Working With James Patterson: BookShots Authors Tell All
In June James Patterson launched his BookShots imprint, and since then more than one million copies of these bite-sized thrillers have been sold. I recently spoke with two of the authors who’ve written books for this imprint: Brendan DuBois and Erin Knightley.
Both DuBois and Knightley told me that they’ve never directly communicated with James Patterson on the books they’ve written for the BookShots imprint. While DuBois is listed as a co-author and Knightley is listed as the sole author of her BookShots title, Patterson weighs in on everything they write and he does so via an intermediary: an editor. As with his full-length novels, the BookShots authors write the books in chunks and submit these chunks to Patterson’s editor, who then shares them with the world’s best-selling author so he can provide feedback. According to DuBois, a Jeopardy champion, “I’ve never met or directly communicated with James Patterson.” However, he did say that, “I receive feedback on what I’ve written very quickly, sometimes within just a few days.” A former Patterson collaborator who I recently spoke with told me that he did meet with Patterson multiple times during their writing partnership and that he’d regularly speak with him on the phone, so they could discuss the direction of their projects. While it seems that Patterson no longer has the time to directly communicate with the authors that he writes with or those who write for him under the BooksShots Flames series, it clearly hasn’t had a negative impact on his sales. Forbes recently reported that, for the third year in a row, he is the world’s highest-paid author, generating $95 million in sales. Prior to working with James Patterson on BookShots, both DuBois and Knightley had established themselves as successful authors with multiple books bearing their names. Knightley’s work is predominantly focused on romance while DuBois’ leans more toward the mystery and thriller genres. Despite their success, neither of them achieved James Patterson-level name recognition. So, I was curious, how did James Patterson discover them in the first place? Patterson first became aware of Knightley because her sister, Kara Holden, who helped write the screenplay for an upcoming movie based on a Patterson book, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, mentioned in a meeting that her sister was a romance author. “At the time, my sister had no idea they were looking for authors for BookShots because it was a top-secret project,” said Knightley. “But they asked my sister if I was any good and she said, ‘Oh, she’s great!’ And it was a case of we’ll have our people contact your people. Later on I learned that my editor knew James Patterson’s editor and it progressed from there.”
DuBois’ story is different. “I owe a lot to Otto Penzler. He’s been in the mystery field for decades. He’s the guy you go to if you have questions. And Otto knew James Patterson’s business partner, Bill Robinson, who told Otto that they were looking for authors for this BookShots series. He asked Otto who he recommended and he mentioned me. Otto told me it was a great opportunity and I agreed,” said DuBois. “After I expressed interest they asked for an idea, a couple sample chapters and a 50-chapter outline detailing where the book is going. And they wanted it in 10 days.” DuBois was able to pull off this amazing feat and his first book was so well received that he was presented with an offer to write several more BookShots. Knightley’s BookShots title, Learning to Ride, also did very well and she’s currently working on a second BookShots title for Patterson.
Knightley and DuBois had only nice things to say about their experience working with Patterson. “It’s made me a better writer,” said Knightley. “It’s been such an enjoyable process, and I’m proud to be a part of it.” DuBois told me that, “This has been an exhilarating experience. Working with Jim has forced me to improve my writing by cutting the fat out and being more nimble,” he said.