Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It Was Under the Couch Cushion the Whole Time

First of all, thanks to everyone who voted for PMN on the Book Blogger Apprecation Week awards page, and a big round of applause for the winners. As you can see, I totally got Ben Kenobi-ed by Nathan. Looks like he really DID become more powerful than we could ever imagine! (I mean, the man helped forge a blog that wasn't even his own. Without him, PMN literally wouldn't exist.)

In all seriousness, though, hats & Sith Lord life-support helmets off to you, Nathan, and the rest of the winners as well. More than well-deserved.

But there's always next year...

As you may have heard (unless you've been stuck on a deserted island for the last five months), Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol came out yesterday. It's already taken the UK by storm (they're in the future, you know) and I'll be updating this post later today with US info and news reports. So far:

• Tesco (a British grocery store/general merchandiser) was selling 19 copies PER MINUTE;
• Asda (a British supermarket) sold 18,000 copies before 4:00 PM;
• Rumor has it that one of the Manhattan major chain stores (just ONE STORE) sold 400 copies by 2:00 PM. By my rough calculation, that's about one copy every minute. Heavens to Murgatroyd.

Now, being an enterprising young man, I've acquired Mine Very Owne Copie of the book and am already a third of the way through it. (The font is huge.) Now, WITHOUT SPOILING ANYTHING AT ALL, I PROMISE, my reaction is as follows:

I once accused Dan Brown of writing the same book twice (Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code). I'd like to formally retract that.

He has written the same book three. Different. Times.

Now, if you really liked those other two books, you'll definitely like this one. I think the writing is better and the pacing is as good as ever. He does have a lot of characters/shadowy organizations/plot points that are annoyingly similar to his previous books, though, and there are times (roughly every other page) where I get the impression he just keeps a giant Crazy Conspiracies Mad-Libs that he fills out every few years and turns into a book. (Maybe that's exactly what he does.) That aside—it's pretty entertaining. To sum it up as only the British can (courtesy of the Guardian link, above):
The Lost Symbol charts similar territory to The Da Vinci Code, with the hero decoding puzzles and going on the run from shadowy forces, this time Freemasons. Some reviewers branded The Lost Symbol "moronic, derivative and clunky" .

Others applauded Brown's ability to give his millions of fans what they want. For the publishing industry, the book's strengths and weaknesses were only being measured in numbers.

And those numbers are going to be intense.

It wouldn't be a true PMN post without a healthy dose of doom, however, so before I go, these parting words (again from the Guardian) and a mini-Prithee-Inform-Me:
Baggaley said it remains questionable whether the soaring sales of Dan Brown books will have a beneficial effect for publishers of other books. "In Tesco this morning the book was on display, not in the book section, but as soon as you walked in, so it is not as if you are going to be drawn into buying other books as well," he said.

I've been warning that books going on-sale around this time will be cannibalized by Dan Brown rather than see a boost from his generating additional foot traffic. Prithee, inform me: do you think the DB phenomenon will increase or decrease the sales of other books in the stores?


  1. I went out of my way to buy a different book yesterday. But it was another bestseller newly out in paperback (Girl with Dragon Tattoo). Helping?

  2. I went to the library yesterday to get on the waiting list for "Catching Fire."

  3. I have to say, absolutely love the idea that the UK is "in the future." Made me laugh, when I want to cry about Dan Brown.

  4. Here in the future this is what North London Guardian readers really think of The Lost Symbol

  5. It depends on what percentage of the DB shoppers are regular book buyers and how many are trend-shopping.

    The regulars will buy other books as well. I know I can't walk into a B&N (or go online) and only buy one book. Of course the regulars would buy those books regardless of DB's release date, so those sales figures won't be effected.

    The trenders might buy other books, but not on the same scale as the regulars. Some will shop around, pick up that book Joanie recommended a few months ago, or remember their niece's birthday is coming up. Some will take the chance to do some early Christmas shopping.

    But I don't think we're looking at the publishing/bookseller's buyout plan here, but sales in general will be up because people are in the stores.

  6. I think if there's a bump in other books purchased, it will come in a month or so, when people have finished reading their Dan Brown and want to try and continue that reading high. Naive? Probably, but that's how I see it.

  7. Probably a few months from now, bookshelves will be inundated with novels titled things like "The Freemason Omen" and "Symbol of the Secret Freemason Society."

  8. I bought a copy yesterday, and a bought another book while I was there (out of principle).

    I'm only 75 pages in, and I can't complain. It's entertaining. That's why I bought it (and I'm assuming that's why so many others are buying it).

    So many people like to bash him, but I think he's smart (same with his editor and agent). They know their target market, and they cater to the desires of that market. That is strategic selling.

