If I asked 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 you’d come up with the right answer. And yet he’s a man whose had more bestsellers over the past five years, than all those four – combined!
His name is James Patterson, and it’s ‘own up to ignorance time’ for me, because I’d never even heard of him until yesterday. Which is a bit worrying because he sells over £60 million worth of books a year. I must pay more attention.
Anyway, what’s interesting is how he does it, because it carries with it, some invaluable insight for anyone who wants to make a great deal of money – no matter what the field.
Unlike most other authors, Patterson doesn’t stick to one genre. He creates books that he thinks people will buy, irrespective of the genre. So he starts with the market, and then creates products to fit. Very few authors do this, and not enough business people do it either. They fall in love with a product rather than a market. This is a big mistake. A so-so product put into the right market will always make more money than a fantastic one put into the wrong one.
Patterson doesn’t write books he likes, or even ones he would want to read himself. He creates books that the maximum number of people will want to buy.
Once he’s identified a ‘hot’ market, he knows that output is going to be critical to capitalising on the opportunity. So rather than operate like most authors who agonise over every word for years, he employs a team of co-writers who work to his brief and produce the first drafts. This enables him to work fast ~ getting up to six books a year out on the market. So he never has all his eggs in one basket at any one time – and he has plenty of baskets.
That’s another valuable lesson no matter what business you’re in. If you insist on doing everything yourself, it’s very difficult to fully capitalise on an opportunity, or indeed to create multiple revenue streams. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
James Patterson is an author, but he’s clearly very much an entrepreneur too. I’m not in a position to comment on his ability as a writer, but my guess is that there are many others out there of equal talent who are struggling to make a living – let alone raking in sales of over £60 million a year. The difference is that he finds out what the market wants, gives it to them in volume, milks it for all it’s worth ~ and then is adaptable enough to move on to the next ‘big thing’ when a new opportunity presents itself.
When you take that approach, almost any idiot can make money…
And I should know!