2 years ago
If I were ever to ask you to name the most successful author of the millennium so far, I think you might come up with writers like J K Rowling, Tom Clancy, Dan Brown and John Grisham, but I doubt if you’d actually come up with the right answer. And yet he’s a man who’s had more bestsellers over the past 7 years, than all those four – combined!
No, it's not Jamie Oliver with all his cookery books, although he's doing quite well for himself at the moment and has just managed to top J K Rowling in British books popularity.
His name is actually James Patterson, and it’s ‘own up to ignorance time’ for me, because I’d never even properly got to know about him until the other day. And this is a bit worrying for an aspiring (young?) writer like me, because he sells well over £60 Million worth of books a year while I am lucky to find myself a couple of extra readers. I really must pay more attention.
Anyway, what’s even more interesting for me in all of this is how he actually goes about doing it, because it carries with it, some invaluable insight for anyone who wants to make a great deal of money – and no matter what the field too.
You see, many writers start off by doing what they are told, by simply writing about what they know. Their work is to a large extent somewhat personal to them and because of this they fall in love with it and what they are doing. And they often fail to understand why their masterpieces often get overlooked while other maybe less well crafted pieces go on to get all the glory.
But you see unlike most other authors, Patterson doesn’t just stick to the one genre. He more often creates books that he thinks people will want to buy, irrespective of the genre. So instead, he starts with the market place, and then creates his products to fit it.
Very few other authors do this, and not enough business people do it either. Like our unpublished authors from above, they simply tend to fall in love with a product rather than a market. And this is a very big mistake to make. Why? Because a so-so product put into the right market will always make more money than a fantastic one put into the wrong market.
Unlike most authors, Patterson doesn’t write books he personally likes, or even ones he would really want to read himself. Instead he chooses to create books that the maximum number of people will want to buy.
And once he’s identified any ‘hot’ market, he knows that his output is going to be critical to capitalising on the opportunity. So rather than operate like most other authors who sit and agonise over every word for days, weeks, months or even years, he employs a team of co-writers who work to his briefs and produce the first drafts.
This enables him to work much faster - getting himself up to 6 books a year out on to the market. So he never has all his eggs in one basket at any one given time – and he also has plenty of baskets.
And that's another valuable lesson because no matter what business you’re in. If you insist on doing everything yourself, it’s going to be very difficult to fully capitalise on any opportunity, or indeed to create multiple revenue streams for yourself. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
Well James Patterson is a fully established author now, but he’s clearly very much an entrepreneur too. And while I’m not in any real position of authority to comment on his ability as a writer, my guess is that there are still many others out there of equal talent who are struggling to even make a living – let alone rake in sales of over £60 million a year.
The difference between these writers and James, is that he finds out what the market wants first, gives it to them in volume, milks it for all it’s worth… and is then adaptable enough to move on to the next ‘big thing’ whenever a new opportunity presents itself.
And when you take that kind of approach to anything, almost any idiot can make some money.
I don't know, maybe I should start taking requests...
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