  9. Thanks, Eric! I won this time but now the dark side of the force is coursing through my veins.

    Pros: lightning from fingers, cooler lightsaber

    Cons: can only laugh ominously, no longer think puppies are cute

  10. Nathan, you could never go to the dark side. I think you're the next Yoda.

    I enjoyed reading Dan Brown's Angels & Demons, but thought The DaVinci Code was garbage, and yes, it's THE SAME BOOK. I have no intention of buying the new one... ever. So, it certainly won't affect my book-buying habits!

  11. Those annoying displays thrown in your face as soon as you walk into a book store are not going to affect my book-buying one bit. I usually blow right past them without a second thought. And my first thought is almost always, "Get the hell out of my way. I'm looking for a book that no one outside the publishing industry has heard of...and I hate fads."

    I'm "drawn into buying other books" because they're good books, not because I can't make it past a pretty display. "Ooh! Colors! Shiny! Must buy! I'm done! See ya!" What kind of nonsensical BS is that? Give the consumer a little more credit, please.

  12. I'm all giggling at the vision of Nathan being green and wrinkled...awesome...

    I'm going to give The Lost Symbol a go (why not?), and since I did like the other two books in question well enough, I'm sure I'll like it as well. I live by the principle that books are like potato chips (don't taste as good, but better for you!), and I can't have simply one, so I'll buy more than one based on that. Oh, that and to boost sales just 'CAUSE :)

    I'm all for people reading in general, regardless of what drives them to do so, so if this boosts sales, then wheee! I don't care if it's a bandwagon thing. Just read, people!

  13. The book is expensive too. I'll wait for paperback or I'll borrow it from someone else. Cheap? I'm over it. I'm a college student; money goes toward food, not books.

    I expected "The Lost Symbol" to be trashy, entertaining reading during free time. And probably entirely predicable, seeing as I've read the first two. But what can I say? The man writes addicting stuff.

  14. Interesting question about the book cannibalizing other book sales. Based on the comments here, I'd say no, but I'm also not hopeful that the readers of this blog represent the general public!

    I can see how some readers might buy Lost Symbol but buy nothing else. With the recession, some readers might be going with a "library only" plan, except they know the Lost Symbol won't be available for a long time, so they think, don't I deserve a little escapism with all the doom and gloom out there?

    I doubt the publication will impact the buying habits of most avid readers. And those who don't read ... well, what do they care? They're waiting for the movie! ;-D It's the people in the middle, the occasional readers, who might be most likely to change their purchasing habits. Not sure how many people fall into this category, though.

  15. Didn't publishing folks say that last time bookstores sold the exact same number of books when Dan Brown's book came out, because it cannibalised other sales? Especially in tough times, I know folks probably only have so much to spend on books, so Dan is going to take the place of their "one book for the month/week."

    That's my prediction at least :). No increase in sales, but Dan Brown will eclipse many other sad, sad debuts :(. Now off to buy some books to prove myself wrong...

  16. Ha ha ha ha. So *many* of those books come out sounding so the same.

  17. He has written the same book three. Different. Times.

    Incorrect! He's written the same book FIVE different times! Deception Point and Digital Fortress are also the same book, except their main characters aren't Robert Langdon. That being said, his books are entertaining, in their own way.

  18. Good old Guardian. The London Times said it didn't create the Harry Potter-style frenzy though. But what does?

    It might help other authors. Most people, once they are in a store, browse. Too bad they didn't release it during the holiday season. That might have boosted book sales in general, I should think.

  19. I've turned in paperwork to change my name to Dan Brown, short for Daniel. Seriously, Eric, do authors shelved alphabetically near the 'great ones' (I use that term loosely) get a bump? If my last name were Bryson (hypothetically of course) rather than Wunderkind, would I have a better week? When is a pen name a good idea, marketing-wise?

  20. Yesterday I started reading a 1914 book I picked up at an auction in a box full of other early 1900's books. Not too relevant to the Dan Brown issue, but fun to cruise through the type of fiction my grandparents were reading in their free time.

    I think book buying numbers might increase slightly over the next few months, but Mr. Brown's latest will probably take a few away from most other books in the genre of thrillers/mysteries and even spy/horror. Likely won't detract as much from the buyers of romance, sf&f, mainstream (I don't like to use the term "literary"), or the chicklit.

  21. THEME PARK! Can it be Battlestar Galactica? It's cool. We're loaded. You know how much assistants make.

  22. It just amuses me to see Tesco described as a 'grocery store'.

    I think in bookshops it probably won't have much affect on the sales of other books - there are so many visible books as soon as you walk in the door of a shop that even if you went in just for the DB book, you will probably end up looking at several others as well while you're there.
    On the other hand, I think if supermarkets are making huge displays of the book, then people who don't normally wander past the book section aren't going to start now.

  23. I'm just glad Dan Brown takes his own sweet time filling out the conspiracy mad-lib. I hope he does so the next time, too. Actually, I wouldn't mind if he took some extra years for coming up with a better title. How do you lose a symbol? The symbolism is lost on me.