“What’s this all about? Can you get a job? Yes. Is it harder? Yes,” Patterson, 75, told the British newspaper. “It’s even harder for older writers. You don’t meet a lot of 52-year-old white men. “
Now Patterson is facing backlash from critics and writers who say the author has blatantly ignored recent data showing that the publishing industry “was and remains a business owned by white men.” In a Penguin Random House diversity self-audit, the publisher found that around 75 percent of the contributors during this period were white. Just 6 percent were black, while 5 percent were Hispanic, the exam shows. The company also acknowledged that more than 74 percent of its employees were white.
Post Reports: “Publishing is still a business owned by white men”
A 2019 survey by children’s publisher Lee and Low Books found that 85 percent of publisher employees who acquire and edit books are white. A 2020 New York Times report found a similar result across the US publishing industry, with 89 percent of the books written in 2018 being written by white authors.
“James Patterson, of all people,” best-selling author Roxane Gay tweeted. “First of all, write your own books, mate.”
Patterson uses ghostwriters to help him release multiple titles a year.
A Patterson representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Tuesday.
With more than 300 titles published, Patterson is one of the most prolific authors in the publishing world. He has sold more than 400 million copies of his books, with the New Yorker this week praising Patterson as “the world’s best-selling author.” His 260 New York Times bestsellers led to Publisher’s Weekly naming him the best-selling author since 2005.
Forbes reported in 2018 that Patterson had an estimated net worth of $800 million, which linked him to golfer Tiger Woods. According to Forbes, Patterson earned an estimated $70 million in 2019 alone, trailing only JK Rowling.
While hundreds of millions have bought his books, critics and authors have commented on Patterson’s writing style and use of ghostwriters to help him publish multiple titles a year. Patterson told The Washington Post in 2016 that his simple and declarative style was meant to “turn on the movie projectors in our heads.”
“I took the fat out of commercial novels,” he said at the time. “There’s more to an awful lot of novels than there should be.”
James Patterson doesn’t usually write his books. And most of his new readers aren’t reading—yet.
Patterson’s rise to fame was partly due to the success of his “Alex Cross” series, in which a fictional black detective takes on threats against his family and Washington. The series led to three films, in which actor played Morgan Freeman Cross in “Kiss the Girls” and “Along Came a Spider.”
As The Sunday Times observed the early success of a series starring a black protagonist, Patterson noted that race played no role in the development of one of his most memorable characters.
“I just wanted to create a character that happens to be black,” Patterson said. “I wouldn’t have tried to write a serious saga about a black family. It’s different in a detective story because the plot is so important.”
In addition to his comments on white men in publishing, Patterson condemned the decision of his own publisher, Hachette Book Group, to drop Woody Allen’s memoir in 2020 after employees protested the book over long-standing allegations of sexual abuse by the famed director. Allen’s memoir Apropos of Nothing was eventually picked up by Arcade Publishing.
“I hated that,” Patterson said as Allen’s book was pulled out. “He has the right to tell his own story.”
Patterson added, “I’m almost always on the side of free speech.”
But much of the attention of Patterson’s interview focused on his claim that white men have trouble finding publishing jobs. Gina Denny, Associate Editor at TouchPoint Press, written down that when USA Today reported Patterson’s comments, only nine authors on the paper’s list of 150 bestsellers were non-white authors. Three of Patterson’s titles made the list, while only five women of color and four men of color made the bestseller list. The rest were white men between the ages of 36 and 84, Denny said — and some of the white men on the list are long dead.
“Dead white men are statistically just as likely to be on the USA Today bestseller list as people of color,” says Denny wrote.
Several black writers took offense at Patterson’s comments, including Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, author of This is Why I Resist.
“What a stupid statement from James Patterson. The best thing he can do is get books and find out what racism is,” she said wrote. “He misses the good old days when white men had ALL writing jobs?”
Frederick Joseph noted that 20 publishers turned down “Patriarchy Blues,” which became a bestseller last month, because it said Publishers “didn’t think people would buy a black man’s book about patriarchy.”
“James Patterson believes white men in publishing face racism.” wrote Joseph, who wrote two bestsellers. “From a black man who turned down over 50 books (all of which are bestsellers now) because white editors don’t understand them or ‘already have black male authors’ … shut up.”
Joseph added“Support black writers.”
Meanwhile, Patterson continues to sell. His autobiography, James Patterson by James Patterson, was released last week, and his March bestseller, Run, Rose, Run, was recently picked up by Sony Pictures, according to Deadline.