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View Full Version : A New Market for Novellas? James Patterson's Bookshots



Kylabelle
03-22-2016, 07:03 PM
James Patterson, referred to as a "publishing institution" this morning in my LitHub email, has plans to start a new line of short punchy novels that can be read in one sitting.

Here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/22/business/media/james-patterson-has-a-big-plan-for-small-books.html

Reviving the "dime novel" sort of thing, according to the NYT.

I know there's a lot of strong feeling about Patterson and his team of writers (36 now, according to that same article) but I used to be able to pick up a good read in the grocery store for a few bucks and I personally would enjoy the return of that convenience.

Patterson says of these that reading them will be like reading a movie. Heh.

He plans to expand this line to include similarly brief nonfiction books as well, later in the year.

Chris P
03-22-2016, 07:09 PM
I have personally been surprised the ereaders and the popularity of blogs and internet news hasn't signalled a large-surge in novella and short story popularity. Perhaps it will take a big name like Patterson to back it.

Jamesaritchie
03-22-2016, 10:52 PM
Strong feelings about Patterson is right. I think he's everything that's wrong with writing, with business, and with capitalism. No thanks.

veinglory
03-22-2016, 11:22 PM
The reference seems to be to e-books where novella length is already routine. For example I have written around twenty e-books in the general area of fantasy and/or gay romance. Only four of them are longer than 40,000 words. I had found that 30-40,000 words was the sweet spot for per word profitability. (In recent years the pricing models have changed so that may no longer be true.)

Kylabelle
03-23-2016, 03:39 AM
The article does refer to digital books but toward the end, there's this:


Still, no one has tried to apply the same bite-size commercial fiction model to print, at least not in a sustained way. It is tough to sell a single short story in print. And while some of the most beloved American literary classics are novella-length works — John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” — the format has largely fallen out of favor with publishers, who make much of their money from hardcover books, which have higher profit margins and tend to get better store placement.
“Little tiny books don’t stand out in the store,” Mr. Pietsch said. “They’re hard to see, and they’re hard to get media attention for. They’re economically difficult."


Hachette is betting that Mr. Patterson is famous enough to overcome those obstacles.


Which seems to be saying print books are the objective. At least in part.

Taylor Harbin
03-23-2016, 05:37 AM
Stephen King and Neil Gaiman have both published novellas in print, albeit after they became guaranteed returns on their publishers' investments. I've only written one true novella, but it was years ago and it was rubbish. My last attempt was a novelette around 9,000 words. Tor.com was suppose to be accepting novellas, but last I heard, they are closed to all unsolicited material.

I would like to see them come back into print, but I understand why they haven't.

Rhoda Nightingale
03-23-2016, 07:42 PM
I would love for this to become a thing--novella is my default story length. I can push things longer or shorter if I absolutely have to, because Market Demands, but man would I love to stop doing that.

MarkEsq
04-14-2016, 01:15 AM
I didn't see a thread about this and was curious if any of my fellow MTS-ers had run into or thought about participating in his new project. Basically, you co-write a short (30k or so) book, according to his guidelines and outline, and you get a flat fee, no royalties. My agent emailed me about it, but concluded:

"A bunch of my agent friends and I have been discussing it and feel, after we saw the attached, there's not much in it for the author. Some agents feel, at the very least, there's exposure for the co author. But I'm not so sure of that; who ever remembers a Patterson co author's name? I asked XXX how he felt about it and he said, when he was a buyer for B&N, he didn't pay much attention to the cowriter's name, and didn't think readers did, either. He did say things may have changed but I don't think so."


Here are the guidelines:

Consideration Guidelines

BookShots refers to James Patterson’s new line of short form fiction, featuring thrillers and romance stories that run approximately thirty thousand words or less.

There are three ways to be considered for the BookShots program.



The potential coauthor is given an outline by James Patterson.
The potential coauthor is given a logline (a brief summary of the plot idea) by James Patterson.
The potential coauthor submits original material to be considered for development.


