Novelist James Patterson is so prolific, his annual output rivals that of many small publishing houses. Last year, with help from his stable of co-authors, he published 16 novels and sold around 20 million copies of his books.
Now Patterson is seeking to extend his brand further, by creating his own publishing imprint, Jimmy Patterson.
The imprint, which will be part of Little, Brown & Co., will release eight to 12 children’s books a year, with a focus on middle grade and young adult fiction.
Patterson will oversee it all, choosing manuscripts and shaping the marketing plan for each title. He will publish four to six of his own children’s books a year under the new imprint and will acquire books by other writers.
“We’re not going to buy a lot of books, but if we buy them, we’re going to publish them with gusto,” said Patterson, who announced the initiative during BookExpo America, the publishing industry’s annual trade convention.
Patterson, who is best-known for his popular Alex Cross crime novels, has expanded into children’s publishing in recent years, with three young adult series and five middle grade series, including “Treasure Hunters,” “I Funny” and “House of Robots.” His children’s books have sold more than 30 million copies.
“It’s an opportunity for us to expand the voice and reach of a writer who’s already one of the best-selling writers in the world,” said Michael Pietsch, the chief executive of Hachette Book Group, which operates Little, Brown.
A handful of other writers have moved into publishing roles and created their own imprints and book packaging businesses. Author Lizzie Skurnick started a young adult imprint, Lizzie Skurnick Books, which publishes new editions of classic young adult novels dating from the 1930s to the 1980s. Novelists Lauren Oliver and James Frey both created their own book packaging companies, allowing them to acquire and commission works by other writers and sell them to publishers.
Patterson, a former advertising executive who started publishing novels in the 1970s, is particularly well-positioned to run a publishing imprint. His books have sold more than 300 million copies globally. He has published 114 New York Times best sellers, according to his publisher.
He has dedicated part of his fortune to philanthropic projects aimed at increasing literacy and bolstering struggling independent booksellers.
He has given away hundreds of thousands of copies of his children’s books to public school students in Chicago, New York and Baltimore. Last year, he donated more than $1 million to independent bookstores that sell children’s books. This year, he announced plans to give more than $1.5 million to school libraries around the country.
Patterson said he planned to donate his own earnings as the publisher of Jimmy Patterson to his literacy projects and stressed that his goal was not just to sell more books. He aims to make reading habitual for children, by writing and publishing books that “make people turn the pages.”
“I do think I can get a lot more kids reading,” Patterson said. “The mission is simple. Any kid who finishes a Jimmy book will say, ‘Please give me another book.’ ”