Who's got a `Secret'? A publisher

Book is latest best-seller for Simon & Schuster in a flat time

March 11, 2007|By Josh Getlin | Josh Getlin,Los Angeles Times

New York -- When Judith Curr, head of Atria Books, recently asked for an additional 2 million copies of The Secret to be printed, she believed the runaway best-seller would continue to receive strong support across the nation. Call it the power of positive publishing - or just plain good timing.

Boosted by two days of exposure on Oprah Winfrey's show, Rhonda Byrne's hodgepodge of ancient inspiration, can-do empowerment and nifty pointers on how to attain happiness is on its way to becoming one of the fastest-selling self-help books in publishing history. And the 2-million-copy reprinting order - the largest in Simon & Schuster's history for one book - will bring the total number of U.S. copies in print to 3.75 million.

All of this has been good news for the publisher, which had an encouraging year financially in 2006 compared with others in the book business. Indeed, the company posted a 6 percent gain in total revenue last year, based on such best-sellers as You: On a Diet, Lisey's Story and Joy of Cooking. The success of The Secret has made 2007 look equally rosy.

The book has hit No. 1 on self-help best-seller lists and is vying with the forthcoming Harry Potter novel for the top spot on Amazon.com. "I thought when we first bought the book it would sell 1 million copies," said Curr, vice president of Atria, a division of Simon & Schuster. "But what's happening now is truly unprecedented. We can't keep up with demand."

The Secret, published in partnership with Beyond Words Publishing, a firm based in Portland, Ore., suggests that the key to fulfillment is through understanding "the law of attraction." According to this concept, people can attain what they want through the power of positive thinking. Negative thoughts become a self-fulfilling prophecy and can dominate one's life. Readers are told to follow three steps for fulfillment: Ask. Believe. Receive.

Critics note, however, that some of these thoughts are a long-standing theme in American self-help literature. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, released in 1952, was a hugely influential book that offered a similar blueprint and sold more than 7 million copies, with copies translated into 15 languages.

Josh Getlin writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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