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Da Vinci's Code seems heaven sent
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Da Vinci's Code seems heaven sent
Church mystery has 80 weeks plus on bestseller lists
Now comes a new illustrated edition for yule shoppers


The Da Vinci Code is a publishing phenomenon. It has taken up seemingly permanent residence on bestseller lists, from the New York Times' (87 weeks), to the Globe and Mail's (86 weeks), to this paper's (85 weeks). To date, Dan Brown's thriller-cum-church-history has sold 9.2 million copies in the U.S. and about 17 million worldwide.

Sony reportedly paid $6 million (U.S.) for the film rights and with a movie in the works directed by Ron Howard and scripted by Akiva Goldsman (the team that made A Beautiful Mind), there is no end in sight to the Da Vinci craze. Tom Hanks has emerged as the front-runner for the starring role of Robert Langdon, a Harvard "professor of symbology" who is called in to help solve the murder of the curator at the Louvre.

The murder mystery soon turns into a treasure hunt for the Holy Grail, which according to Langdon (and the author) was never Christ's chalice, as commonly supposed, but was a person — Mary Magdelene, in fact, representing the sacred feminine principle.

Hardcover books generally give way to cheaper paperbacks a year after publication, but not only is a paperback version of the Da Vinci Code unavailable 20 months later, the book has just been relaunched for Christmas in a special illustrated edition that will set you back $48 in Canada, $10 more than the original hardcover did. "We are well under way to selling a combined half million copies in Canada of the two editions," says Brad Martin, director of marketing at Random House Canada, which distributes the book here. "It's our bestselling hardcover, having recently surpassed Dr. Seuss. Only The Life Of Pi has sold equivalent numbers for us in Canada, but that was in both the paper and hardcover versions together, and it won the Booker. Anyone who tells me that a bestseller is 5,000 books in this country — well, I have to tell them they are wrong."

In the illustrated edition, readers can see some postcard views of Chβteau Villette outside Paris, the intricately carved interior of Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, and the Rose Line embedded in the floor of Saint-Sulpice church — real locations that give the complicated and highly improbable story its air of spurious accuracy. Location research was done by Brown's wife Blythe, an art historian to whom the book is dedicated. This spurious accuracy has been a boon to the travel industry, which now offers dozens of guided tours to the places mentioned in the story.

What has made this book such a runaway success? There's nothing new about its theme; novels about the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail go back to Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, an early 19th century bestseller. The writing is flat-footed and the characters are communion-wafer thin.

The plotting, however, is adroit, full of surprises and manna to conspiracy buffs; a cliffhanger ends virtually every chapter. Two weeks ago The Da Vinci Code appeared on the list of nominees for the Dublin IMPAC award, a respected literary prize of which Canada's Alistair MacLeod is a past winner.

The real reason for the huge sales, however, may be the book's cross-over appeal to the Christian readership — enormous in the U.S. — and the carefully calibrated and sustained marketing of the title done by the U.S. publisher Doubleday (an arm of Random House Publishing).

"This was a brilliant effort by the marketing and sales team of Doubleday," says Martin. "They created such word of mouth when they launched this book that all the independents bought into it, and so did the chains. They created this book."

"The most important thing we did was to recognize that we had something of real excellence here and to never, ever back away from that belief," says Stephen Rubin, president of Doubleday, on the phone from New York. "We began with a strategy to get people to read it. We printed 10,000 advance reading copies — the norm is at most 3,000 — and we mailed them in waves to bookstores and the media. By the time our sales people started to call on booksellers, everyone had read it."

Much depends on the "laydown" of a book — its first appearance in the stores. "Barnes & Noble took 7,000 at first, then they upped it to 14,000, and finally to 70,000 for laydown," Rubin recalls. "When Borders heard about it, they had to do the same. Ultimately we laid down 230,000 copies plus all kind of bells and whistles, posters and supportive material. When consumers walked into Barnes & Noble they were confronted everywhere by this book Da Vinci Code by an author they had never heard of.

"We wanted as much velocity as possible in first week of sale. If you have a commercial novel sitting in a bookstore and they don't move on day one, they won't move. We backed up the laydown with tiny ads in every section of the New York Times with a picture of the Mona Lisa and the line `Why is this man smiling?' and at the back of the Arts section, we had a big ad for the book."

Rubin and his marketing team lucked out because a day before publication day, the Times ran a glowing review of the book by Janet Maslin, who called it a "gleefully erudite" effort "leading readers on a breathless chase and coaxing them through hoops."