THE MATERIALS
A potential coauthor who has been given an outline by James Patterson is responsible for the following materials at the first step:

The first two chapters of the book as a sample (approximately one thousand words per chapter).

A potential coauthor who has been given a logline by James Patterson is responsible for the following materials at the first step:

An outline summarizing each chapter, as well as the fully written first two chapters of the book. The outline should consist of roughly one paragraph per chapter, moving both characters and story forward in each.

A potential coauthor with an original pitch is responsible for the following materials at the first step:

A one-page “pitch,” outlining where the story goes.

If this one-page pitch is acceptable to James Patterson, the potential coauthor will submit the following:

An outline summarizing the plot points of each chapter, as well as the first two chapters of the book, by way of a writing sample.

We will review any submitted materials in a timely manner.

THE WRITING
The writing should be in the style and voice of James Patterson books: short, sharp paragraphs and chapters. Each chapter should move the characters and story forward while turning on the movie projector in the reader’s head.

THE TIMELINE
There will be a 90-day deadline to complete the project, with installments due monthly.

CONTRACT DETAILS
This is a work-for-hire with James Patterson, a fixed fee, non-royalty, non-negotiable contract.

Shared cover credit will be offered.


THE BOOKSHOTS TEAM AT HACHETTE BOOK GROUP:
Bill Robinson, BookShots Editorial Director, Bill.Robinson@hbgusa.com, 212.364.1256
Laura Fazio, BookShots Editor, Laura.Fazio@hbgusa.com, 212.364.1355
Trish Daly, BookShots Editor, Trish.Daly@hbgusa.com, 212.364.1263
Sasha Henriques, Editorial Assistant, Sasha.Henriques@hbgusa.com, 212.364.1473


Thank you!


The BookShots Team at Hachette Book Group

GailD
04-14-2016, 01:42 PM
That's very interesting, Mark. I'm currently reading a Patterson co-authored book and I wondered how that worked. Thanks for sharing this. :)


ETA: And yes, I had to go and check the co-author's name. I hadn't really paid attention to it before. I think your agent has a point.

Kylabelle
04-14-2016, 02:09 PM
There is a brief discussion about this here. (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?317229-A-New-Market-for-Novellas)

Thanks for sharing the details, Mark. The article I linked in the earlier thread indicates the project will expand into non-fiction as well at some point.

heyjude
04-14-2016, 06:04 PM
Thanks for the information, Mark! I'm going to port this over to Roundtable for a merge with that thread for a wider audience...

Kylabelle
04-14-2016, 06:15 PM
After looking at those details, I have to agree, for the co-authors there is not a lot of benefit. I'll be interested to see where this goes.

Laer Carroll
04-15-2016, 09:29 PM
I think we should look beyond the immediate issues.

If this novella minibook effort works, other better venues for novellas may evolve. Many a time I've come up with a story that works best in a novella length, but had no channel in which it could thrive, as magazines as a fiction outlet have pretty much been marginalized. I doubt I'm the only one.

Laer Carroll
04-16-2016, 06:26 AM
Novella-sized books are still around, as I was reminded this afternoon when I went to the supermarket. Passing by the bookshelves I noticed something I'd seen so often that it was invisible to me. This was a wire rack of paperbacks.

This one contained "category romance" novels. The size was about 4x7 inches, one size smaller than mass-market paperbacks of about 5x8 inches. And thin, maybe half that of usual MMPBs.

The covers fell into several categories. Men in plaid kilts carrying or wearing swords, men in cowboy hats, surgical wear, three-piece business suits, and so on. (Missing were sheiks wearing robes, which I vaguely recall used to be very popular, and a lot were of nerdy but hunky types wearing glasses - such are the signs of the times.) And an awful lot of the men were bare-chested with big man-boobs and washboard abs.

