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Patterson champions the book business

6 May 2013

Bestselling author James Patterson has taken the unusual step of speaking out about the changes going on in the industry. He's gone for a novel way of doing this, with full-page ads in Publishers' Weekly and the New York Times Book Review, asking the government to bail out bookshops.

Patterson says that books and reading are a vital part of our culture and play an essential part in literacy, so he's asking the US government to wade in in order to save an industry besieged by bookstore closings and consolidation of the remaining major publishing houses. Patterson says:

'This is an unusual and different time for books, the most unusual in the history of this country. E-books are fine and dandy, but it's all happening so quickly, and I don't think anyone thought through the consequences of having many fewer bookstores, of libraries being shut down or limited, of publishers going out of business - possibly in the future, many publishers going out of business.'

And Patterson does put his money where his mouth is:

'I have a site for school librarians, teachers, and kids to go to - It's a fairly big site: it does a fair amount of good. And I will have 400 scholarships for teachers at 21 universities this year. I'm giving 300,000 books.' He thinks that books are of primary importance: ‘I don't think we can be the country we'd like to be without literature.'

In the UK Patterson's children's sales rose 82% last year. His ebook sales were up 85%, and his overall sales, in what was of course a flat market, were up 4%. He took a greedy 9% share of the market in the crime and thriller genre.

In the US he's even bigger. In January, 2010, The New York Times Magazine featured James Patterson on its cover and hailed him as having "transformed book publishing," and that Time magazine hailed him as "The Man Who Can't Miss." In 2011, it was estimated that one-in-four of all hardcover suspense/thriller novels sold in the US was written by James Patterson, he is the first author to achieve five million ebook sales (and is expected to hit ten million in early 2013), and he holds the Guinness record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers of any author. Patterson is now also the current bestselling author in the young adult and middle grade categories.

There have been adverse a comments about his practice of working with a team of writers who actually write the books, using his plot outlines. Having said that, none of this seems to have had an adverse effect on his sales on either side of the Atlantic, or elsewhere. So perhaps we should just be grateful that such a successful author is so dedicated to children and reading, and to the preservation of the book business.

Salon on James Patterson speaking out
The New York Times Magazine