Tuesday, January 26, 2010

James Patterson is a robot

A Leaf Blower reader (Daniel) sent me a NYT Magazine article about James Patterson’s preternatural publishing prowess (say that ten times fast). I recommend reading the article, although the journalist seems to have attended the Patterson school of prolificacy: it’s an absurdly long piece. A few high points: JP (and his team of coauthors) published nine new hardcover books in 2009 and is set to publish at least nine more in 2010. Since 2006, one out of every 17 novels bought in the U.S. was written by James Patterson (and his coauthors). He has the record for the most NYT bestsellers (51). He outsells John Grisham, Stephen King and Dan Brown combined. And instead of toilet paper, he uses pages from Harry Potter books. Okay, so I made that last part up.

I’m not a big fan of James Patterson’s books, but I’m a fan of James Patterson. He seems real to me; he knows who he is and what he’s doing. Of course, I often wish writers like him didn’t exist. They hoard the limited resources of the publishing industry, making it even harder for a new author to get published – and harder still for him to sell any books. But publishing is a business; I get that. If your job was to deliver consistent financial results to your shareholders, would you rather put a billion bucks into a machine guaranteed to return $1.1 billion, or would you rather throw dollars at a roulette wheel?

Patterson considers himself an entertainer first, and unlike many “literary authors” who write for themselves or the critics, he writes for one group: the readers. In the NYT article, the interviewer is surprised that JP would consider rewriting a book to appease readers. He explains: “If you’re writing ‘Crime and Punishment’ or ‘Remembrance of Things Past,’ then you can sit back and go: ‘This is it, this is the book. This is high art. I’m the man, you’re not. The end.’ But I’m not the man, and this is not high art.”
In a world where even reality-show celebrities who've never accomplished anything take themselves way too seriously, this is indeed a refreshing view.


  1. Would you rather be remembered as a literary author or a patterson?

  2. I don't know... it would be nice to win awards, but I think it would be even more rewarding to connect with a ton of people. Plus, the literary types are always brooding and depressed. The Patterson's of the world seem to have more fun.