Then I remembered the paperbacks several decades ago. They were of the 5x8 size but where thinner than those of today. The text was also bigger. I seem to recall that the stories were shorter too. Ace double novels were a little fatter, but that was because they had two books bound into one, each upside down to the other.

So maybe JP's line will increase the markets for novellas. Couldn't happen soon enough for me.

L. OBrien
04-16-2016, 07:54 AM
1. I still haven't forgiven James Patterson for his attempt to write YA books, yet I can totally see the appeal in coauthoring with him. If that's what it took for my book to sell, I'd probably do it. But it's still really interesting to see the guidelines laid out like that. I'd never thought of it as being such an industry.

2. For some reason I thought Novellas had picked up with ebooks, since word count is more flexible when printing isn't an issue. Guess I was wrong, though I wouldn't mind seeing them make a comeback (and maybe finally having a market for my trunk novella, which I put aside after finding literally zero paying markets for horror novellas).

InspectorFarquar
04-16-2016, 08:56 PM
CONTRACT DETAILS
This is a work-for-hire with James Patterson, a fixed fee, non-royalty, non-negotiable contract.

I wonder what the "fixed fee" might be? Has anyone heard any speculation?

MarkEsq
04-18-2016, 09:16 PM
I wonder what the "fixed fee" might be? Has anyone heard any speculation?


Right, that's what I'd like to know. Whether or not I would do this depends on that entirely and I have no idea whether it's $500 or $50,000.

Melville
04-19-2016, 01:49 AM
Well, closer to $500 than $50,000 -- I heard $750 for the first one provided your audition piece wins out against all the other competitors who will be given the exact same set of instructions. The most important thing is being able to replicate the Patterson style and to write what you're told to based on an outline in a very timely manner. They aren't interested in publishing your plots, your characters, or prose in your style, but in those who writers who can contribute effortlessly to the Patterson brand. A writer-for-hire is not the same thing as an individual author -- not even close.

If the new line of books prove successful, there will possibly be a higher flat rate, but nowhere near what the full-length stable of (elite) co-writers get.

That's what I heard anyway... if someone has heard more details or something else entirely, please let us know!

AnneGlynn
04-19-2016, 04:11 AM
"A bunch of my agent friends and I have been discussing it and feel, after we saw the attached, there's not much in it for the author. Some agents feel, at the very least, there's exposure for the co author. But I'm not so sure of that; who ever remembers a Patterson co author's name? I asked XXX how he felt about it and he said, when he was a buyer for B&N, he didn't pay much attention to the cowriter's name, and didn't think readers did, either. He did say things may have changed but I don't think so."

I'm not a fan of the Patterson-ization of publishing, either, and will steadfastly avoid his latest venture, both as a writer and a reader. While I don't believe there's much upside to the exposure aspect of this project -- as GailD said, who pays attention to the co-writer? -- there are a couple of goodies to be gathered by whoever does want to play in this playground.

You get to tell friends and family forever-after that you've written "with" James Patterson, even if you've done all the writing (this would impress my mother and, I suspect, others...until they found out how little you made), and you will likely be able to add "best-selling author" the next time you pitch a project.

Laer Carroll
04-19-2016, 05:42 AM
This kind of work wouldn't appeal to me. I would suggest to writer friends why this kind of work might not be very profitable for them, moneywise or for all the other dubious benefits other posters in this thread have mentioned.

However, I refuse to tell other writers how to manage their careers. For some this might be just what they need and want. I especially would not look down on them for "selling out" or working with that evil James Patterson. Each of us is different & so our career paths are different.

PeteMC
04-19-2016, 06:41 PM
I don't really have an opinion on Patterson or his process but I have to say that $750 for 30k words, or 2.5c a word, is flat-out insulting.

ishtar'sgate
04-21-2016, 03:51 AM
And yes, I had to go and check the co-author's name. I hadn't really paid attention to it before. I think your agent has a point.

I have. If I enjoy the book, I check out the author and see what else they've written on their own. I realize they're restricted by Patterson's requirements and find it interesting to check out their personal style.