Ever since I posted it, 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 hatred! In that post, my arguments against him were based purely from the standpoint of an artist. Thanks to some very astute comments, I've begun thinking about the other aspects of authorship and James Patterson. I decided that it would be interesting to post from the other side and talk about what we can learn from Patterson in the area in which he excels and so many of us struggle: the business side of being an author. This does not in any way negate my feelings about him, because come on, but there's a lot to be learned here.
More output gets you more visibility and more sales!
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 important: 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 therefore, the more your books in the future will sell. I'm not saying you should do all that 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! And 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, and people will seek out your work.
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. Those are just a few examples of what he's put campaigns, advertising, and plain hard cash into. He even does scholarships. During 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. 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 writers can grab 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 them! 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, you should see some returns from that. 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.
Don't skimp on your standard marketing practices.
Patterson and his company are very good at the usual marketing bits: ads, book trailers, social media. These pieces 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 that basic marketing has.
Just take a look 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. 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. 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 really good at being visible and making sales. So say what you want about his artistry (as I have), but his business skills are up to par. (His past jobs in advertising probably help.) If we writers apply these same tactics, we may get some pretty decent success ourselves.
Thanks for reading, guys! 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!
Images via freshhome.com, huffingtonpost.com, and bookpage.com.
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