Monday, May 20, 2013

How James Patterson Made 94 Million Dollars Last Year

by Gretchen Archer, @Gretchen_Archer
I don’t have a clue. He probably doesn’t either. I’m sure there are forensic accountants, Schedule Cs, and colorful pie charts with the secret formula for how this man, in today’s publishing climate, earned so much money by simply putting pencil to paper (they say he writes-outlines-edits long hand on legal pads), but I bet there’s no one-sentence explanation. “Mr. Patterson, it was the Alex Cross fleece booties that shot you from Forbes Stinking Rich to Forbes Obscenely Loaded.”
The only logical answer? James Patterson supplies a high-demand product to an eager and willing consumer. That’s how he does it. Who’s next? Who will be the next J.K., Danielle, John Grisham? I hope it’s not me. I don’t want to be the next Gillian Flynn or E.L. James, either, but for different reasons, and not because I hate going to the bank, something they must be doing a lot of, too. It’s because, having read both Ms. Flynn and Ms. James (kudos, ladies) I know I could never do what they’ve done (in the first place) without giving up my life. For me to go that deep, I’d have to shut off everything and everyone, and what if, when I dug out, everything and everyone were gone?
Which brings me to a terrible confession: I’m not in it for the money. I write with the luxury of knowing  there will be dinner on the table and lights on in my house if I bring in Sandra Brown numbers or, like many other happy writers, I don’t.
I’m in it for the fun. Writing is fun.
I write, entirely, for my own amusement. While there’s an underlying message in my Davis Way Crime Caper Series—you can’t have something for nothing—my solitary goal, when staring at the blank screen, is to entertain myself.
Maybe I need to get out more.
Plot is fun. For whatever reasons, because I couldn’t drum up a hotel sewing kit if James Patterson were standing in front of me holding a critical runaway button, I think of plot in terms of thousands of colorful strands of loose, wispy threads all around me, and my goal is to gather and assemble and weave them in such a way that they come together in a strong, affecting, and charming design. (Side note: I think of editing as someone saying the light lavender strand, that I love, and spent forever plaiting in, looks horrible.)
Characters are fun. I have the pleasure of taking all the good I’m surrounded by and giving it to my characters. I do the same with my bad guys. The parents who blame everything and everyone but themselves for their child’s rotten grades-Sailor language-haircut—in the book. The friend who won’t stop making harrowing relationship decisions—in the book.  The desperate man having a very public meltdown at the bank when he’s the one who bounced the checks—in the book.
The research is fun, because learning is fun. For DOUBLE DIP (Henery Press, January, 2014), I learned about French food, slot tournaments, bananas, mega churches, and waste management. Which didn’t do a thing for my cash flow, but I really enjoyed it.
Outside of the writing process, the people are fun. If you’re not working with people who make your life and your work a better place, get new ones. I’m surrounded by the greatest group of people imaginable. I’d have never met them had it not been for the writing, and they’re worth more to me than money. Above all, they’re fun.
You’ll read next week that Mr. Patterson’s 18th release (this year) has been knocked out of the NYT’s #1 spot by none other than Mr. Patterson himself, with his 19th. Be happy for him. Go, James, go! Rake it in! 
Gretchen Archer is a Tennessee housewife who began writing when her daughters, seeking higher educations, left her. She lives on Lookout Mountain with her husband, son, and a Yorkie named Bently. DoubleWhammy is her first Davis Way Crime Caper.

Double Whammy: Davis Way hits the jackpot when she lands a job at the fabulous Bellissimo Resort and Casino, but only if she can steer clear of her ex-ex husband, her evil twin, and pesky felony indictments.