Friday, August 5

James Patterson: "Sentences shouldn't get in the way of a good story"

The Independent reports that James Patterson earned 45 million pounds last year, unseating JK Rowling as the highest paid author in the world. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Patterson is a contentious victor. The American is no stranger to criticism and has admitted that he doesn't even write his own books. Although his name is splashed on the covers of the eight titles, which include thrillers and children's and young adults' books, that he churns out each year, he relies on a team of five to help him bash out the plots. Not that this minor detail has dented his popularity. Forbes said one in every 17 books bought in the US is written – or co-written – by Patterson, a former advertising chief executive who outsold even Stephenie Meyer of the teen vampire series sensation, Twilight. Meyer's £26m placed her second in the best-selling literary hall of fame.
Patterson himself has something of a contradictory approach to his own work. He defended his short and to-the-point style of writing, saying sentences "shouldn't get in the way of a good story", but once warned fans off one of his books, Season of the Machete, calling it an "absolutely horrifying book" that fans "probably shouldn't read".
Patterson has earned his publisher, Hachette, £322m over the past two years, and Meyer, King, Koontz and Steel will face an uphill struggle to knock him off top spot. He signed a 17-book deal with Hachette in September, worth a reported £96.5m, and last year 14 million of his books sold across the world, in 38 languages. Not bad for the man who sold just 10,000 copies of his debut novel in 1976, and who doesn't even own a computer – he writes his ideas down in longhand, before giving them to his assistant to type. "Thousands of people don't like what I do," he told The New York Times in January. "Fortunately, millions do."

My take away:

  • Anyone who can say that 1 out of every 17 hardcover novels sold in the US has their name on it knows a thing or two about writing and—perhaps most of all—about selling. Love him or hate him Patterson has tapped a market.
  • If you don't already, give writing longhand a shot. I started writing my drafts in longhand and, although it does take longer for me to writing something out than it does to type it, I find that, overall, I get work done. It's strange, but there's something about the process of setting pen to paper, of writing across the page, something almost sensuous, that helps my ideas flow (* knock on wood!*). If you haven't tried keeping a writing journal, give it a whirl. 

Other articles you might like:

The Phenomenon of James Patterson’s Book Sales
How James Patterson Works With His Co-Authors
My Analysis of 16 books: Stephen King is correct, the adverb is not your friend.

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