Shelf Awareness of 7 June 2016:

James Patterson’s BookShots Hits Stores Today

Today is publication date in the U.S. for the first two titles in the new BookShots line, a partnership of author James Patterson and his longtime publisher, Little, Brown. At a press conference yesterday, Patterson called the imprint “a very unusual and rare innovation in publishing–an evolution and to some extent a revolution.”

The books are less than 150 pages long, cost less than $5, and are “fast paced and all thriller, no filler,” Patterson said. They’re short enough, he continued, to be read in one sitting, and each chapter, usually no more than a few pages long, “has to move plot and characterization forward.” They’re designed for the many people today who don’t have enough time to read and are put off by the idea of reading a 450-page book. “The time is exactly right for this,” he emphasized, adding, “We need long form books for sure. This hopefully complements them.”

Press conference: NPR’s Michele Norris and James Patterson

Patterson, who has generously supported literacy, bookstores and school libraries, said BookShots titles will get more people into the habit of reading, draw more people into bookstores and, because reading is so beneficial to people, improve people’s lives.

The first two BookShots titles are Cross Kill by Patterson and Zoo 2 by Patterson with Max DiLallo. Each has a first printing of 500,000 and will be offered mainly in bookstores and via Amazon. But just as Patterson wants to expand readership by publishing exciting titles that are quick reads, he also wants to expand distribution. He fondly recalled the many mass market titles that used to be sold in drug stores, and praised Sweden for having books available in so many nontraditional outlets, including gas stations.

Patterson said that booksellers’ reactions have been positive. When “one big supplier” was told about BookShots during the holiday season, he responded, Patterson said, “You’ve just given me my Christmas present.” Another “head buyer” echoed this, saying, “You just gave me my birthday present.” For its part, Amazon said, “Think bigger.”

Next month, BookShots will publish four titles in the U.S., including two romance titles, part of the BookShots Flames romance series that will consist of two titles every other month. BookShots will also publish mysteries and science fiction. In September, it’s publishing a nonfiction title, Trump vs. Clinton: In Their Own Words, which collects the likely presidential candidates’ opinions on a range of subjects. Patterson commented: “If it was a $27 book, I don’t know if I would want it. At $4.99, I do.”

Through the rest of the year, BookShots will publish two to four titles a month. There’s no lack of material: Patterson said yesterday that he has 117 manuscripts “finished or almost finished,” some of which he’s written. For more than 80 books, he wrote outlines of 20-30 pages for others to complete.

Asked how he would measure success for BookShots, Patterson said, “If it’s making money instead of losing money.” He’s decidedly optimistic, adding, “We’ll do well with it.” — John Mutter

When you think about it James Patterson is in effect behaving like a publisher while being rewarded like an author. After all many a publisher has rather heavily “edited” many a book: think Look Homeward, Angel or To Kill a Mockingbird. Mr Patterson gets to select the books, arrange for them to be written by his collaborator team and himself. In a sense he’s hired Little, Brown to finance, produce, and market them. With successful books this has to be the best way: all income, no risk.

After lunch on Thursday I got on my bike and rode the 6 miles there and back to buy a copy. Zoo 2, (or is it Zoo II?, the cover and the interior can’t reach agreement) is pretty good. By the evening I’d finished it; they’re not joking when they say “Stories at the speed of life” at the top of the front cover. Maybe faster. I got to the end exhausted from saving the world again and again, and inclined to shout “God”, or maybe “St James. What the heck? After all I’ve just done you’re going to lay this on me too?” It is a business: the story ends with a hook for yet another sequel or even two. Surprisingly perhaps Barnes & Noble didn’t have the books displayed in the front of the store: I had to ask where to find them. The book is 5″ x 7″, 160pp, printed on a good groundwood at Crawfordsville. It’s got an embossed cover. The back cover tells me it’s available also as an e-book and an audiobook — quite efficient of them. The pricing is interesting: $3.99 for the e-book, $4.99 for the p-book, and $9.98 for the audiobook. This trailer would seem to be addressed to the adventure fan who’d no doubt enjoy Zoo II. Why do we think that that sort of macho-shouty voice is such a good idea in adverts?

One way the internet appears to have affected writing is the fashion of smashing words together with capitals in the middle. BookShots just looks trendier than Book Shots — really? Are we to read shots as shots of liquor: the short to go along with your pint of beer?