There are few people who regularly read books that haven’t heard of James Patterson. With an staggering output of more than 150 titles, he is without doubt, one of the world’s best selling authors and ‘one of the most prodigious literary figures that the world has ever seen’, according to a recent article*. He doesn’t just write crime thrillers, but has ventured into fiction, fantasy, romance and young adult.
How does he maintain this colossal output?
Patterson, a former Madison Avenue advertising executive, makes no secret of the fact that he runs a writing cooperative. Authors such as Liza Markland, Mark Sullivan and Michael Bennett work on developing a plot created by Patterson and their written drafts are edited by the man himself. The finished book will be published under Patterson’s name, or ‘James Patterson and …’ or using the author’s name with heavy endorsement from Patterson. Several of these co-authors have gone on to forge successful writing careers of their own, but many have not.
Is it immoral?
His methods could only be considered wrong or immoral if readers are being deceived. When you pick up a James Patterson book you know what’s inside; fast paced crime thrillers with few frills. Similarly, in collaboration with another writer, the same quality of plot and prose will be found between the covers. Interestingly, in the article mentioned below, ‘stylometry’ was used to analyse JP’s collaborated books and the dominant writing style was found to be that of the co-author – no real surprise there. Even with the range of books published under the collaborative author’s own name, identified by heavy JP endorsement on the cover, JP’s influence on the plot and the finished writing style is clearly evident.
This puts James Patterson in a unique position within the writing world, not so much an author or a publisher, but a quasi combination of both. What he does is certainly successful, selling more than Stephen King and John Grisham combined, and contributing significantly to five of the six major book groups within the Hachette Publishing Group. Now aged 70, there are no signs that he is slowing down, as a visit to his website will testify.