When Oprah devoted not one, but two shows to The Secret, she propelled it to the top of virtually every bestseller list, bringing something that was already a subcultural hit squarely into the mainstream.
Now The Secret promises to do more than enrich Simon & Schuster and author Rhonda Byrne (or readers who apply its principles). Joel Fotinos, director of religious publishing for the Penguin Group and publisher for its Tarcher imprint, compares the Secret phenomenon to The Da Vinci Code: "It came out of nowhere, and its sales are lifting up an entire genre of books."
Fotinos calls The Secret a "Cliff's Notes for New Thought," the 19th-century movement with roots in Christian Science and Ralph Waldo Emerson that has inspired many authors over the past century. Both Tarcher and Inner Traditions are publishing new editions of The Scienceof Getting Rich, the 1910 book by Wallace Wattles that Rhonda Byrne credits with inspiring her to make The Secret movie that led to the book (PWDaily, Mar. 6). Tarcher's edition (50,000 first printing) will be part of its Tarcher Success Classics line, which also includes titles by Dale Carnegie and Napoleon Hill.
Tarcher also publishes the works of Ernest Holmes—founder of Religious Science, a New Thought denomination—including his seminal work The Science of Mind, first published in 1938. Fotinos himself is a Religious Science minister—he co-founded and co-leads a church in Manhattan. "When something like The Secret comes out I want to read every book on the same topic," he says. "We're going to find all the other people like me out in the world and make sure they know about our books."
As for criticism of The Secret, Fotinos notes, "It's like any religion—there's a shallow end and a deep end. The shallow end here is that it appeals to greed and consumerism. But on the deep end, it teaches that I alone am responsible for my life and for what I can give to the world, not just get. There is a power for good, and it can use you if you find the greatness within."
Many titles in The Secret's vein were enjoying healthy sales before it was published, like The Attractor Factor (Wiley) by Joe Vitale, one of those quoted in the book. Absent from The Secret were the husband and wife team of Esther and Jerry Hicks, perhaps the premier teachers of the law of attraction and authors of several successful books, including Ask and It Is Given (2004) and The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent and The Law of Attraction (both 2006; all from Hay House).
On February 25 the New York Times reported on a conflict between Byrne and the Hickses over the movie version of The Secret. The Hickses have been teaching the principles of the law of attraction for more than 20 years and claim not to have read or been influenced by New Thought teachers. (Esther Hicks channels an entity called Abraham, who does the actual teaching.) Prominently featured in the first version of the movie, the Hickses were the only teachers who were paid for their participation. But they demanded to be edited out of the second version because, they say, of unhappiness over how Byrne represented them.
Reid Tracy, president of Hay House, says the press doesn't have to change its plans in order to capitalize on The Secret phenomenon—the company will publish five more Hicks books in the next four years. (Hay House also published Wayne Dyer's The Power of Intention, which Tracy says has sold one million copies since 2004.)
The Hicks books "sold well" before The Secret, notes Tracy—Ask and It Is Given (2004) had sold 200,000 copies by the end of 2005 and 100,000 more in 2006—but after Oprah's shows, Ask and It Is Given sold 144,000 in February alone. One surprise success for Hay House in the wake of The Secret has been Sandra Anne Taylor's Quantum Success. Published last March, the book sold only 5,000 copies in 2006, but has sold 40,000 so far this year.
What of Atria itself? Are there plans to extend The Secret brand or to try to duplicate the publisher's own success? Judith Curr, executive v-p of Atria, told PW it was too soon to talk about that. "It will be up to the author, and it will be very important to keep the integrity of the message intact. We haven't yet sold near as many as we are going to." With an astounding 3.75 million copies in print in English, Atria is bringing out a Spanish-language edition this summer ("it's very multicultural in its appeal," Curr points out), and "it's now in 22 countries and counting."