James Patterson’s BookShots and the Future of Novellas

There’s a commercial that’s been showing up occasionally when I watch television. It’s for James Patterson’s BookShots. Patterson is really the only author whose work I’ve regularly seen marketed through TV commercials, so it didn’t surprise me to see his books advertised during regularly scheduled broadcasting. But this wasn’t a new middle school title or a high-octane thriller. It was for BookShots.

What’s BookShots? According to The New York Times, it’s “a new line of short and propulsive novels that cost less than $5 and can be read in a single sitting.” Each BookShot will be less than 150 pages.

They sound a bit like novellas, don’t they? That’s because they are. But the big difference is that Patterson’s BookShots are novellas with a big name author and publisher behind them.  It’s also worth noting that both the print and eBook versions will sell for less than $5. That’s the first time that I’ve seen similar prices for eBooks and their paperback counterparts.

Consider Matt Wallace’s Sin du Jour series for comparison. The eBook version of those novellas cost around $2.99, but the paperback versions are in the neighborhood of $12. Whereas Patterson’s and Andrew Holmes’s Hunted BookShot is available to pre-order for $4.99 as a paperback and $3.99 as an eBook.

When I first realized that BookShots were just novellas with a new, catchy name, it frustrated me. Did the publishing industry really think they need to rebrand novellas to sell them? Novellas have been selling like hotcakes as eBooks for years. They’re a staple of self-publishing, in every genre. Tor Publishing has started putting out a line of novellas, and romance publishers have been selling novellas for years.

But then I read The New York Times article about BookShots. It outlined goals like selling them in places that don’t traditionally sell books–such as supermarkets and drugs stores–and to break into a new population of readers who don’t typically read but will pick up a short, 150 page book.

Attaching James Patterson’s name to this novella line adds a level of recognition. People know who Patterson is, and they’re more likely to pick up a book with his name on the cover than one with an unknown (to them) author.

There’s a lot riding on these books. Because if they do well, then more big publishers will start seriously look at novellas. Not just as eBooks or ancillary content for existing series, but as stand alones or as their own series. That’s exciting. It could open a huge (new) market for writers.

I’m crossing my fingers that BookShots take off. Not just for Patterson, but for me and other writers. It has huge potential to bring novellas into the mainstream. And it could be wonderful for publishing and readers.

 

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