Hollywood has made determining a film’s release date into a science. You don’t want to release a quirky little independent film opposite the new Transformers sequel because you’ll get crushed. Similarly, publishers are eyeing Sept. 15 with a certain amount of trepidation. That’s the day that The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown’s long-awaited sequel to The Da Vinci Code, arrives in stores.
Because Doubleday, Brown’s publisher, has so much at stake with this novel (which is rumoured to have an English-language print run of an astounding 6.5 million copies), you can expect wall-to-wall media coverage surrounding the book’s release. Which means that other authors with competing books risk being shut out.
Writing on The Daily Beast blog, Sara Nelson points out that new novels by commercial writers Joseph Finder, Terry Brooks, and Larry McMurtry are all scheduled for August pubs, likely to avoid the Dan Brown juggernaut. Nelson writes:
As the number of media outlets covering books shrink, and as fewer stores “ think Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com “ control more of how books get promoted and displayed, you don’t want your little first novel (or your potential blockbuster, more likely) to be hit by an avalanche of Dan Brown articles, TV interviews, and step ladders. It’s standard procedure to try to determine when other houses are publishing important books, says a marketing executive at Penguin. We often change our dates accordingly. That, and the need, ever more desperate, to make sure your book lands at the top of the dwindling number of bestseller lists; because those lists are relative, no self-respecting publisher would want to put his Patricia Cornwell, say, up against Twilight author Stephenie Meyer … so a good part of an agent/author’s job is manipulating that pub date.
One publisher unafraid to go head-to-head with Brown is Philadelphia-based Quirk Books, which is releasing Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, the follow-up to this year’s surprise bestseller, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, on Sept. 15. Whether the gambit will pay off, or whether Sea Monsters will sink without a trace, remains to be seen.