Debbie's World of Books
My book reviews, book news & random rants

What Is Your Take on James Patterson?

June 3rd, 2009 by Debbie's World of Books

Before entering the world of blogging I happily read a bunch of James Patterson books and really enjoyed them.  Once I started blog hopping I would see a post or two complaining about how Patterson farmed out his books.  I thought that was a bit strange but did not pay much attention.   Then I saw on Karin’s Book Nook a link to a USA Today article from 2007 in which it talked about how Patterson now co-authors a lot of his books.  I was surprised when he said he sends his co-author an outline of his book and the co-author fleshes it out.  Not being a writer I kind of wonder does that really make Patterson a true author of the book?  He comes up with the idea but it sounds like his co-authors do the actual writing and Patterson makes a ton of money off of the deal.

Granted the co-authors sound happy because I’m sure they get a decent deal out of it and Patterson’s name sells the books and most likely opens up opportunities the co-authors would not have had otherwise.  But what do you think about this practice?  I’m especially curious what aspiring writer’s think?

Posted in Books

18 Responses

  1. Katie

    I’ve never read any of his books, but that just doesn’t sound ‘right’ to me. Are his co-authors given credit on the book cover? Somewhere inside?

    I guess it’s sort of similar to a popular recording artist singing a song that someone else wrote for them, and getting all (or at least most) of the credit for it, because everyone associates the song with that person…

  2. Indigo

    If the co-authors are given credit, I don’t see a problem with it. However if he’s taking credit for the entire written book when that isn’t the case…He’s claiming something that isn’t his to begin with.

    I’m doing a test short story with another author on a joint venture to see how it works out. If it’s a match (we work well together) it might end up novel length instead of short story…The point is both our names are on the material. We’re both putting time and thoughts into it.

    Now that I think of it, I’ve never seen another name listed on Patterson’s books but his…(Hugs)Indigo

  3. Michelle

    I’ve not read any of his books either but I find this concept interesting. I suppose you could consider it a ghost-writing hybrid without the ghosting aspect? Certainly everyone is getting something out of the deal (for the reasons you list) but I wonder if in the end the readers are the ones to suffer most.

    Again, having not read his work I can’t compare what was original work by him or something that was produced by another but I imagine in some cases you can tell a difference. Even as an editor I doubt Patterson can completely strip the work of another writer’s style. What if that style is significantly different than his own?

    I’m not adverse to the practice as long as the book is good and I enjoy it. But it’s an interesting concept.

  4. karinlibrarian

    Thanks for the link to my post. I think my biggest problem with the co-author situation (in the DANIEL series) is that the quality just isn’t there. When looking at the ratings on Goodreads at the first in the series, DANGEROUS DAYS OF DANIEL X, it seems that most of the people rated it between 1 – 3 stars. I haven’t read any of his other books that were co-authored. Are what are they like?

  5. dsuzuki

    The ones I’ve seen do have the co-author’s name but usually in smaller print. I’ve only read one that I know for sure had a co-author, The 8th Confession, and I thought it was pretty good. I haven’t read any of the DANIEL series though.

    It is an interesting concept. I supposed you can say he paid his dues writing such good books in the beginning and making a name for himself.

    Karin-I do wonder how well he reviews the finished product though.

    Indigo-I always wonder how easy/difficult it is to work with a co-author. I really like Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s joint books but just how that works seems like it would be hard.

  6. dsuzuki

    Oh and Michelle the one book I read with a co-author didn’t seem to vary too much from his other women’s murder club books I read. Not sure if that is true of his other series. I wonder if the co-author’s are given “homework” to study his older books and try to emulate his style or if they are given more free rein.

  7. readingextravaganza

    I’m not an aspiring writer but I am Patterson’s fan and as such I think that he deserved the status of a superb thriller author long before he started co-authoring his books. His Alex Cross series which got me to like him was written by him only and they are awesome thrillers. granted I, even being his fan, do not and have not read any of the books he’s worked on with other aspiring writers so I can’t tell if the quality has changed or not.

  8. Page

    I think his books have lost their apeal since he started co-authoring. His entire Women’s Club books (except the first two) are co-authored. And most of his other books now are as well. The only ones as of late that aren’t co-written are his Alex Cross series.

    I use to jump on a James Patterson book the moment it came out. But I noticed while the story line was James Patterson, the actual story didn’t fit into what I think to be a James Patterson novel. I wondered about the co-author thing and how it worked. But, if this is the way it is done, it makes sense that the books wouldn’t have the same feel. I’ve stuck with the Alex Cross series and haven’t read much else of his for a couple years.

  9. dsuzuki

    Page-I didn’t realize so many of his Women’s Club books were co-authored. I stopped after book 4 and just read book 8. I guess partially since he started co-authoring I just can’t keep up with all his books. I used to also jump on them as soon as they came out.

  10. Belle

    You raise such interesting discussions. As a reader, I’ve only read some of the Women’s Murder Club series and I enjoyed them. I have Sunday at Tiffany’s in my TBR pile – that, too, has a co-author. I have also read one or two of Patterson’s original Alex Cross novels, which he wrote himself. I think his books with co-authors give the co-author a byline credit on the front cover. My main concern would be the consistency of the quality across all of Patterson’s novels, but not having read many of them outside of the Women’s Murder Club series, I really can’t say whether inconsistent quality has been an issue.

    As a writer, I think it would be a wonderful opportunity, provided that you get byline credit on the cover and in all promotional materials. I have read the bios of a few of his co-authors, and they all seem to have novels of their own to their credit. So I imagine co-authoring with Patterson would be a major boost, plus financially lucrative (you’d hope! I guess it depends on the contract, and whether you get an option for things like film rights and foreign rights). I imagine it would work out well so long as you’re writing in the genre you want to write in.

    Great question and discussion!

  11. Kelly

    Wow, I’ve never read his books, but I knew he was very popular.

    I’m not very familiar with the Nancy Drew history, but I wonder if it was the same sort of thing.

    As an aspiring writer, I’m not sure how I feel. On the one hand, it’s sort of a cop-out on his part. On the other hand, if I could make that much money from writing outlines, I probably would, so who am I to judge? :-)

  12. dsuzuki

    Belle-I agree that it’s probably a really good opportunity for lesser known authors to get their foot in the door so to speak.

    Kelly-so true! If I could make a lot of money off of just outlines I would :) For Nancy Drew, I’m not sure when other people took up writing those books but I definitely didn’t enjoy the newer ones as well as the classic ones.

  13. austenfan

    Really? I didn’t know his co-authors were doing the bulk of the work for him. Anyway, among his books that I’ve read, I loved the Maximum Ride (which is written solely by him) series the best so he still is one of my favorites! :)

  14. dsuzuki

    I haven’t read his Maximum Ride series yet. I keep hearing good things about it though. Have to check it out.

  15. elfenwolf

    Well this is kind of what me and my brother do. My brother loves making ideas so then he asks me what I think and I help him build the story up better I usually do the beginning and end cause he can’t do those worth anything but he does pretty much everyone else with lots of guidance from me so I always just thought of it as a dual writer thing. :P

  16. dsuzuki

    I think it’s great when two authors find they work really well with each other. I wonder what happens when authors begin to disagree about where a story should go. That would make some interesting discussions/debates/arguments.

  17. Sara

    I’ve read all his books, and I enjoyed all of them except for The Dangerous Days of Daniel X. I don’t think it was written the best it could have been. I was really disappointed. I do know that anytime he co-authors with someone they are given credit on the front cover of the book.

  18. dsuzuki

    I’ve heard similar comments about the Daniel X book. I’m catching up on Patterson’s books again and will leave that to the last.

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