I recently came across Literature-Map, a website that has some magic formula it uses to predict which authors you will like based on the name you give them. So say you adore Hemingway and are hoping to find an author you’ll adore just as much. You go to this website and type in his name, and up pops a map. You can see Hemingway’s map here.
According to this map, you will probably like Faulkner and Salinger (because their names are closest in proximity to Hemingway’s), and you probably won’t like Nabokov or Joyce or even Shakespeare.
So of course I had to experiment. I put in Sara Donati, and something like this showed up (click for a larger image):
Note first: This image has been edited; I took off the names of some authors simply because I don’t want to get into a discussion of whether or not our work is similar.
Some things that I found interesting: there aren’t many authors whose work is similar to mine. I’m not even similar to myself, which is quite a trick. The closest in physical proximity are Jean Auel, Rebecca Cable, and Marion Bradley. Furthest away are Patricia Veryan, Stephen Frey, Kerry Greenwood and Karin Slaughter.
To try to figure this out, I used color coding. Light blue means I have only vague associations for the author. I may have read something of theirs, but without some research I don’t remember what that could have been, or what I felt about it. I read a lot, so I’m a little surprised that I’m unfamiliar with so many of these authors. Especially as many of them (apparently) write in a way that appeals to readers who are drawn to my work.
Light red means I do remember this author’s work, and I really don’t see any similarity. In fact, in some of these cases, I would rather not be compared.
Light green means I know this author’s work and I like it. Almost none of the light green authors are in near proximity, which is no surprise at all. Let me just approach this another way.
The Literature-Map people compare Hemingway to writers like Dickens, Tolstoy, Rand and Twain. Why these authors in particular? Why is Shakespeare on this map, but not Austen?
Why is Stephen Frey, of all people, on my map? I love Karen Slaughter’s gritty crime novels, but they are set in modern day Atlanta and have to do with themes that are in no way similar to the stories I write. Why is she on my map?
I’ll answer my own question: the algorithms behind these maps are defective. I let the Visual Thesaurus help me with this particular cloud:
Maybe there’s a website out there that does a better job of predicting a reader’s tastes, but if so, I haven’t come across it. Please let me know if you have.