James Patterson gets annoyed at being called prolific. “I love that word,” he says sarcastically, though it’s hard to find a better adjective to capture the more than 300 books he’s written since 1976 (averaging almost seven every year). Most have been bestsellers, making him one of the wealthiest living authors, earning about $80 million in a year, according to the most recent estimate by Forbes. His debut novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, earned him an Edgar Award. In 2019, he won the National Humanities Medal.
Patterson, 74, has donated millions of books and dollars to schools, Army bases, libraries, independent bookstores and literacy organizations, including a 2018 partnership with the University of Florida to support educators in boosting reading levels across the state. He’s even created an industry within the industry with his BookShots: short novellas made for dwindling attention spans. Within his army of ghostwriters and co-writers—the well-known secret to maintaining Patterson’s production pace—are high-profile collaborators like President Bill Clinton (who once gave Patterson a Monopoly: Socialism board game) and Dolly Parton (she calls him “J.J.” or “Jimmy James”). The Parton novel, Run, Rose, Run, will be out in March.