If you haven't been reading the New York Times recently (and honestly, who could blame you? It's effectively turned into a lifestyle magazine), they've got a nifty article on the book machine that is James Patterson. Some fun facts, in tried-and-true patented Bullet-O-Vision™:
· Since 2006, one out of every seventeen novels purchased in the U.S. has been written by James Patterson. This includes 51 NYT best sellers, 35 of which went to #1.
· His recent book sales (in dollars) exceed those of John Grisham, Dan Brown, and Stephen King. Combined.
· According to Forbes magazine, Patterson apparently earned $500 million dollars for Hachette over the past two years. (The publisher disputes these numbers.)
· Patterson's current average: nine new hardcovers per year.
· In order to keep up this manic pace, Patterson has a stable of co-authors (at least five) whom he pays out-of-pocket to write many of his books (based on his outlines, of course).
Now, before you rush off to build your own sprawling media empire, it's important to note two things:
1.) You are not James Patterson. Repeat after me: "I am not James Patterson."
2.) Patterson has been steadily building his own massive media presence over the past 35 years, and while he did start off quite modestly, he has succeeded because he's been so relentless about marketing himself.
If you read the article, you'll see just how far Patterson goes and has gone to promote himself and his books: he's involved in virtually every step of the process, effectively serving as a member of his own publishing team. While you almost certainly won't be expected (or even necessarily allowed) in your own publisher's marketing and sales meetings at first, I cannot stress enough the importance of taking interest in the financial aspect of your career. Think about your current day job: do you ignore your paycheck, your stock options, your 401(k) statements? Being a writer who desires to make a living as such but eschews the business side of the job is no different.
In short: writing is art, ladies and gents, but if you want to make a living doing it, it is also necessarily a business. Be relentless. Take an active interest in the advertising, sales, and marketing aspects of your book(s). I'm not asking you to let your writing take a back seat to the, shall we say, "pimping"—I'm just asking you to be on your own publicity team.