That statistic scares me.
I just finished reading an article from the New York Times entitled "James Patterson, Inc." and wow is it interesting. Basically the article relates the major success of James Patterson - not only how he created a brand for himself using his experience as an Ad Exec, but also how he essentially shifted one of the most successful publishing houses, Little, Brown, to embrace mass-market fiction rather than literary masterpieces.
Let me preface my response to this article by telling you I have only read one James Patterson novel in my life, Sam's Letters To Jennifer, at the request of my mother. After taking a whole two days to read this fluffy novel with absolutely no character development and a disgustingly simple plot structure I promised myself I would be much more skeptical when considering recommendations from my mother.
I have also met James Patterson, last year at BEA, and while I'm not a fan of his books I'm kind of a fan of him. As I trotted up to get a signed copy of his latest YA novel he noticed my name tag that labeled me from Madison, WI and began bantering about the terrace and the fact that his wife is also a fellow alumni of UW. Cool guy, bad books.
However, while it seems that James Patterson (and his many ghost writers) write for the masses using little or no literary devices, once upon a time James Patterson did know how to write. After Patterson landed himself an agent who helped to get his first book published he was awarded an Edgar - the mystery writing equivalent of a Grammy - for best first novel. Now days Patterson fails to live up to his literary achievement and notes that in his first novel, "The sentences are superior to a lot of the stuff I write now, but the story isn't as good. I am less interested in sentences now and more interested in stories".
Considering one in everyone seventeen books bought are written by James Patterson, it's sad that he can't master the art of pairing a good story with a good sentence. Why does it have to be one or the other? One of my favorite authors, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, has mastered the art of combining rich prose with a suspenseful, cant-put-it-down story line and I'm sure 9 out of 10 people have never heard of him. (You know, all those people who don't read book blogs everyday.) They are too busy reading the nine books Little, Brown publishes by James Patterson per year.
In my opinion, James Patterson left his writing abilities to pursue marketing his brand. Here is a marketing genius who has schemed his way to the best-seller list too many times to count by writing simplified novels that indulge the public's basic instincts. Does that make him a bad guy? No, he is arguably the most successful authors today - he's obviously doing something right. But, in my opinion, he is a shinning example of what publishing is turning into - or has already become. These days it's more about marketing your book than it is about writing a decent one. It's more about an author's platform and what they can do for the publisher than what the publisher can do for them.
Originally posted 1.14.10
Originally posted 1.14.10