A Big Bet on a Short Book

By Natalie Bozimowski

James Patterson, the mega-bestselling author of thriller novels including Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls, on Monday launched a new paperback imprint called BookShots in midtown Manhattan.

With his new imprint - a division of publishing house Little, Brown and Company - Patterson hopes to bring literature back to the aisles of convenience stores, delivering an easily digestible literary experience to those who don’t have the time or inclination to read a long novel. BookShots will publish books of 150 pages or less, for no more than five dollars each.

The experience of BookShots will be like “reading a hit movie,” Patterson said at a press conference yesterday at The London NYC hotel. The books will be available in traditional literary spaces like bookstores, as well as drugstores and potentially gas stations and airports in the future. 

Patterson’s short novel idea is not entirely new to an American literary landscape in which short stories and novellas are an established and popular part of the canon. However, BookShots says its endeavor is different in that it presents all of the elements of a novel delivered straight to the reader in a more efficient fashion. “They’re the Uber of books,” claimed Patterson.

On Monday, the author described his strategy of cutting “out the parts that a lot of people skim” in the process of writing for the imprint. As one of America's best-selling novelists, he is aware of the challenges facing long-form print in a world increasingly dominated by smartphones and social media. But he is confident there is demand for entertaining, fast-paced mass-market short fiction and nonfiction. As much as 24 BookShots are planned for 2016.

"Short is the new black"

"The world gave me the idea," Patterson told The Literary Show Project on Monday. "People have less time on their hands and the idea of books that are fully realized in 100-150 pages - that fly like the wind - and at a price that everybody can afford... There’s nothing like it."

“I will put this up against the two hours that people spend on social media and see which one’s actually more fun and more enjoyable,” he said. “These are good stories,” Patterson insisted when asked about the literary merits of these books despite the fast-paced production.  The story, “you tell it, people love it, and there it is.”

The books are already finding success in Australia, where they were released one week earlier than in America, just like in England. “I’m a little addicted to bestsellers,” confessed Patterson, one of the most widely-read authors in the world with more than 300 million copies of his books sold since his first novel in 1976.

“The problem publishers face more than any other is ‘people not reading,’" says Brian O’Leary, founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting. “Trying new prices, formats and channels to break through and get more people reading is a good thing.”

In America this month Patterson will release his own short novel Cross Kill. The book stars his popular fictional character Alex Cross, the detective who appears in some of Patterson’s most famous psychological thrillers including Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls, which were both adapted into major motion pictures starring Morgan Freeman.

The imprint will be focused on three genres: thriller, nonfiction and romance with the possibility of expansion to others such as Young Adult in the future.  Currently available in English only, French and Italian translations will be offered in 2017. Patterson has also raised the prospect of a “KidShots” brand if the format takes off.

For book and publishing expert Dr. Judith Briles, “short is the new black.”