Disclaimer: The following is an emotionally fueled rant from the perspective of the artistic side of writing. Check out the followup post, What We Can Learn from James Patterson, for some thoughts on his work as a businessman.
Many of you have probably heard of James Patterson, or at least, of his writing. He's written almost a hundred bestselling novels, and his sales numbers are off the charts. He's skipped around through different genres and age groups, but some of his credits include the Alex Cross series, Witch and Wizard, and Maximum Ride.
This post is about the three reasons why I hate him. (Or, to be more specific, his "artistic" choices.)
I do not appreciate his book covers.
Just look at this. LOOK AT THIS.
OK, boys and girls, what do these covers have in common? Is there any question that they're all by *cue super large font* JAMES PATTERSON?
Didn't think so.
Look at that. On a couple of those, the title is even smaller than his name. If you look through his book covers, you will see that this is a consistent trend.
I realize that cover design is done by multiple people and that his name is very recognizable, so for sales purposes, this works. But it also makes it hard to figure out the title sometimes and I consider it to be very tacky. Especially given the next few bits:
He works for the money, not the craft.
I'll actually expand on this in the next point, but first, I would like to point out that he appears to have a disregard for the quality of his writing and plot. In my opinion, his books, especially the ones in a series, tend to get worse and worse. Just look at how the Maximum Ride series, originally meant to be a simple trilogy, evolved into an overly preachy, low-quality series with over twenty books. It was through the de-evolution of the series, actually, that I learned all of this about Patterson.
On top of that, he carelessly works cross-genre, putting out lots of fairly low-quality books. They're enjoyable, a lot of them, and he's good at marketing, hence his sales, but it shows no respect for the art of writing.
In reality, this guy seems to care primarily about the money. Not the writing quality, not the story, not the art. Just the money. He's said as much, too, about entertainment and not caring if stuff is "trash" and the like, which normally I'd respect because I'm not a fan of book snobbery, but when you're saying that about your own books? What does that say?
No matter how many literacy related causes he stands for, it doesn't erase his disregard for the actual written word as an art. Yes, small bookstores, children's literacy, working to get reluctant readers on board, those are all great things that he stands for, but his other actions, his words, and his output indicate that he doesn't really respect literature.
This point leads us into the central reason for my hatred...
He doesn't actually write his own novels.
Nope. James Patterson doesn't write his own novels. No, he just puts his name across them in THREE HUNDRED BILLION POINT FONT. Basically, he's become the entertainment producer of what people sometimes refer to as "James Patterson Inc," which is a whole team of ghost writers set up to write novels based off of his trash ideas and then give him most of the credit.
Now, yes, they're not technical, by-the-book ghostwriters. They do sometimes get cover credit and people know about the team (because he talks about it all the time.) But they operate in the spirit of ghost writers. James Patterson is the biggest name on the front cover, dwarfing everything else, as seen in my first point above. Seriously, go look. Often, the "co-writer's" name doesn't show up at all. He's the one everyone knows, the face of the "corporation," and anyone who hasn't looked him up or who isn't an industry member has no clue about the others in his team. They think he's the writer.
I don't know how long this has been happening, where the shift came, but I know that for a long time now, he has been doing so little of the work that the others being called "co-writers" isn't even accurate. From what I understand, he gives them the basic idea, maybe an outline, and then his team actually creates the work, painstakingly developing the characters, hammering out the prose, writing a story the way the rest of us authors do.
Patterson isn't a writer. He's not even close.
As I said, James Patterson openly talks about his team and production and he appears unashamed of it. Consider this: in a USA Today interview, they read two excerpts from books with his name on them. He identified the titles incorrectly for both. He didn't even know the content of the books he was taking credit for. A direct quote from the interview is as follows:
"'You wrote this stuff,' Lauer said.
'Yeah. So what?' Patterson replied."
So what? Well, see my second point again. No respect for the craft. Also, dude, you didn't write it. YOU ARE NOT THE WRITER. You are a... collector.
In basis, I hate James Patterson('s choices) because he offends my artistic sensibilities as a writer. He's a fantastic businessman, obviously, and very keyed into that. I imagine there's a lot we can learn from him in that aspect. But his works are generally badly written, he treats writing as a throwaway thing, and he puts a minuscule amount of personal effort into his books compared to the credit and money he gets.
Patterson is not a writer or artist, and he seems to consider the actual art of writing unnecessary and unimportant, which offends everything that I work for and believe in.
YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED, JAMES PATTERSON.
If I haven't scared all-y'all away with that rant, come back next time for a review of my first year of college and the conclusion of the College 101 series. Thanks for hanging in there!
For the comments: What are your thoughts on Patterson's artistic or business choices? No personal attacks or name-calling, please, as this isn't meant to actually be about Patterson as a person, but rather about his artistic choices and whether they're morally sound.
Also, those of you on my Facebook page know that I have a new idea and am planning on participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this July! My profile name is the same as for regular NaNo, which you can find linked on my author page here or in my notes on Facebook. For this idea, I need some background research. So if you could answer these questions for me in the below contact form:
1) What group/type of people would you eliminate, if you could?
2) What group/type of people do you think are most hated/persecuted in the United States today?
*Update: the form is now closed*
Images via deadline.com and Goodreads.
I'm an unpublished novelist, primarily of YA fantasy, and a freelance editor. I love psychology, cats, social justice, and love! I'm also a huge fangirl. More than anything, stories are my life.
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