt at analyzing some recent YA releases. I started with something simple: titles. I thought it could be interesting to see which words are used most often, and whether there were any trends I might not have seen coming. I had a pretty good idea of what I might find–”Pretty”, “Girls”, maybe “Dark”–but the results were a lot more interesting than that.
For the un-Wordle-initiated, the cloud above graphically portrays the frequency of all the various words used. It’s far from a perfect analytical tool, but it’s definitely a fun way to look at textual data.
I used YA releases listed on BarnesandNoble.com, only because they were the only source I could find that would give me a list that was clearly sorted only by release date. I really wanted to avoid using titles that were ranked or sorted using any sort of algorithm, and Amazon’s lists always seem to be manipulated by some sort of shadowy ranking system that’s hard to wade through. I used three months–February, March and April–just because that was how many titles I could transcribe before starting to go a little cross-eyed. It came to about 250 titles, but eventually I’d love to add to this and get a much larger sample.
As this stands, I don’t think it’s enough to give a true picture of the current YA landscape, but it still lends some interesting insights. I should also mention that this sample is far from ideal. Clearly it only includes those titles that Barnes & Noble opted to list online for sale, and some “new” releases are actually re-releases of older titles.
In other notes, I also pruned the results a bit. I separated most compound words (Wanderlust became Wander Lust, and Everafter became Ever After) and I also removed endings like ” ‘s ” so they wouldn’t dilute the results. Articles and pronouns were also omitted, as were the words “novel” and “series”. As a note, if included “series” would have outnumbered the frequency of all other words by a very significant factor. Apparently series are still running things in this little part of the world.
Predictably, “the,” “of,” and “and,” were by far the most frequent words used, and these were followed immediately thereafter by “I” and “Me.” I guess it’s possible that this says something about the narcissism of teenagers (and writers) but for now let’s just agree that’s not really a surprise either. After that is when things get interesting. “Chronicle” was the most popular, trailed by Shadow, Moon, City, Night, Dark and Clockwork. None of these are particularly surprising on their own except for clockwork, but I am surprised that they’re all so perfectly themed. We have a serious gothic, noirish, steampunk vibe happening, and there’s not a pretty, girly trend word to be found. Guess I officially stand corrected.
These words also make me wonder if they might still be a holdover from the reign of Twilight, but that’s something I’ll have to test out next time. Once I get a more representative sample, I’m also hoping to graph out the sales results of the various titles (and maybe cover themes) to see if any of these trends perform better than others in terms of sales.
For now, I’m just glad my book isn’t called A DARK NIGHT IN CLOCKWORK CITY: THE SHADOW CHRONICLES. Or maybe it should be?
Nothing better than having this unexpectedly show up in my inbox as part of my usual Goodreads update: