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Publishing and Innovation Do Go Together

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by James Patterson, Author

James Patterson

Editor’s Note: Indie publishers know that innovation is the key to thriving and surviving. In fact, it’s the indie ability to innovate that has made the IBPA community so active and so successful. Well-known author James Patterson, who has published almost too many books to count, has used his public platform, his time, and his own money, to support booksellers, readers, and the publishing community in general. Here are some recent thoughts from Patterson, taken from his remarks upon receiving the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes’ 2015 Innovator’s Award in April 2016.

Some people would say, to some extent rightly, that “publishing” and “innovation” don’t belong in the same sentence. And that’s what I think makes this award so interesting and so vital.

Book publishing, and newspaper publishing I think, badly, badly needs to innovate. What was the last major publishing innovation—the paperback? Libraries need to innovate—it’s not about “shhh.” I work with Scholastic and we try to give away a lot of money to school libraries. Scholastic put the word out—this is amazing—we got 28,000 pleas for help in 10 days. And that shows you what the problem is. Almost every plea was, “We haven’t been able to buy books in seven or eight years, and we no longer have a librarian,” and that’s sick. Bookstores need to innovate, to be more inviting, to be more inclusive.

Children’s publishing needs to innovate: We have to get our kids reading and loving to read. It’s just essential. If kids in elementary school and middle school don’t become at least competent readers, how are they going to get through high school? Look, we can’t solve a lot of the problems in the world, such as things with the environment. But we can get a huge number of kids in this country reading. We can do this.

I promise that whatever I did to win this award, I promise to do even more this year, which is kind of scary. And it should be scary to all of you.

I am introducing something called BookShots this summer. These books will be under 150 pages, under $5—they’re very fast-paced stories. A little like reading a movie. And I think, I don’t know this for sure, I think BookShots will get a lot of people reading more because it’s not quite as daunting a thing, and a lot of people just don’t feel they have time in this crazy world to read longer books all the time. I think it will get more people into bookstores.

A writer in the New York Times quipped that “BookShots was like McDonald’s expanding its market through intravenous injections of salt, sugar, and fat,” and I thought that was very funny. However, the writer at the Times hadn’t actually read any BookShots, so the writer kind of missed the point. I think the interesting thing about this innovation is these are actually stories with less fat. OK? That’s the difference.

Thank you so very, very much for this award.

James Patterson is an American author known for his Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, and Women’s Murder Club series, among others. Patterson has sold more than 350 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness world record for the most number one New York Times bestsellers.

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