Saturday, June 25, 2011

Book Marketing Trend: James Patterson’s Dual Book Release

Mega best-selling author James Patterson, a prolific novelist whom my firm, Planned Television Arts, has promoted in the past, launched two new books on the same day this past week.  Most publishing executives can’t recall an author doing this before, although some authors have released trilogies or a series of books simultaneously (often, online).  We’ll see more of this, I am sure.

I don’t see the harm in releasing two books at once.  For a well-known author, people (fans) will likely buy both of them at the same time. For those who don’t know the author but stumble upon the books in the store have two chances to choose whether they’d buy his book.  When approaching the media, reviewers may choose to cover both or only one – or none, but that’s okay.  Coverage for one will help the other.

In this case, Patterson is not competing with himself because the two books released are for different audiences, which is a savvy move. One is for adults, the other for the pre-teen set.  The battle for market share begins early and if Patterson, 64, can already nurture a new generation of fans, why not?

The other interesting thing about the dual Patterson release is that he has collaborators on both books.  You don’t often see co-authors for fiction nor do you see big-time authors clearly stating they alone didn’t write the book.  Will authors now come out with branded series of books the way Donald Trump likes to put his name on a building without being involved in its construction?

Actually, it shouldn’t matter what name is on the cover.  Judge a book by its content.  Either you like it or you don’t and authorship shouldn’t change that.  But I do understand that people have expectations going into a book. If they see a particular name on the cover, they have a certain expectation on the style and quality of writing.  Perhaps that’s why ‘bestselling novelists have so many bestsellers – they write in a certain expected but appreciated formula that gives comfort to their readers.

Publishing has a long history of publishing books in unique ways.

Long after Gone with the Wind was published, a sequel came out, but it wasn’t by the original author.  There are other branded characters and superheroes or murderers villains that have reappeared in books written by authors who didn’t originally create them. A great story line or character may trump who does the writing.

There have been books issued with two different covers simultaneously. There have been books written as if they were true, but turned out to be hoaxes. There were novels written that were really thinly veiled fictionalizations of real people and true events. There have been books with a connection to TV shows in interesting way, such as a recently released book by someone named Hank Moody, the made-up author character in Showtime’s Californication.  There have been anonymously published authors and many authors publishing under a pen name. And there have been anthologies published that featured scores of authors. Maybe one day someone’s split personality or alter ego will write a book. Maybe they have.

Publishers are now experimenting with e-books. Should they release the ebook version at the same time the printed version pubs or delay it the way movie studios delay a DVD sale until after the movie is out of theaters? Some are making the ebook version a free add-on to the consumer who buys the printed version. Others are serializing their book, publishing one chapter at a time for a fee.

Publishers will publish long lost manuscripts that were incomplete but then quilted together by a book doctor hoping to cash in on the notoriety of the original author.  Publishers also repackage previously published works, hoping to give them a new push. In short, publishing will always seek to publish books in new ways – until the public lashes back.

Patterson should hit the best-seller list again with his new book.  He’s had 19 in the past decade.  After Now You See Her hits the list he’ll be working on releasing several more books this year.  I wonder if his co-authorr will outsource to another writer once he gets too busy.

It may not matter.  Readers are buying into the Patterson brand and as long as the books continue to deliver as anticipated, you may see a day where he releases a new book every hour.

And many will be on line to buy them.

***Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer at Planned Television Arts ( ) and can be reached at  or and followed on Twitter @thePRexpert.

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