New chap­ter opens for on­line hits

Pub­lish­ers turn to so­cial me­dia for what they hope will be bestsellers

The Australian - - LIFE - MARK BRIDGE

Book deals once fol­lowed dis­cus­sions be­tween au­thors, agents and pub­lish­ers, in­volv­ing meet­ings punc­tu­ated by tobacco, strong cof­fee and the oc­ca­sional af­fair. Fu­ture pub­lish­ing con­tracts, how­ever, could be sealed by un­feel­ing YouTube-watch­ing ro­bots.

Pan Macmil­lan, part of Macmil­lan, which signed Thomas Hardy and Rud­yard Ki­pling, will use Ta­len­tAI, a video-track­ing plat­form pow­ered by ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, to try to find to­mor­row’s tal­ent on so­cial me­dia sites such as YouTube and In­sta­gram.

Ta­len­tAI, which was cre­ated by the Bri­tish com­pany In­stru­men­tal, iden­ti­fies “cre­ators” with fast­grow­ing au­di­ences and analy­ses the de­mo­graph­ics of those au­di­ences to pre­dict com­mer­cial suc­cess. Short­listed artists are as­sessed by hu­man scouts be­fore they are rec­om­mended.

The plat­form has been used pre­vi­ously in the mu­sic in­dus­try and dis­cov­ered singer Calum Scott’s YouTube cover of Robyn’s Danc­ing on My Own. It was re­leased through In­stru­men­tal’s own la­bel and was the 12th big­gest sell­ing sin­gle by a Bri­tish artist last year, reach­ing No 2 in the chart. Scott, 28, was then signed by Capi­tol records.

The tech­nol­ogy also spot­ted coun­try singer Cather­ine McGrath, 20, from North­ern Ire­land, who has been signed by Warner Bros.

Pan Macmil­lan hopes the tech­nol­ogy, which is de­signed to spot the be­gin­nings of ex­po­nen­tial growth, can help it to sign so­cial me­dia stars in dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories to write life­style and young adult books while they are still “buzzy” — and rel­a­tively af­ford­able. The al­go­rithm also will iden­tify trend­ing con­tent themes around which books could be de­vel­oped.

From next month, In­stru­men­tal will pro­vide the pub­lisher with reg­u­lar com­puter-gen­er­ated reports on new tal­ents and trends and it will meet ex­ec­u­tives pe­ri­od­i­cally to rec­om­mend in­di­vid­u­als. Pan Macmil­lan hopes to pub­lish the first books by au­thors dis­cov­ered this way next au­tumn. Books by so­cial me­dia stars are in­creas­ingly big busi­ness. Three years ago Girl On­line, a novel by Zoe Sugg, 26, also known as Zoella, achieved the high­est first-week sales for any de­but au­thor, sell­ing more than 78,000 copies in seven days. Con­rad Withey, chief ex­ec­u­tive of In­stru­men­tal, says: “We’re now work­ing to pre­dict the tra­jec­tory of so­cial me­dia stars so you don’t only see who’s go­ing to be big but also how long their ca­reer’s go­ing to last. There’s so much tal­ent com­ing through on so­cial me­dia these days that you sim­ply have to use big data and al­go­rithms to find it.”

Pan Macmil­lan hopes that the tech­nol­ogy can help it to sign so­cial me­dia stars

Zoe Sugg’s Girl

On­line recorded high­est first­week sales for a de­but au­thor

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