James Patterson was awarded the L.A. Times Book Prize Innovator’s Award at the L.A. Times Book Prizes on Saturday. This is a transcript of his acceptance speech.
Hi, I’m Stephen King. [laughter] You know, it’s a long, long way from Newburgh, N.Y., where I grew up – which was recently voted the sixth most violent small town in America – to this stage. We’ve all made our journeys, and mine has been a wild one.
Before tonight, my L.A. highlight reel consisted of that cartoon cameo on “The Simpsons.” That was my big moment. It started with Marge Simpson on the beach; she’s reading one of my books and says, “Oh I just love James Patterson.” Then we see me riding on a white horse behind Marge on the beach, and then we cut and Marge is on the back of the horse, we’re kind of cuddling, schmoozing, whatever. Then an alarm goes off – the next scene is Marge in her bedroom. And Homer walks in, and Homer says, “That was great last night, Marge, but why did you keep calling me James?” [laughter]
Some people would say, to some extent rightly, that “publishing” and “innovation” don’t belong in the same sentence. And that’s what I think makes this award so interesting and so vital -- in spite of the fact that I’m getting it tonight.
Book publishing, and newspaper publishing I think, badly, badly needs to innovate. What was the last major publishing innovation – the paperback? Libraries need to innovate -- it’s not about “shhh.” I work with Scholastic and we try to give away a lot of money to school libraries. Scholastic put the word out – this is amazing – we got 28,000 pleas for help in 10 days. And that shows you what the problem is. Almost every plea it was, “We haven’t been able to buy books in 7 or 8 years, and we no longer have a librarian” – and that’s sick. Bookstores need to innovate, to be more inviting, to be more inclusive. Children’s publishing needs to innovate: We have to get our kids reading and loving to read. It’s just essential. If kids in elementary school and middle school – if they don’t become at least competent readers, how are they going to get through high school? And the thing of it is – look, we can’t solve a lot of the problems in the world, things with the environment. But that is a problem we can solve. We can get a huge number of kids in this country reading. We can do this.
I promise that whatever I did to win this award, I promise to do even more this year, which is kind of scary. And it should be scary to all of you.
I am introducing something called Bookshots this year in June. These books will be under 150 pages, under $5 – they’re very, very fast-paced stories. A little like reading a movie. And I think, I don’t know this for sure, I think Bookshots will get a lot of people reading more because it’s not quite as daunting a thing, and a lot of people just don’t feel they have time in this crazy world to read longer books all the time. I think it will get more people into bookstores.
A writer in the New York Times quipped that “Bookshots was like McDonald’s expanding its market through intravenous injections of salt, sugar and fat” [laughter] and I thought that was very funny. However, the writer at the Times hadn’t actually read any Bookshots, so the writer kind of missed the point. I think the interesting thing about this innovation is these are actually stories with less fat. OK? That’s the difference.
Thank you so very very much for this award. Tonight might be even better than my night on “The Simpsons” – probably not. Marge Simpson is very hot.