Sunday, December 14, 2008

How Did It Get This Bad?



We've all heard anecdotal evidence about the sorry state of the book industry these days - especially, I think, when it comes to the sale of literary fiction. But it doesn't get more disgusting than this Plain Dealer quote (Karen Long) of a recent Barnes and Noble sales pitch:




This week, my e-mail burbled up an alarming assertion from Barnes & Noble: "In 2007, one of every fifteen hardcover novels sold was a James Patterson title, and in total, Patterson's books have sold an estimated 150 million copies worldwide."

Ye gods. In "Cross Country," the latest chest-thumper from the Patterson print factory, it takes until the third paragraph for protagonist Alex Cross to ask, "Was I getting too soft for this? I wondered for an instant, then let it go. I wasn't soft, if anything I was still too hard, too unyielding, too uncompromising."
Friends, we can do better.
We certainly can.

I find it impossible to believe that a man who places his name on books he farms out to other authors for the actual grunt work of writing them can keep outselling real authors. Admittedly, I've never been a fan of the Patterson style even when he was writing his own books. They always seemed more like screenplays than novels with those dozens of little two-or-three-page chapters. I find it impossible to enjoy novels with over 100 chapters...I'm just saying.

13 comments:

  1. Oh, that's dreadful. I went through a brief phase of liking Patterson in early high school, but (thankfully) that phase ended quite quickly. I picked up a book of his when I was in college to see what I could see and ended up wondering how I could have liked his writing even when I was in the ninth grade....

    We can do sooo much better.

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  2. I think one of the factors driving this stat is the availability of the Patterson books. His books are in Walmart, Sams, Cosco, K-Mart...all these non-bookstore-type places. So it's easy for people to pick them up. And as bookstores reduce their inventories it's only going to get worse. Therefore our role in the book world is going to become only that much more important. We need to TALK, TALK, TALK about all those books and authors that aren't on the shelves at Walmart, Sams, Cosco... Intrigue folks into making the effort to find a better written book! Let's make that our goal for 2009! :)

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  3. The image you posted with this article is so cool and also very disturbing.

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  4. A sad comment. I do like the creepy image, though.

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  5. I'm taking a college class where the majority of people in the class listed Patterson as their favorite author. The teacher had a big smackdown similiar to your post here when he yelled at the class "That fool doesn't even write that crap!" It was memorable. I can't agree more.

    Kristy
    www.shishnit.org

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  6. Wow, that's sad. I've never read a Patterson, so I suppose I should be feeling pretty good about that.

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  7. Megan, it's sort of a "what was I thinking?" thing, isn't it?

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  8. Very good point, Jen. The man has, sadly, become a brand name. If things keep going downhill, the best sellers will be the only ones available anywhere but the internet - a self-fulfilling prophecy that will ensure that they are always best sellers.

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  9. Jeane/Jenclair, that image just seemed perfect. It reminds me of the kind of paper bag that some fans of really awful sports teams sometimes where to the stadium...perfect for James Patterson fans. :-)

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  10. Kristy, that's pretty sad, to be sure. Did they copy his name off each other's paper? Maybe some of them couldn't come up with a single name of their own...

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  11. Well, folks, the tragedy here is the indication of how low our reading levels are....I own a bookstore--try to convince a Patterson lover to try something really "good". Often times, they are unable to comprehend anything that is written at a higher reading level.

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  12. Wow, Village, that is sad - but not unexpected. When I watch what walks out the door of most bookstores I shop, I can hardly believe that trash so outweighs the stuff with any real merit. I don't have a clue as to how that will ever change...but I suppose that the trash sales put money into the right pockets anyway.

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