Wording Matters

Barbara Vey -- January 6th, 2012

I saw a television commercial the other day with James Patterson holding up a Nook and talking about his latest Alex Cross novel.  In the commercial, Patterson says something like, “Kill Alex Cross is the best Alex Cross books since Kiss the Girls.“  I know I’m paraphrasing here, but I couldn’t find the commercial anywhere online to get the exact quote.


My problem with this ad is the wording.  If Patterson is saying that this is the best Alex Cross book since Kiss the Girls, does that mean that the novels in between have been not so good?  Just mediocre?  Crap?  Couldn’t there have been a better way of saying this book is a really good read?


I wonder if I’m the only one who noticed this or if I’m just being over critical.  I love the Alex Cross books and now I feel like  James Patterson thinks he wasn’t putting out his best work.  What about you?  Have you seen the ad?  Did it strike you as odd?  Is it something you would say about your book?  As a reader, do you feel like the ad bothered you or not?


Bottom Line:  Out of everyone, I expect authors to be aware of how their words may be interpreted.

45 thoughts on “Wording Matters

  1. Tom Davis Jr

    Correctamundo! I thought the same thing when viewing the commercial. I actually figured that critics generally made our Kiss The Girls to be of literary note while everything he did since was more in the pulp fiction grouping.
    Besides, Patterson doesn’t present well in front of camera in any of commercials. Writers should stick to writing.

  2. Marilyn Baron


    I did notice that and wondered the same thing. Maybe he thinks it is his best book yet but it probably wasn’t a good idea to give the impression that his other books weren’t as good. Like you, I do like James Patterson’s books, although he has such a huge franchise now and other writers are coauthoring books with him. I did read and enjoy his latest book and I find his books easy to read, entertaining, a great escape. I read somewhere that when he first tried to break into the market he paid for some of his own advertising/marketing and that he has definite ideas about marketing that helped propel him to his current status. So I guess whatever he’s doing is working for him. I agree with Tom, though, when you see CEOs advertising their products on TV, those commercials aren’t usually the best, but James Patterson is certainly CEO of his enterprise and can do whatever he wants.

  3. Tracey Lyons

    I just found the entire series of ads to be awkward. It was the worst kind of shameless self promotion in my opinion. And for a star of fiction who can well afford to have a spokesman for his work to do it on his own was just painful to watch. And I did catch the this book is better than that book line and thought the same thing. As an author myself I like to think that all of my work stands alone and probably would not dis one book to sell another one.

  4. Naomi

    Glad to see I wasn’t the only one who wondered about that. Had it been me, I would think any author would want to have said “the best….since *insert either last published title or last in the chronological order for books published without linear timeline considerations*. That way, you’re always plugging your latest…or that’s my two cents worth, any way.

  5. A. Y. Stratton

    Barbara, You make a good point. Self-praise is tricky. Why not simply say “Kill Alex Cross” was the best book he’s ever written? His declaration is a bit like saying “my fourth child is better, smarter and prettier than my second one.”

  6. Cynthia Ruchti

    I noticed and felt it was awkward, too. Then, like many of you, wondered if I was missing something brilliant in the publicity angle. Did it zing over my head? Nope. The series of ads does seem awkward. While I liked seeing an author talk about his book and referring to his character as if a person both he and we had grown to know well enough to carry on a conversation about him, I think my personal buying dollars would have responded better if he’d said something more along the lines of, “Wait until you see what I did to Alex Cross this time!” or “Alex Cross is cross with me and threatened to take away my keyboard privileges if I don’t start cutting him some slack. Not this time, Alex. Not this time.”

  7. David

    You are definitely not alone in your observation. Not the best way to promote your latest book, although I have to say, in this case it may be an accurate statement. IMHO, Kiss the Girls was the last truly read worthy Alex Cross novel. Fortunately for Mr. P, I am not his only reader.

  8. D. Shepherd

    I have stopped reading James Patterson. Just too diluted by co-authors. But he probably thinks ALL of his books are great, landing in the 90′s on a scale of 1-100, but the latest is the first since “Kiss the Girls” to score 99%. The guy is a marketing machine, and he does whatever he pleases.

  9. Amanda

    I didn’t notice this line until you pointed it out. As a reader who is not very familiar with the Alex Cross novels, I would assume that Kiss the Girls would be a good place to start. And it’s just honest that books in a series are going to vary in quality. Each new book is NOT going to be the best one ever.

  10. Lisa Hendrix

    LOL, Barbara, I had exactly the same reaction. I think what he says is “The best Alex Cross book in years.” The first time I heard the ad, I turned to my family and said, “So, he’s been churning out crap all that time?” Surprised Little Brown let it go out that way. Words do matter.

  11. Susan

    James Patterson doesn’t write all his own stuff anymore. He has writers that work with him and then he oversees the work. Closely I understand but still not really his. I have a friend who’s husband doesn’t think some of Patterson’s book are as good as they use to be. Maybe Patterson believes that too. Really I think he just doesn’t realize how is sounds.

  12. Shanon Grey

    I saw an interview with him. He showed how he writes outlines then hands those to authors to write – or fill in/out. Writing is a integral process and I found it somewhat disheartening to think he was making an assembly line of it. I don’t mind collaboration or helping a new author get started, but the “Patterson” conglomerate has gone too far, in my opinion. Honestly, I don’t know what is his writing and what isn’t. As for the ads–do you think his publicist wrote that?

  13. Barbara Vey Post author

    I’m not sure who wrote the ad, but I would think that they would look long and hard at the next one before putting it out there. It has turned a lot of people off to his books. And I agree with you about the assembly line writing. It’s like an insult to his faithful readers.

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