James Patterson is an American author that holds the Guinness World Record for the first person to sell a million eBooks. He also topped Forbes list of Highest Paid Authors in 2016 for the third consecutive year, earning $95 million for his writing.
In this post I want to break down how James Patterson does this by going into his strategy for how he writes and markets his books; in general just see what we can learn from the highest paid author in history.
Let’s get into it.
What is really interesting to note about James is that he was an advertising executive at J. Walter Thompson until 1996. As an ad executive, he’s credited for coming up with the Toys R Us slogan “I’m a Toys R Us Kid”, so this is a guy who really understands branding and advertising; and he leverages it in his novels.
When most people think of James Patterson, they think of his recurring series, and he hits these really hard. So everything from Alex Cross to Women’s Murder Club are all series that have multiple books in them and al hit the best-seller lists consistently.
Patterson rule #1 is:
1. Attack a lot of genres
James is known for his thriller novels like the Alex Cross series, while Witch & Wizard is more like a mix of fantasy fiction and children’s literature, like a Harry Potter-style book; and Women’s Murder Club is more like mystery.
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Those are 3 wildly different with three wildly different audiences, and he’s able to attack the all consistently, creating strong brands in every single one of those genres.
So how those he writes so successfully across all these different genres? That brings us to rule #2
2. Partner and co-author as much as possible
He gets a lot of hate for this. There’s a recent article on The Boston Globe, called “Patterson keeps cranking out novels and ignoring his critics”, and I quote
It wasn’t until the 1990s that he hit his stride, publishing a book a year, then a couple each year, and now, with the help of a stable of co-writers, an absurd annual output in the double digits.
It’s like The Boston Globe said, James Patterson is more of an author CEO; he goes out, picks his co-writing team, finds people that are going to produce consistent quality, has them write most of the book and puts his name on the cover.
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That James Patterson brand is what carries him through which actually bring us to the final rule:
3. Fully leverage your audience to buy everything you write
Patterson isn’t the only author with a strong brand of followers that buy everything with his name on it. You’ve got everyone from J.K. Rowling, Stephen King to John Grisham that all have strong following of people. That fact guarantees that everything they release is going to be a best seller.
James Patterson is just the one that sees that he can hire other people to write the books for him and put his name on the cover, so as long as there is consistent quality, people will continue to buy. He’s leveraging his own name as a brand.
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