James Patterson is a ridiculous bestseller, and when you look at his backlist, without even knowing anything about the books, it's already pretty obvious why. He puts out SO MANY BOOKS in so many genres EVERY SINGLE YEAR. Clearly, the fact that his books are almost entirely ghostwritten by a big team contributes to him being able to do this, but the fact is, he's cashed in on something that many writers know to be true -- unless you magically hit it as a bestseller right away (and even then, really) you have to put a lot of books out there in order to get real visibility. The more books you have published, the more readers will find you, and the more your books in the future will sell. I'm not saying you should do all that genre jumping too -- the fact that Patterson is essentially a "corporation" gives him strength there -- but you SHOULD be working hard to write, edit, and publish a lot of books. The more, the better! And to be honest, the more books you write, the better you get at your craft itself. This is a win-win for you as a writer and a business person.
If there's one thing Patterson is really, really good at, it's at picking his causes. In the publishing world, there's almost constantly some news floating around about how he has recently given support to a big literary-related cause. These are causes that people in this area really care about -- indie publishing, bookstores, teen literacy, getting boys to read more, etc. And those are just a few examples of what he's put campaigns, advertising, and even plain hard cash into. He even does scholarships. From BEA 2014, one of the big publishing industry headlines was that Patterson, after giving a big spiel against Amazon and their treatment of authors and publishers, got a standing ovation. And then he gave almost $300,000 to independent booksellers. Honestly, he knows exactly what to do to get people in the book world in a roar about him, in a good way. (See article on the BEA thing here.)
So we can grab right onto that ourselves. We may not have $300,000 to give away, but we do have plenty of little things we can do, that anyone can do. Pick a cause, or a few, making sure that at least one is a big literary cause, and then stand up for that cause! Don't pick JUST for the marketing, of course, because that's fake and horrible. This has backfired for Patterson at various points for exactly that reason. But if you pick causes you really do care about and then put the effort into them, and you should see some returns from that both cause-wise and sale-wise. People love charity work, especially when it agree with their own beliefs. You can post on your blog, run drives in your local community, and more, and as you continue in those causes as you get more visibility and more industry power, it'll really work to your favor.
Patterson and his company are very good at even just the usual marketing bits - ads, book trailers, social media. They may be typical, but they're very important. Naturally, Patterson is able to throw a lot of money at these things, but nonetheless it's a good reminder about the power basic marketing has.
Just take a look around at his social media presence. He's got a well-maintained author website that has both character and professionalism to it, as well as a ton of websites specifically for the different series he has running. He has Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads, and all of these are kept updated and official. He puts out some games and related fun content for kid readers. He does your usual giveaways. He buys ads in magazines, papers, and Internet places for the books he publishes. He's even had his (very high quality) book trailers on TV, which is super duper unusual (and incredibly expensive.) He also constantly guest posts and writes articles and takes interviews in all kinds of places... during which he often enacts marketing tip number two above.
Basically, when you sum it all up, Patterson is really good at being visible and making sales. So say what you want about his artistry (and I have and will continue to do so), but his business skills are up to par. (His past jobs in advertising probably help.) If we apply these same tactics, we may get some pretty decent success ourselves.
Before you go, I just want to talk about the blog categories, as seen in the sidebar. I recently changed them up a little, so I want to be sure we're all on the same page. We've got Humor Posts, a recently added tag that encompasses all our monthly humor posts as well as any other posts with a humorous edge. Literary Rants & Advice encompasses most of the stuff on this blog, including this post, namely analysis, rants, and advice about books, publishing, and writing! Personal Info speaks for itself; Recommendations covers any book recommendations, favorite things, etc. that I mention. Updates is a tag I use for any post with important news about my life or my writing career, as well as for blog awards. Finally, Writing Examples includes samples of my original writing -- short stories, memoirs, writing exercises, novel excerpts, poetry, etc. You can click on any of these tags on the sidebar to explore the relevant posts, and click All to return to the regular, full blog listing!
All right. Now, please do come back next time for a special guest post and let me know what you think about these marketing tips in the comments! Have you ever applied them? Can you think of other examples?
Images via freshhome.com, huffingtonpost.com, and bookpage.com.