US author James Patterson has apologised for claiming that white male writers having issues finding work is a “form of racism”.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Patterson said white male authors faced such a problem in industries including publishing, film, TV and theatre.

He is quoted as saying it is “just another form of racism”, adding: “Can you get a job? Yes. Is it harder? Yes. It’s even harder for older writers. You don’t meet many 52-year-old white males.”

The 75-year-old US author has published more than 300 titles over more than 40 years. With more than 500m copies sold, his net worth stands at an estimated $800m, according to a 2018 Forbes ranking. Patterson, who is well known for his thrillers, has two books currently on the New York Times bestseller list for hardcover fiction, including the 22nd book in his Women’s Murder Club series with co-writer Maxine Paetro.

Patterson is one of the world’s most successful authors, having sold roughly 450 million books – thrillers, non-fiction and romance novels – over several decades.

He was the best-selling author of adult fiction in the UK in 2020, according to Nielsen Book Research, and was recently announced as the most-borrowed author from British libraries for the 14th year in a row.

Forbes classified him as “America’s highest paid author” in 2020, having sold nearly five million books in the US between June 2019 and 2020.

Following the remarks, Patterson faced a backlash from the public and fellow authors on social media, with some noting he earned, according to Forbes, 80 million US dollars (£66.3 million) in 2020.

Among those to contest Patterson’s comments, the bestselling author Roxane Gay tweeted: “James Patterson of all people. First of all, write your own books, pal.”

That was a reference to Patterson’s use of ghostwriters to help write his books.

But following criticism, Patterson posted an apology and said he “strongly” supports diversity.

He wrote: “I apologise for saying white male writers having trouble finding work is a form of racism. I absolutely do not believe that racism is practiced against white writers. Please know that I strongly support a diversity of voices being heard – in literature, in Hollywood, everywhere.”

Patterson’s most popular work is The Women’s Murder Club series and his Alex Cross series, which follows a black detective who deals with threats to his family and the city of Washington DC.

His new thriller Run Rose Run is also on the best seller list – written with Dolly Parton, which is being adapted for the big screen – with the country singer due to star. He has also previously collaborated with former US President Bill Clinton on two political thriller novels.

He recently penned his first memoir, titled James Patterson by James Patterson.

In a diversity self-audit carried out from 2019 to 2021 by Penguin Random House, the publisher discovered that approximately 75% of contributors were white, 6% were Black and 5% were Hispanic. Additionally, 74.2% of employees at Penguin were white, with only 9.1% being Hispanic and 4.9% Black.

In a similar survey published by the New York Times in 2020, only 11% of books written in 2018 were by authors of colour.

Patterson, for his part, has eight more books due to be released in 2022, at least six of which were written with another author.