Celebrity Author James Patterson Sees Opportunity in Richmond’s Grocery Wars

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Author James Patterson
  • Author James Patterson

Bestseller James Patterson thinks traditional grocers will be the next indie bookstores. According to Erinn McGrath, his publicity manager, Patterson is writing 150-page, plot-driven novellas that will hang on clips near grocery store checkout lanes. The team is currently deciding which Richmond stores will carry BookShots, which drop June 7.

In January, Patterson donated $3,000 to the library at Albert Hill Middle School, and his publicists say name recognition should offset the financial risk of BookShots. Meanwhile, Richmond’s traditional grocers will get a boost as they try to fight a swarm of competitors.

As store employee numbers rise, Richmonders will encounter more small talk moments with clerks. That gives ample time to nab a BookShot, which will cost less than five dollars. Or so goes Patterson’s logic. Whole Foods, which doesn’t have self-checkout lanes, staffs around 218 employees. The number is in line with Kroger’s local averages. By contrast, mega emporium Wegman’s will staff only 45 employees.

Susann Cokal, editorial director of Broad Street Magazine, says Patterson is tearing a page from the indie bookstore playbook. The magazine is distributed in small businesses where it can be recommended by staff.

“Small publishers have been doing similar things with letterpress work or a barebones design that would otherwise be overlooked and are now available for a standard price of ten or fifteen dollars,” says Cokal. “This Patterson experiment is bringing that movement to a new venue.”

Expect serialized thrillers with Patterson’s popular recurring character, Alex Cross, but also nonfiction selections. One working title? "Trump vs. Clinton."

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