Why Did James Patterson’s BookShots Fail?

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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.

Format

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.

Substance

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.

Co-Authors

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.

Accessibility

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 his saying this was an entirely new category destined these stories for obscurity as there was no existing place to put them in bookstores.

Price

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

7 thoughts on “Why Did James Patterson’s BookShots Fail?

  1. I always enjoy James Patterson’s work and co authors no matter
    How I getit. Yes the full lengthy novels have more substance,but you can’t read one in 2 hours either. I loved the bookshops that were already characters we knew(Alex cross,women’s murder club,Harriet blue)have is something to read inbetween novels.I loved how they set up the new novel we would be waiting for. Now that is suspense.As long as he keeps writing suspense I am happy. Bookshops were a great idea but he must know what he is doing,thanks for wtiting.😁

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’m a Patterson fan as well and I’m currently listening to the audiobook version of Private, which, so far, is good.

  2. My wife had picked up three 2016 BOOKSHOTS at a Friends of the Library (used book) sale – and they were overlooked for years while I read full-size detective series. I began reading CHASE while I waited for my wife’s hospital test to finish (and in 2 hours read half). I’m now reading Christmas Mystery after reading the beginning of HUNTED.

    I can see why Patterson’s idea of placing racks of Bookshops in checkout aisles didn’t work – because one side is taken up with racks of magazines and the other with racks of single candy bars for impulse purchases. Shelf space sells at a premium in grocery stores, and distributors don’t welcome new brands.

    Ideal selling places would be gift shops at Airports (something to read on 2 hour domestic flights or 8 hour international ones instead of movies), Hotels (something to read before bed), Bus Depots (something to read on long interstate buses) or even tollway/interstate gas/food stops (something for passengers to read in the car, if they don’t get car sick). Best of all, they’d fit into carry-on luggage (unlike fatter books) or large purses.

    Another selling place might be from custom-sized stand-alone vending machines at Airports, Hotels, Bus Depots (maybe shrink-wrapped or taped so books would fall cleanly from the display into the trough below). If priced at say $5 US and included sales tax). They could be purchased using mobile apps or even buying tokens.

    • Yeah, it’s a missed opportunity. I enjoyed them. But it’s too hard to differentiate between them and novellas or short stories.

  3. As a new writer (I never planned to become one until COVID lockdown) who is struggling to put together a full-length mystery draft (while learning the trade), I’d welcome publishing in the novella-sized BOOKSHOT format, if it was sold in the places I’d suggested in my earlier comments and I got a ‘fair split’ (say $2 out of every $5 selling price) since it wouldn’t take much sales support from the publisher – and the right to publish a longer version. (A Bookshot format would be ideal size to sell at Hospital gift shops and read in waiting rooms, patient rooms because of its small size, light weight, low cost, and quick-readability.)

    Just reading one got me excited and thinking maybe I should be writing more in a smaller (quick-read) format rather than competing in the full-size formats (hard cover, paperback or trade softcover, eBook, audiobook, ….) with Patterson and others. Many brand new, first time “hobby” fledgling writers like me can “pretend” to be authors?

    While BOOKSHOT is owned (but abandoned) by a publisher, I don’t think anyone will sue me for copycatting the idea using a different label?

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