Why Did James Patterson’s BookShots Fail?
On June 7, 2016, I reported that James Patterson, the world’s best-selling author, set out to start a revolution in the publishing industry with the launch of his BookShots line. These bite-sized books were marketed as being 150 pages or less and they were priced at $4.99. Patterson said, at the time, that he had 117 ready to go and planned on releasing 50 in 2016. As of right now, only 66 have been published over the past 16 months and there hasn’t been a new thriller in the line since December 2017’s Avalanche. With all signs pointing to this revolution not succeeding you might be wondering, why didn’t BookShots take off the way James Patterson had hoped? Let’s take a look.
BookShots were billed as a new reading format. In reality, they weren’t. Novellas and short stories had been around forever and Kindle Singles were already commonplace in the ebook market. So, there was no competitive advantage that BookShots brought to the table to set themselves apart from the competition in any meaningful way.
Many reviews of BookShots titles included complaints that these stories were superficial and not nearly as satisfying as James Patterson’s full-length novels. For an author who is routinely criticized by readers for paper-thin character development and plots, these short stories only exacerbated an already pervasive problem.
The only books that James Patterson writes without a co-author anymore are the Alex Cross titles. Numerous fans have complained that Patterson’s reliance on co-authors has had a detrimental impact on the quality of his work. All of the BookShots titles were either co-authored or positioned as “James Patterson Presents,” meaning he didn’t write anything at all. Clearly, this is one of the biggest reasons why BookShots failed.
When BookShots were announced, James Patterson said he wanted these to appear alongside magazines at checkout counters in stores. That never happened. And if you go to a Barnes & Noble today, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any BookShots included with Patterson’s full-length novels. Why? My guess is bookstores didn’t buy into his vision, he wasn’t willing to pay for his books to get that kind of placement, and him saying this was an entirely new category destined these stories for obscurity as there was no existing place to put them in bookstores.
Yes, $4.99 is a reasonable price. However, with countless full-length books available for the same price or less through Amazon’s Kindle store, readers weren’t intrigued enough to take the plunge.
I enjoyed James Patterson’s BookShots and it’s a shame the line failed. However, as noted above, it was never positioned properly to succeed. It’s clear that Patterson quickly figured this out as he’s shifted his focus back to full-length novels. It’s important to experiment and that’s what Patterson did. While it didn’t take off the way he’d hoped, some good stories were told and that’s what matters most.