When a writer signs a deal to publish more than, say, four books, it usually gets some attention in the press. But James Patterson's new deal, which keeps him with longtime publisher Little, Brown until 2012, raised some metaphorical eyeballs among the media, if headlines and ledes are to judge:
"After more than 40 best sellers, James Patterson is just getting started." - AP
"James Patterson's To-Do List: Write 17 Books Really, Really Fast" - NYMag
And then there's Thom Geier at Entertainment Weekly, who rightfully points out that this prolific pace is actually decreased from years past - he's produced 22 books published between 2006 and the end of this year. So what do his fans - and the people who hold the pursestrings at Little Brown's parent company, Hachette Book Group, have to look forward to, by my very rough calculations?
3 Alex Cross novels, co-written by Richard DiLallo
3 Michael Bennett thrillers, co-written by Michael Ledwidge
3 Women's Murder Club thrillers, co-written by Maxine Paetro
2 Maximum Ride books
2 Daniel X books, also co-written by Ledwidge
2 books in the new YA "Witch & Wizard" series, co-written by Gabrielle Charbonnet
Unspecified number of international thrillers co-written by Swedish crime writer Liza Marklund
A non-fiction book, possibly two
A standalone novel, possibly two
Obviously that's a lot of books, but from the standpoint of the co-writer who does much of the legwork, it's basically a book-a-year pace, reporting to the in-house editor/packager that is Patterson. The bigger story is that Hachette can breathe a sigh of relief that they have Patterson, Inc. for a few more years, and can buy a bit more time until, as a writer speculated to me recently, they have to start planning for what happens when the man with the name is no longer around, but the brand must keep going. Or the darker scenario of whether Patterson might look at the changing winds of publishing and realize he can make more money doing it on his own. That won't happen till 2012 at the earliest - or even later than that - but if it does, those trade winds will be far from calm.
UPDATE: Forbes' Lauren Streib also looks at the new deal - which sources tell her is worth about $150 million - and explains why Hachette had to keep him on and why it's actually "a bargain":
Patterson's not a writer. He's a fiction (and non-fiction) factory. In 2008 he authored or co-authored seven books and in his 33-year career as a published author he's written 57. He sells an average of 20 million books per year. An estimated 170 million copies of his novels are in print worldwide. Most important: During the last two years he's earned Hachette an estimated $500 million. According to Forbes estimates, Patterson took home $60 in the last year million for the effort.
"I've described Jim in the past as the rock we built our business on," says Young.