The process of co-authoring books

Guest blog by Ian Thirkettle

James Patterson often writes in partnership with other authors. I was curious as to how these partnership books are written.  They are presented as James Patterson books and he is very much the brand. I have not noticed a difference in style between different books of his I have read.

For example I have noticed some similarities between ‘The President is missing’, which was written with Bill Clinton, and ‘The First Lady’, which was written with Brendan DuBois. I would recommend both of these titles.

A quick google found various articles that describe the process of James Patterson writing with his co-authors. 

There is quite a good description in the Guardian;

I was particularly intrigued by the graph;

Analysis of The President is Missing, by James O’Sullivan of University College Cork. ‘The accompanying graph represents the novel on the x-axis, broken into segments: the thicker the bottom line, the more certain the proximity to the relevant author’s style. Considering Patterson’s fingerprint is represented by green, it is plain to see that, contrary to our previous study, this is a co-authored novel in which he was the scribe.’

Stylometric analysis of The President Is Missing. Photograph: James O’Sullivan in the Guardian

This shows that the majority of the book is written in Patterson’s style with undertones of Clinton.  I have the image of Patterson marking Clintons work like a school teacher.  The last chapter is mostly Clintons.

All this brought to mind a book I read a few years ago.  Author Unknown by Don Foster.  Don Foster is an English professor from New York.  In the book Foster describes his work in Literary Forensics.

Literary forensics is a process to determine authorship of a passage, each individuals writing is distinctive and unique like DNA.  The language you use, the structure, punctuation, all point to an individual author.

I am aware of some of my own DNA.  For example I tend to write in short sentences, also I never use the word ‘whilst’ always preferring to use ‘while’.

In Author Unknown, Don Foster describes some of the cases he has worked on. From identifying a poem by Shakespeare to the Unabomber to Monica Lewinsky.

It is a fascinating read which I fully recommend. It is written like a ‘who done it’ with Foster as the detective.  If you enjoy true life procedural stories then seek out a copy.

‘The President is missing’ and ‘The First Lady’ are both available from

All the titles mentioned are available from Amazon

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