Or, sometimes a ghost is just a ghost

By Carmen Comment

It’s no surprise that James Patterson makes a hell of a lot of money — as this profile in the NYT business section this weekend details, Harvard University’s MBA Program uses Patterson, Inc. as a textbook example of branding. But in the midst of documenting the megabestselling author’s investments (“65 percent of the assets in his portfolio are in bonds, 15 percent in hedge funds, roughly 8 percent in domestic equities and 4 percent in foreign equities”) what may be the best part of the story is buried three-quarters in: Patterson’s justification for using as many minions as he does:

Mr. Patterson said he often worked with co-authors because he believed that he was more proficient at creating the story line than at executing it.

“I found that it is rare that you get a craftsman and an idea person in the same body,” Mr. Patterson said. “With me, I struggle like crazy. I can do the craft at an acceptable level, but the ideas are what I like.” He said the co-authors received a flat fee and, most often, credit on the book cover.

Seems to me that’s as candid as Patterson will get — although it really does smack of self-rationalization, made worse by comments made by a longtime coworker of his:

Mr. Manning, who worked with Mr. Patterson at J. Walter Thompson for more than 20 years, said that there was a parallel between Mr. Patterson’s book career and his work in advertising. “He is the leader of a creative team, which is similar to what he did as a creative director where he came up with what an advertising campaign needed to accomplish,” he said. “Then the team executed it and he evaluated it.”

Of course, what’s left out is exactly how much the “flat fee” folks like Maxine Paetro, Howard Roughan, and all the ones not lucky enough to have their name slapped on the book cover actually get after they do the lion’s share of the work.