The Google Literati

By Kathryn Comment

Thanks to Roderick Maclean, author of TROPIC/OF/CUBICLE (Spork Press), GC will now present (as in, copy and paste) “The Google Literati,” “a ranking of the most popular contemporary literary authors on the Net, as tracked by Google AdWords”:

01. David Sedaris (N/A)
02. Chuck Palahniuk (N/A)
03. Michael Chabon (1,298)
04. Nick Hornby (N/A)
05. John Irving (835)
06. Dave Eggers (714)
07. Haruki Murakami (628)
08. Bret Easton Ellis (513)
09. Arundhati Roy (414)
10. David Foster Wallace (410)
11. Jonathan Safran Foer (325)
12. Ian Mcewan (324)
13. Jeffrey Eugenides (263)
14. Zadie Smith (195)
15. Douglas Coupland (184)
16. Irvine Welsh (171)
16. Jonathan Lethem (171)
18. Neal Pollack (163)
19. Orhan Pamuk (154)
20. Amy Hempel (151)
21. Steve Almond (134)
22. Meg Wolitzer (102)
23. Charles D’Ambrosio (82)
24. George Saunders (74)
24. Mary Gaitskill (74)
26. Denis Johnson (73)
27. Aimee Bender (69)
28. Jonathan Ames (63)
29. Michel Houellebecq (51)
30. Monica Ali (44)
31. Rick Moody (40)
32. Sam Lipsyte (38)
33. Colson Whitehead (37)
34. Andrea Levy (31)
34. Heidi Julavits (31)
36. Ben Marcus (26)
37. Nell Freudenberger (25)
38. Stephen Elliot (16)
39. A.M. Holmes (14)
40. Hari Kunzru (9)

Maclean instructs, “The numbers to the right of each author represent the number of times his or her name was searched using Google and several other partner search engines over a three day period.” N/As refer to data collected over a one-day (versus three day) period.

Describing the genesis of the list, Maclean cites his attempts at finding alternative methods for publicizing TROPIC/OF/CUBICLE. “I have no experience whatsoever in promotion or marketing,” he writes. “So, when I find the time, I experiment — see what works and what doesn’t.”

One of the things I’ve tinkered with lately is Google AdWords. This service allows one to bid on search terms and have searchers’ returns supplemented with text advertisements. Using AdWords, I set up an ad campaign based entirely on the names of popular or critically acclaimed contemporary authors, such as Jonathan Lethem and Michael Chabon. For more than a week, when anyone has searched for “Michael Chabon,” among other authors, my ad (pictured above left) has appeared in the “Sponsored Links” column on the right side of Google’s search returns page. Those searchers who have clicked through to my site probably wouldn’t have run across my book otherwise, and, as they have all shown interest in a contemporary literary author, the connection seems well targeted. Because Google’s system fosters competitive bidding on keywords, the only way this scenario works for me is if few companies have placed ads using the same keywords as I’m using, allowing me, in essence, to bid the absolute minimum cost per click (5 cents) and still get a high position in the ads. If I were trying to do this with the phrases “SAT prep” or “car dealerships,” it would be pointless — I wouldn’t get anywhere for less than several dollars per click and I’d still be placed in a lengthy clutter of other ads. With author names right now (and I say right now, because I’m sure this will change), there are simply very few companies that have bought keywords. With some names, mine is the only ad; with others, there are five or six competing ads, mostly bookstores like Amazon buying in bulk.

Along the way, I realized others might find it interesting to see the results of my experiment, particularly which authors are most sought after on thet Net. Above, then, is my list of authors and their relative popularity.