There's no stopping James Patterson—his appeal, that is. Even when the megaselling thriller writer with a record 39 New York Times bestsellers to his credit is writing for a narrower audience—in this case young adults—his readership has proven so loyal that the YA designation is almost meaningless. So Little, Brown has repositioned those Patterson titles originally conceived as YA, and the move is paying off. The publisher's recent decision to market the fourth installment in Patterson's Maximum Ride series, which stars a band of teenage adventurers with special powers, as an adult hardcover, resulted in the best first week of sales ever for the series, which began in 2005.

According to Little, Brown executive v-p and publisher Michael Pietsch, the rebranding is the result of a challenge Patterson issued the publisher after hearing back from fans of the series—many of whom were adults. To confirm the author's sense of the “Maximum Ride” demographic, Pietsch says Little, Brown commissioned research that showed that 80% of Maximum Ride purchasers were over 25 years old, and half of the readers were 35 or over. And with six million copies sold in the series, Patterson asked Little, Brown to come up with a plan that could further capitalize on his adult appeal. In response, Little, Brown has revamped the cover art for the fourth book, The Final Warning, deemphasized the series aspect of the book, changed the price point from $16.99 (for Saving the World, Maximum Ride #3) to $20.00 (for The Final Warning) and come up with a new label, “James Patterson Pageturners,” all intended to get the books to appeal across all ages, says Pietsch. Patterson himself came up with the tagline “for readers age 10 to 110,” which is now featured on the books' covers. And the hope is that these steps, coupled with better in-store placement, will move more copies. “In book sales, geography is important,” adds Robert Barnett, the Williams & Connolly lawyer who represents Patterson in book negotiations. “Many times books get labeled by where they live. To the extent we can put the books in the front of store as well as in the YA section, we'll appeal to more readers.” So far, given The Final Warning's robust sales, there's no indication that chains are balking at this transition in position. “The chains have been extraordinarily supportive of this,” Pietsch says, “as they are with all of James Patterson's initiatives.”

Little, Brown has three more Maximum Ride books under contract; “there's no end in sight,” assures Pietsch. In addition, Patterson has another new Pageturner series (also originally conceived as YA) debuting this summer with a book called The Dangerous Days of Daniel X; there are two more Daniel X titles under contract. (The prolific Patterson is still under contract for his Alex Cross and Women's Murder Club novels for years to come, with four titles coming out in 2008 alone, including the just-released Sundays at Tiffany's.)

And though all future Maximum Ride and Daniel X books will debut as Little, Brown adult titles, that doesn't mean that those originally targeted young readers have been forgotten, Pietsch says. Six months after hardcover publication, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers will issue those books as trade paperbacks aimed at kids—that is, if those readers somehow missed the earlier, prominently displayed hardcovers. “Even kids go through the front of the store,” says Pietsch.

The front of the store is key. Publishers can pay for such placement, but books that make the adult hardcover lists, as Patterson's books inevitably do, are almost automatically accorded such treatment. Whether landing on the adult list triggers a bestseller clause for Patterson is a question neither Pietsch nor Barnett would comment upon, but rising to his mega-author's challenge has posed at least one wrinkle for Pietsch: both the Times and PW will continue to report the Maximum Ride series on their children's bestseller lists. “We knew it would be complicated,” says Pietsch. But his hope is that with the start of the Daniel X series this summer, those sales will be reflected on adult lists. PW determines which list a book is eligible for depending on how retailers report sales—as adult or children's.