Cornerstone is to publish eight of James Patterson’s new line of short novels BookShots in June, as part of what it described as a “game-changing” approach to publishing. In total, more than 30 titles are earmarked for launch in the series this year, almost double the number his US publisher Little, Brown is putting out initially.
The 150-page paperbacks, priced at £2.49, are aimed at the “Netflix generation”, with the emphasis on accessible, bite-sized entertainment. “You can race through these; they are like reading movies. It gives people some alternative ways to read,” Patterson told the New York Times two weeks ago.
Cornerstone managing director Susan Sandon told The Bookseller that the new line for “short, fast, high-impact” stories was outlined to her—and Patterson’s US publisher—by the author last year. Sandon said she had wanted to supplement and extend the series with locally commissioned titles.
Century is also publishing across three different strands: Single Shots, the 150-page one-offs; Triple Shots, three novellas bundled into one quarterly volume; and Series Shots, serialised stories published digitally to coincide with real-time events, such as the Olympics.
All will be penned by Patterson and his team of writers, with some chosen to appeal to specific regions, such as Australia.
Sandon said: “It’s not a novelty, we are in it for the long term—we are creating a new imprint. Our launch strategy is to go out with maximum impact in both [the] physical and digital space to make the biggest splash possible and Jim was entirely enthusiastic from the outset about working with local authors in our markets—just as he has been with his full-length publishing strands. I fully expect the US to publish some of our locally commissioned BookShots at a later date.”
June will see the launch of eight BookShots in the UK, including four exclusive to the Penguin Random House UK division. The line is launching with six titles on 2nd June: Cross Kill—a new Alex Cross; Zoo 2—a sequel to Zoo and following on from the Sky 1 TV show; Break Point—a thriller set at the Wimbledon tennis tournament; Private Royals—in which a member of the royal family is kidnapped the day before the Trooping the Colour parade; Black & Blue—set in Australia, a prequel to Never Never, Patterson’s full-length thriller publishing in August; and Heist—a diamond heist that results in a chase across Europe. Two more BookShots are being published on 30th June: Hunted and The Hostage. The plan is then to launch a minimum three/four new titles each month, including an exclusive airport edition.
Sandon said the launch was being backed by a “huge” marketing campaign, including 2,000 free-standing display units. Cornerstone will also unveil a dedicated website and app, featuring e-book and audio versions of the titles. The e-books will retail for £1.99.
Cornerstone is also using the new line to target audiences outside the core James Patterson fanbase. Aslan Byrne, UK sales director at Cornerstone, added: “They [retailers] are seeing it as an opportunity to not just sell to their traditional books customers but an opportunity to bring new consumers to books. Putting low- priced, short, fast-paced content in front of consumers who don’t regularly read is an exciting idea that we and the retailers see as a fantastic opportunity to grow the book buying consumer base.”
In his pitch, Patterson said: “Books need to keep up. Books need to stay relevant. The world needs books. I’ve had personal experience with companies that didn’t keep up, companies that were run over by the future. We don’t want to be run over by the future—we want to own it.”
Though available in digital formats, Patterson said he was keen for the printed versions to provide booksellers with an opportunity to sell quick-hit fiction: “We will not be deserting our traditional bookstores and booksellers. The sell in of paper BookShots will promise a unique and exciting stimulus— something new—for bricks-and- mortar stores.”
Patterson will visit the UK to talk about the new project in May, with Cornerstone planning a four-week teaser campaign. Patterson will also meet many of the successful independent bookshop recipients awarded a grant from his #JPlovesbookshops fund.
Patterson also told the New York Times that he also planned to expand BookShots to include non- fiction, including one book pegged to the US presidential election.
In the UK Patterson has sold 22m books, across 427 titles, since 1998.