Big Five Fear

By Jonathan Winn

James Patterson is afraid of me. The simple fact that I exist keeps him awake at night. And the audacity of my daring to release yet another book throws him into a quietly desperate frenzy of doubt.


Because, like all those other gate-crashing “wannabes who don’t work hard” – as Big Five Author Sue Grafton once infamously called us ( ) – I’ve forgotten my place. I’ve strayed from the tried-and-at-one-time-true narrative. You know, the ol’ Write Book, Find Agent, Beg Big Publisher to Publish Me, Be Happy with What I Get thing people used to do years ago. I’ve decided, like so many others, that I don’t need a tacit “you’re good enough” nod from traditional publishing to tell my stories and find my readers.

And Patterson and his pals in the New York Publishing World aren’t quite sure what to do about this, the topsy-turvey New Normal they’ve found themselves in is knocking them for a loop.

I mean, it’s not like they haven’t tried to restore some sense of normalcy.

First, they all but shut us out of getting reviewed by the NY Times, or even listed on their bestseller list, thinking, well, that’ll be enough to make us go away. Just strangle them with silence, or something like that.

Nope. Our readers still found us.

A recent study ( ) found that 41% of Amazon’s genre ebook bestseller list is comprised of smaller, indie published books and single author-published work compared to the 22% claimed by books released by the Big Five.

So then they decided to sniff condescendingly at the quality of our work, hoping to instill doubt in our talent and professionalism. The thought being that potential readers would fear getting lost in the onslaught of typos, lousy formatting, and garish covers and rush back to the mistake-free bosom of Traditional Publishing.

Nope, Round Two.

Readers soon realized that because budget cuts had winnowed editing departments to that of overworked, underpaid skeleton crews, the number of traditionally published books now commonly riddled with typos and wonky formatting had grown just as we Self-Pubs were upping our game with polished, professionally edited work.

Finally, faced with a tide that refused to turn in their favor and more and more authors, anecdotally, at least, saying No, Thanks to Big Five contracts, they’ve now focused their fire on hobbling the Amazon engine steadfastly feeding the dreams of us annoying ingrates. As if killing the Online Beast will safely deliver the Gatekeepers back to the world of leisurely three-martini lunches and padded expense accounts.

Which brings me to Patterson and The Petition.

Or, as I call it, the Bestsellers Hissy Fit. ( )

It’s laughable, really. And others have covered the astonishing hypocrisy and cluelessness inherent in their laughably insincere plea. But make no mistake: the Big Five is afraid of me, and maybe of you, too, and will do what it can to make our already precariously paved roads as bumpy as possible.

At the end of the day, though, I can’t help but ask myself, is this the behavior of people – and an industry – who feel secure and safe? Who are confident the status will return to quo?

Nope, Round Three. Not even a little bit.

And they’re smart to be scared. Because regardless of what underhanded tricks they use to try and derail, distract, dismiss, or deny me, I’ll still write.

Without the cushion of a six-figure advance (or any advance at all), I’ll write. Sitting at home six days a week, sun-up to sundown, a sleeping dog cuddled next to me, I’ll write. Supported by neither fanfare nor publicity, with nary a full-page ad nor predictable spot on the NY Times List in sight, I’ll write.

Even if my Martuk sits forgotten, lost in a sea of best intentions and tenuous dreams, I’ll write. Regardless. Because I know readers. I trust those who gravitate toward darker stories that resonate emotionally will find him. And me. And they’ll come back for more because that’s what readers do. They stumble upon what they like, what speaks to them, and they reward that talent with attention. Regardless who the Publisher is, whether Big Five, Indie, or Self, readers love to read. They’re eager to read. They want us to tell our tales. That’s why we write, isn’t it?

And if James Patterson is afraid of that, that’s his problem.



Screenwriter, playwright, actor, and author of Martuk … the Holy and The Martuk Series, Jonathan Winn was born in Seattle, WA. He currently lives in the US. Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche is his second full-length novel.

Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche can be found at:


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