My blog post on Why I Hate James Patterson has consistently gotten the most hits of any of my posts. I guess a lot of people were interested in hearing about my anger! In that post, my arguments against him were based purely from the viewpoint of an artist. Thanks to some astute comments, I've begun thinking about the other aspects of authorship as represented in Patterson. Today, I'd like to turn to the other side and talk about what we can learn from him. After all, Patterson excels at the business side of being an author.
More output gets you more visibility and more sales.
James Patterson is a huge bestseller, and when you look at his backlist, it's pretty obvious why. He puts out so many books in so many genres every single year. Clearly, the fact that his books are ghostwritten contributes to him being able to do this, but he's cashed in on something important for all writers to understand. Unless you magically hit it as a bestseller right away, you have to put a lot of books out there to get real visibility. The more books you have published, the more readers will find you, and therefore, the more your books will sell. I'm not saying you should do all the genre jumping--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! To be honest, the more books you write, the better you get at your craft. This is a win-win for you as a writer and a business person.
Stand up for big bookish causes.
If there's one thing Patterson is really good at, it's picking his causes. In the publishing world, there's often floating around about how he has recently given support to a big literary cause. These are causes that book lovers really care about: small bookstores, teen literacy, getting boys to read more, etc. He's put campaigns, advertising, and plain hard cash into it. He even does scholarships. During BEA 2014, one of the big industry headlines was that Patterson, after ranting about Amazon and their treatment of authors and publishers, got a standing ovation. Then he gave almost $300,000 to independent booksellers. Honestly, he knows exactly what to do to cause a positive bookish uproar about him. (See an article on the BEA thing here.)
The rest of us writers may not have $300,000 to give away (LOL), but we do have plenty of little things we can do. Pick some causes, making sure that at least one is a literary cause, and then stand up for them! Don't pick just for the marketing boost, of course, because that's fake and horrible. This has backfired for Patterson at times for exactly that reason. But if you pick causes you really do care about and then put effort into them (as all we humans should), you'll see some returns. People love charity work, especially when it agrees with their own opinions. You can post on your blog and social media, run drives in your local community, give away books or money, and as you do so, you'll get more visibility and more industry power. Plus, you'll make a difference in the world!
Don't skimp on the standard marketing practices.
Patterson and his company are very good at the standard marketing practices: ads, book trailers, social media. These pieces are important! Naturally, Patterson is able to throw a lot of money at them, but even for the rest of us, it's a good reminder about the power that basic marketing has.
Patterson has a well-maintained author website that has both character and professionalism to it, as well as many websites specifically for the different series he has running. He's on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads, and all of his profiles are regularly updated. He puts out games and related fun content for young 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 book trailers on TV, which is unusual. He constantly guest posts and writes articles and takes interviews in all kinds of places... during which he often enacts marketing tip number two.
When you sum it all up, Patterson is excellent at making sales. So even though I hate his "artistry", his business skills are certinaly up to par. (His past jobs in advertising probably help.) If the rest of us writers apply these same tactics, we may find some decent success ourselves.
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