One of the world’s richest living writers, James Patterson, said in an interview with The Times on Sunday that white men like him face racism in the publishing, theater, film and television industries. . He described the alleged difficulty faced by the most privileged members of society as “just another form of racism… Can you get a job? Yes. Is it harder? Yes. It’s still harder for older writers. You don’t meet a lot of 52-year-old white men.”

Citing industries almost entirely dominated by white men, Patterson doesn’t have the facts on his side. The respected Lee & Low Books Diversity Baseline Survey reported in its 2019 findings that 76% of the publishing industry is white. According to another 2020 study, 95% of published writers are white. Male writers receive more attention, recognition and income than female writers, with 75% of books rated in the prestigious Times Literary Supplement being written by men. Books about women are less likely to win awards (which can translate into sales). Their titles receive about “half (45%) the price of male authors and are underrepresented in the more prestigious genres”.

On the performance side, a study by the Asian American Performers Action Coalition found that nearly 90% of playwrights whose works were staged during New York’s 2016-17 season were white and male (87, 1% of these performances were directed by white directors). As Playbill reported, “On Broadway alone, 95% of all plays and musicals were written and directed by Caucasian performers,” while 89% of playwrights produced on Broadway were male.

Hollywood has a similar record. In 2019, over 85% of directors were white and over 84% were male. In 2017, only 11% of the top 250 films of the year were written by women.

Luckily Patterson doesn’t publish non-fiction (wait, he does – sort of). Is this an extremely wealthy elderly white person who continues to be disconnected? Yes. Does this racism manifest itself in a crude form? Yes to that too. (It’s also strange that a 75 year old man calls a 52 year old “old man”)

But is this also a publicity stunt from a con expert? Maybe.

RELATED: James Patterson Laments That White Male Writers Face Racism, Then Receives Immediate Backlash

Since 1976, Patterson’s name has been engraved on hundreds of novels you can find in airports; 260 were New York Times bestsellers. He may not even know how many he published, because he did not write them all.

Co-authors fuel his productivity which is, as The New Yorker writes, “the secret of Patterson’s success…Like the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which in the early 20th century produced hundreds of novels for young people readers, featuring characters such as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, Patterson provides detailed outlines for her books. Its co-authors then flesh out these narrative skeletons into episodes of popular series.

When I lived briefly in New York in my twenties, I met one of Patterson’s writers, a young man in a very nice suit. He supported himself and his family through the Patterson machine, but I believe he didn’t write his own work, which is what most writers intended to do.

How does a writer become a brand? It is complicated. But it helps if you’re in the branding business to begin with.

Patterson’s many popular series include the genres of thriller, crime, romance, mystery, comedy, science fiction, children’s books, and YA (he once described his foray into writing for young adults like “I can write for these little creeps”). His Alex Cross books have been adapted into films. Many of his books have been.

Vanity Fair, which once called it the “Henry Ford of books,” says it employs an “army” of co-authors, like the one I met. But The New Yorker points out that, unlike some other writers who rely on ghostwriters, “Patterson credits his co-writers, even though his eminently bankable name appears in much larger type on the covers of their books.”

How does a writer become a brand? It is complicated. But it helps if you’re in the branding business to begin with.

Most don’t even have the final say on titles or covers, especially not the writers of color who Patterson says are so advantaged.

In that same article, Vanity Fair writer Todd Purdum described Patterson as a “publicity nut,” which he was. Patterson had a long early career in advertising, rising from copywriter to CEO of the North American branch of the major international advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. He also worked as a creative director. Among his inventions, the words of the Toys R Us jingle, which will remain engraved in my head until my death: “I don’t wanna grow up. /I’m a Toys R Us kid.

Patterson also conducted the “Aren’t You Hungry?” Burger King campaign, another hugely successful and popular campaign, which included an advertisement featuring Meg Ryan behind a fast food counter.

Patterson worked for 25 years in advertising. (He keeps the industry’s highest award, a Clio, in his office along with writing awards.) He had to learn a few things. When his publisher, Little Brown, refused to do a TV commercial for his book “Along Came a Spider”, Patterson did it himself, ensuring the book’s success.

Patterson’s old life, the advertising business, is, in a sense, the business of jerks.

He helps design his books and their advertising campaigns, which only the most powerful writers in mainstream publications are allowed to do. Most don’t even have the final say on titles or covers, especially not the writers of color who Patterson says are so advantaged.

Patterson knows what he wants and what he does, and while few people, perhaps not even the writer himself, would call what he does art, it’s certainly a financial success. . With a net worth of $750 million, he earns around $90 million a year, owns a beachfront home in Palm Beach and enjoys summering in the Westchester County village of Briarcliff Manor, New York.

But Patterson’s old life, the advertising business, is, in a way, a jerk’s business.


Want a daily recap of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.


From Airborne’s claims that it kills germs (the company had to pay more than $23 million in a class action lawsuit) to cosmetics companies cited for excessive photoshopping to a distorted image of the old customer of Whopper of Patterson, Burger King, ads twist and twist. They tell us what we want or hope to hear – or sometimes, what will fire us up.

As the most famous publicist, Don Draper, who once said he slept “on a bed of silver,” puts it: “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” Try to focus on what you want him to focus on: youas Patterson did with his remarks in yet another interview about this writer who published 15 books last year.

Patterson deceived the world by saying he wrote these books. Has he cheated us again? Does he really believe that white men actually face racism? And/or, is this yet another publicity man gimmick, designed to once again grind the creaky publicity machine, determined to get its name in the press? We’re talking about him, after all. And what do they say about any advertising?

More stories like this