Let me say this up front, please pardon the rant to come. As a general rule, it isn’t my style to dig into the business of others but I do feel a protective instinct toward my fellow writers—especially the gifted and less experienced among us.
Here it is, a humble opinion for whatever it’s worth. Something really rubs me the wrong way about this James Patterson “co-author competition” and those of its kind every time they spam my social media page. Yes, “there are a lot of people who have the talent.” Ironically, Mr. Patterson is not one of them. And honestly, given his reputation as a notorious hack who outsources every word he puts his name on, I’m not entirely sure why any legitimate new author would risk attaching their name to his for one phantom shot at glory.
Seriously, $90 for what amounts to a lottery ticket granting the winner the “opportunity” to write his next book for him and put your name under his? Let’s have some dignity, guys. The sob stories and con jobs I see littering the comments on these posts only further the reality that this entire scam is a last-ditch dramatic effort, a plea cast into the void that blind luck will work where hard work has failed.
“Oh, Mr. Patterson, you are such a wonderful man and writer…”
“Oh, Mr. Patterson, I have always idolized you and looked up to you, and named my first three children after you…”
Enough! Let’s be clear about this, I don’t begrudge the man his empire built on the backs of others. There is definite genius in his method. Still, I would like to believe that any true author who has the talent and a vision of their own, however rough the road they’ve traveled, values their ability and place in the world more than this. I support the little guy, however big he may become. He (or, of course, she) is the one who did the work and survived the strafing gunfire to crawl back up out of the trenches. The one who made a name of their own without any interest in having someone else do it for them. Why hitch your rising star to a sinking ship? Why pay through the nose for the illusory hope of leveraging your own future to line another’s pockets?
It is “programs” like these that play on the dreams of so many—the quick strike of riches we seem to believe any brush with celebrity surely brings. They blind us to the glaring reality of their substance with frilly promises of things that never will be. They prey on the allure of wealth without the work—perhaps the only skill their kind are truly qualified to teach. But at the end of the day, who wins and who loses?
It is one thing to throw your money at the chance to learn writing from a man notorious for not writing. I doubt that’s the greatest harm that could come of it. No, perhaps the greatest threat of all would be the prospect of actually winning. Of becoming the next in line to have their dream hollowed out, fed on by the vampires of verbiage and then left behind, forgotten, a husk too broken to refill.
Take your chance if you must. Line up, buy a ticket, and pray to the gods of writing that they deliver you the quick score. Offer yourself up as the sacrifice of the day. It’s undoubtedly easier than waking to continue the good fight tomorrow. I know we live in a reality TV world and there may be no going back from this ledge. But ask yourself this—do you want to be famous, or do you want to be legitimate?
Sure the two can co-exist. When done right, they often do. But you don’t gain respect by achieving fame, especially not of the fifteen minute variety. You earn your fame through the respect you deserve. I’m sure a lot of us writers often ask ourselves, “why do we do it?” It’s a reality check that can’t be checked often enough.
Do you do it out of love for the craft? Out of compulsion that cannot be quelled? If so, then you already have my admiration and that of the industry at large.
Do you do it because it would be cool to be rich and shoot to a mountaintop with no particular view? Well then, I’ve got a class you might be interested in…