The rave in the Times "created a hothouse intensity around the book," Rubin says. Other reviewers fell into line. Two weeks later, the book jumped to the top of the Times bestseller list.

"No one that I can find can remember a novel by an unknown debuting No. 1 on the New York Times list. We never stopped from that day to this supporting the book ... We had a very clever campaign, always using the picture of the Mona Lisa and promoting it for Mothers Day, for Father's Day, as hottest beach book of the year, as the hottest book of the fall. Then (the book) entered the zeitgeist and you couldn't go to a dinner party without people discussing it."

The book has also been promoted to the Christian community. "It is being read in many churches and discussed among congregations," says Martin. "That happened in the States. They couldn't ignore it. Many people came to it who otherwise wouldn't (read a novel). It has insinuated itself into popular culture."

The illustrated edition was Rubin's idea and was produced by designers at Doubleday though Dan Brown approved it. "His editor Jason Kaufman was involved," Rubin says. (Kaufman turns up as Jonas Faukman in The Da Vinci Code).

Brown is being protected from distractions so that he can concentrate on his next book, The Solomon Key. The plot is about the Freemasons and Robert Langdon will once again be its central character, Rubin says.

In its first week, The Da Vinci Code sold more copies than Brown's three previous novels had, combined.

Since then the earlier titles — Digital Fortress, Deception Point and Angels & Demons, in which Langdon first appeared — have been reissued and become bestsellers. Rubin says that he's had calls from St. Martin's Press and Simon & Shuster (publishers of the earlier books) to thank him.

A dozen non-fiction books have appeared in response to the controversial theology of the book and Martin says he is now starting to hear from literary agents pitching look-alike novels.

Rubin in New York says he has had a different reaction: "I have agents calling me saying they want `the Da Vinci treatment' for their book. I think you get that kind of treatment when a book deserves it."
Damn, I love this book. I heard Russell Crowe was to play the lead at one point. Anyone but Tom Hanks.

I read it in two days. Couldn't put it down. Angels and Demons was good, too. Books are ALWAYS better than the movies.
Originally posted by muzzybear
Damn, I love this book. I heard Russell Crowe was to play the lead at one point. Anyone but Tom Hanks.

I read it in two days. Couldn't put it down. Angels and Demons was good, too. Books are ALWAYS better than the movies.

Can I borrow your copy?
I have to grab it from Aurora's mom. Aurora had it in the hospital. Not sure when I'm going to get it back. There's a new one out with illustrations of the art in it. Do you have a chapters card? You can borrow mine or I'll go book shopping with you. I just found out that the author of the Shopaholic series was using a pseudonym and there's a tonne of books under her real name which is Margaret? Wickham. Can't wait to pick them up!
I don't really want to spend the ~$40 on a book. Just looking to borrow it from someone if it was handy.
I've always wondered about this book as I've been hearing interesting things here and there about it.

I think this article just cinched it!

Thanks for the post and knocking off a fence-sitter... :p
it is indeed a good book. but i think the sales came from the hype. it isn't THAT amazing yet.

and in my opinion,

Originally posted by kron

and in my opinion,


Tatgirl, I have angels & demons and that's the first book in the series. I'll give it to you tomorrow?
richard raiban
ive heard great things about this book also. ill pick this one up one of these days & read it.

i might even give ron a ring to see if he needs me to act in it...

As a Roman Catholic I have to say that this book is nothing more than blasphemy and defamation.

Thank you, come again.

i'm reading it right now and i can't seem to put it down!!!! even though a fictious novel, i think it is very intelligently researched and written.

...a real eye-opener to what the majority of our world doesn't know/ see, - even denies! when it comes to secret, underground societies that keep the TRUTH alive ... and how history & Life (and the role of women; wars (being) fought and human atrocites committed all due to brainwashing and forceful coercion by a few powerful people over time) could have been so different without the Church's destructive influence over centuries.

...two months ago i was in Paris and stopped by to check out the famous Mona Lisa and the Last Supper ...but unfortunately the Louvre was closed on that day ... but i have to say, it was mindblowing to say the least, to see the three glass pyramids & to walk through Napoleons massive complex that is as large as three Eiffel Towers combined. ... dipping into history and trying to find out the truth of life is a lil hobby of mine that i have been researching for quite some years, but this book ...really takes it all to another level and just validates all of the information i have found over the past few years when it comes to symbolism and the power of religion.
I started reading Angels and Demons and I found it so addictive I had it finished in like 2 days. That book, IMO would make a good movie. As for the Da Vinci Code, I have yet to read it. I'm waiting for it to come out on paperback first.
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