Tuesday, March 22, 2016

James Patterson: The Walmart of Writers

I don't know what to think about James Patterson sometimes.  I know, on the one hand, that he does things like give money to benefit school libraries, and that he is an advocate of childhood literacy programs.  But there is something about the guy that rubs me the wrong way: he dominates the bestseller lists by farming out his name to lesser-known writers to such a degree that hundreds of better books never find a place on the lists - and they never stood a chance to do so.

It's one thing to be so successful that every book published becomes a bestseller, and several authors do produce one or two titles per year that become bestsellers almost like clockwork.  But it is an other thing entirely to crudely slap your name as co-author on a book written by another writer just because you can.  To his credit, Patterson does come up with the general plots; he just doesn't want to take the time to turn those plots into...you know...actual books.

Just look at the numbers from this Independent article, for instance: 300 million books sold, first person to sell 1 million e-books, and 10 or 11 new (almost always co-authored) books a year guaranteed to dominate every bestseller list on the planet (his last 19 straight have made the lists).  The man may as well be printing money as publishing books because the impression left is that he's not overly concerned about the quality of what he slaps his name upon.  

But, it appears that even all of this is not enough for Mr. Patterson.  No, now he's come up with something he calls BookShots through which he will publish up to 4 short books per month, all aimed at people who don't consider themselves to be readers.  The books are all expected to be about 150 pages long, and with the exception of a few romance titles, they will all be written by Patterson (alone or with someone from the writer collection he keeps by his side).  And, I assume, many of them will be taking up even more of the few bestseller slots Patterson has been allowing everyone else to share up to now.

James Patterson has become to writers what Walmart is to small town main streets - and that's a compliment neither to Walmart nor to Patterson.

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