Twelve years ago, Ned Rust was the lone employee on James Patterson’s team at Hachette Book Group (then Time Warner Book Group), working as what was then “radically” (as he put it) called a brand manager. At the time, Patterson was publishing two adult titles a year. “People were worried it was just too fast a clip,” Rust said, and that “readers wouldn’t be able to keep up.”
As Patterson became much more prolific—he is expected to publish eight adult titles in 2016—his team at HBG’s Little, Brown division has grown as well. Rust, who was recently promoted to v-p and James Patterson publishing director, heads a group of 16 employees dedicated to Patterson’s publishing efforts, which includes the staff working on Patterson’s new children’s imprint, Jimmy Patterson Books.
On March 21, the new imprint, which published its first title in September, will release its first original book, Jacky Ha-Ha, a middle grade novel by Patterson and Chris Grabenstein. September will see the release of Stalking Jack the Ripper, a debut YA novel by Kerri Maniscalco, the first time an author besides Patterson has been published within the James Patterson division. According to Rust, the changes this year will make Patterson’s prior years look “tame” in terms of “sheer innovation and scale,” though he said that the single-focus of the last decade has given his team a publishing edge.
“Jim’s storytelling instincts and his understanding of what readers want have been the bedrock of this operation’s success,” Rust said. “But I think we’ve also had tremendous advantage over other imprints in finding and honing the best ways to publish books consistently and well because of this very fact—that we’ve been working mostly with one author.” Rust noted that the majority of publishers have to “split their focus looking upstream” to authors and agents, and downstream to booksellers and to readers.
Because of Patterson’s consistency and dedication to Little, Brown and the team, “we’ve been able to focus our attention on the reader-facing side of the publishing process,” Rust said, “the nuts and bolts, the ins and outs of getting books into readers’ hands.” And there’s no questioning Patterson’s reach—the worldwide total sales for Patterson’s three biggest adult series, Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club, and Michael Bennett, are 88 million, 56 million, and 20 million, respectively. Combining his adult and children’s titles, Patterson has sold 325 million books worldwide.
Patterson also touched on the advantage of a consistent working relationship with his partners at the company, saying it was “nice to know people over decades,” while characterizing Hachette staffers as “smart people who love books and are dedicated to getting people reading.”
The team functions much like other imprints with a diverse list of authors—with distinct sales, subrights, art, publicity, editorial, and marketing departments. At the end of January, the unit announced the addition of Erinn McGrath, who decamped from the Knopf publicity department, as publicity manager; Aubrey Poole as editor for Jimmy Patterson Books; and Trish Daly as editor for James Patterson.
In addition to ushering Patterson’s books through to publication, the staffers also oversee media and entertainment partnerships, including those with CBS Films and Scholastic, as well as the author’s literary and philanthropic campaigns, which have grown with the launch of the new imprint—the author’s earnings from Jimmy Patterson will go toward various literacy-related causes. “One of the most innovative things we’re doing is these campaigns that we’ve created to support libraries and independent bookstores,” said Jimmy Patterson’s marketing manager, Sabrina Benun, who is also in charge of Patterson’s philanthropic efforts.
Among Patterson’s donations that have gone to book-related causes are more than $1.5 million to fund reading, education, and professional development programs; $1.75 million to school libraries in 2015; more than $1.5 million to independent bookstores and indie booksellers; and $250,000 for young children and teens to spend at indie bookstores.
As for Patterson’s involvement in the publishing process, the writer brings the “passion and excitement of the proverbial kid in a candy store,” Rust said. “I tend to think the Jimmy character you’ll see attached to this new imprint is no small coincidence,” he added. “He kind of enjoys this book-publishing business, and it shows.”