James Patterson: highest earning, soul-selling SUB-EDITOR?

11 May

I’m shocked to read this! “According to Forbes magazine, American crime writer James Patterson pocketed $US70 million in the past financial year, making him the biggest earner in global publishing”.

I’m even more shocked to read THIS: “The former adman’s last deal in 2009 reportedly paid $US100m for 11 new books by the end of 2012. How does he maintain such a punishing schedule? By having one of his large stable of co-writers produce the first draft, which Patterson then polishes for publication.”

Ummmm, perhaps I’ve been a little naïve, but seriously, he gets other people to write the stories?! Does he come up with the ideas himself first then, or do other people do that, too? And technically, if he’s not writing his own books, doesn’t that make James Patterson the biggest earning SUB-EDITOR in global publishing? I want to know more. I’m going to have to research. But wait… I could research this, or I could spend the same amount of time writing something myself, something original in my own words, which I’ve thought of myself. Because I’m a writer goddamit.

This makes me want to stamp my foot. It’s not fair, on so many people! If someone gave me an entire novel to “polish”, sure I could do it (probably), but I wouldn’t be satisfied with it. No amount of money can buy the feeling of having something you did yourself, from scratch, recognised and appreciated and enjoyed. Sharing my own words is the one thing I love to do most in the whole wide world. It’s the only thing I can do, quite frankly. In every other area of my life I am a total spaz. I don’t think I could ever accept re-writing someone else’s words for a living, not even for millions of dollars. That would be like selling my soul.

I wonder if James Patterson even writes (or “subs” as is more apt), from his heart anymore. At what point did he throw away the one thing in life that gave him the most joy, and decide that lounging about on big boats throwing $100 bills about was more enjoyable? I bet he does that on Wednesdays. Personally, even if I was on a big boat, throwing $100 bills about on Wednesdays, I’d be thinking about writing about it. I’d be thinking of how to structure that experience into words, so I could recall the emotions, the colours, the smells…. that’s just how my mind works. I might be weird but I feel guilty if I don’t write… I don’t know why. I just do. I can’t imagine ever not wanting or needing to do it. And I’m sure there are other writers who feel the same as me. Maybe even James used to feel like that?

James Patterson makes me sad and I don’t even know him. Maybe he’s discovered something better, and yeah, maybe money can buy you happiness. I wouldn’t know. I just can’t imagine it personally. And plus, James Patterson’s crew of first-draft-writers must have also sold their souls.

Like most writers I know, I used to throw a mini internal fit every time an editor so much as shuffled one sentence of my work. I’ve learned to curb my fury over the years. Whereas once I would cry, now I make do with leaving the room, kicking something (never any small animals, don’t worry) and returning with an air of nonchalance, as though their meddling hasn’t bothered me. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me, but sometimes it does, if only because all I see in those moments is the fact that I should have done things better the first time round!

Ugh, James. You have stolen a little piece of my innocence this morning.

2 Responses to “James Patterson: highest earning, soul-selling SUB-EDITOR?”

  1. Julie June 25, 2011 at 1:14 am #

    I’m a massive reader – however I haven’t purchased the last 4 or 5 James Patterson books. The last book of his I bought, I read the first 30 pages and then threw it at the wall – it was so badly written, and the storyline was incredibly stupid and weak. I took it back to the bookseller and they gave me my money back. I buy all of my harcopy books at this store so know them well – I said to them – if I ever pick up another of Patterson’s books, just tell me to put it down and walk away!

    • Colby December 14, 2011 at 2:18 am #

      I read some of his YA books my freshman year. The first ones were okay, but even as a 15 year old I knew I was reading crap with an OK storyline. That’s the first time I didn’t get through a series. Ever.
      His writing is crap, and to learn this is total bullshit. I am an aspiring young writer and to think that there are so many people who will never make it in the writing world while this peice of crap tosses out poorly written books once every thirty seconds is simply not fair.

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