The hype began in earnest last May at Book Expo America. Dan Brown was not there, nor were there advance review copies of his book. However, two huge banners promoting The Lost Symbol hung in the main lobby of the Javits Center to remind everyone of D-Day, using a simple illustration of a lock surrounded by chains and anchored by the date 9.15.09.
Then, last week, approximately 14 days before the much-anticipated book release, Amazon.com’s front page featured a letter from the online bookseller’s CEO Jeff Bezos, who revealed that copies of the much-sought-after book were being kept under “24-hour guard.” Since advance copies, while much in demand, are not available, everyone’s talking about how no one can obtain a copy of the book. It’s a great publicity tactic!
What makes this ongoing buzz interesting is the dueling theories about whether The Lost Symbol can actually help — or will hurt – other books’ sales. The Daily Beast’s Sara Nelson (former editor-in-chief of Publisher’s Weekly), notes that the record-setting Harry Potter book sales did not increase sales for other books. As a result, several big name bestselling authors who had fall releases, such as Pat Conroy and Larry McMurtry, did not want to be overshadowed by D-Day. Conroy’s book, currently #2 on the New York Times Bestseller list, and McMurtry’s book, were released last month.
Not all agree that The Lost Symbol will dampen the prospects for other books' sales. Many booksellers, in particular, are excited about D-Day. National Public Radio’s recent segment on fall books included an interesting discussion about the impact Dan Brown, just by his name alone, will have on stores and sales. Tattered Cover’s lead buyer agreed that Brown’s reputation will bring people into the stores, and then store staff will steer those customers to the other great titles that are on the shelves. Just call him Dan Brown, the “one-man stimulus package.”
Of course if it doesn’t work out as hoped (or hyped), Dan Brown could become known as Dan Bust. You can bet there will be many – authors, booksellers, publishers, and book lovers among them – who will be rooting for Brown to set some sales records and spread some good karma to other books on Sept. 15.