Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery
I’m not sure who said that originally, but I’m blatantly stealing it for the catch phrase of this article. It’s appropriate, as you’ll see in a minute. Hopefully it makes good twitter-bait as well.
This post is meant to assist people like myself – people who want to write books and sell them. Not just that, but also sell enough of them to make a living at it. Maybe living as well as James Patterson is a bit of a stretch, but I could handle paying off some debt at least!
I mentioned James Patterson on purpose. It’s not a sneaky way to get some search engine hits, it’s because my wife likes his books and I have been reticent about them. I’ll admit it, I didn’t care much for the guy and that’s been quite unfair of me. I’d never met him, after all. I’d only read a few bits and pieces of his books. Enough for me to push my nose into the air and say that I didn’t like what I’d read because something about it flew in the face of accepted writing dogma. As he once stated, thousands of people don’t like him, but fortunately, hundreds of thousands do. My dislike probably didn’t bother him very much.
Mr. Patterson reinforced my belief that his writing didn’t adhere to literary form when he said he cares less about the sentences and more about the story. To a lot of writers who take writing seriously, that’s a slap in the face. Some very successful authors even go so far as to say that Patterson isn’t a good writer so much as he’s a good marketer.
First of all, what does it mean to be a good writer? Does it mean that you are hidebound by tradition and do things as they’ve always been done before? If that’s the case, then humanity has been pretty piss-poor in general at maintaining the status quo. Oh sure, most people in positions of power would love to keep things as they are. Without change their system continues to support them, whether it’s a publishing house or a tyrannical dictator. Fortunately for the rest of us the world is constantly evolving. We’re changing and, in most cases, getting better. Why then shouldn’t writing evolve as well? Why should readers have to conform to what an accepted author has written? In this day and age we want whatever it is we want, and the world has become small enough thanks to the Internet that we can usually get it. For writers smart enough to listen to their readers and to give them what they want, the sky’s the limit.
I don’t mean to say that any college dropout with a pen can make millions writing books. Clearly there still needs to be some level of talent so that people are interested in what said dropout has written. If finding your voice doesn’t come natural don’t give up hope – all of us are learning and improving with every story, every critique, and every opportunity we have to read something else. Perseverance is the key, as it is for all things in life.
But back to James Patterson. 1 out of 17 books purchased since 2006 were written by him. 1 out of 17! That’s out-freaking-standing. And for people like me it was very frustrating. He sells more than Dean Koontz, Dan Brown, and Stephen King combined! Nonetheless, I read a little bit out of one of his books my wife bought (Swimsuit, I think it was) and I took note of how he wrote. I scoffed at first, but once I got over that jealousy I began to think about it more seriously. I then started experimenting.
My most recent series, Vitalis, has two published books in it (New Beginnings, The Colony) and two more pending (Parasites, Screamer). I’ve plans to keep it going for quite a while after these four as well. My intent with these books was to write a shorter story that people could enjoy purely for the sake of being entertained. They can get in and get out, taking breaks as needed with shorter paragraphs. I’m focusing on moving the story and keeping it exciting and fun. Mr. Patterson seems to do something quite similar to this. So far I have to say my Vitalis series is arguably my second best selling series, behind Wanted / Ice Princess (both of which have been featured highly on science fiction bestselling lists for a couple of weeks now on Amazon). I’ve even introduced some people to futuristic science fiction in a way that they found very enjoyable.
It’s obvious James Patterson is on to something. John Locke also swears up and down about catering to his market. Sure, John Locke’s two plus million books sold are a drop in the bucket next to Patterson, but it’s still proof that they know what they’re doing. Patterson is also a staunch believer in not being limited by genre. He writes all over the place, between himself and his co-authors. I’m happy to say that I’ve been promoting multi-genre and cross-genre writing for some time now. Guess I’ve done something right, at least!
I’ll admit that I did all of these things either because of or independently of James Patterson, yet I still felt biased against him. I was amused when I caught his most recent commercial on television where he’s pretending to be a bit of a secret agent himself and is promoting the Nook. That tipped the scales for me, especially when I learned that he takes such an active role in every aspect of his business (writing, advertising, publishing, etc.).
And so Mr. Patterson, if ever you should read this, there’s one less voice in the thousands that are burning torches and crying for you to be tarred and feathered. I might even buy my wife more of your books without too much grumbling.
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
To learn more about James Patterson…well, he’s just about everywhere these days, good luck trying to avoid him!