‘Da Vinci’ paperback vs. ‘The Jesus Papers’

The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown and Holy Blood, Holy Grail author Michael Baigent just butted heads in a London courtroom. This week, they’ll go head-to-head in bookstores, too.

More than 5 million copies of the DaVinci paperback go on sale Tuesday, in both mass-market ($7.99) and the larger trade paperback size ($14.95). So does Baigent’s new book, The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History (HarperSanFrancisco); first printing: 150,000. (Related story: Five books that follow the Da Vinci trail)

Coincidence or marketing?

“I don’t think there’s any such thing as a coincidence in publishing anymore,” says Russell Perreault of Anchor, publisher of the Da Vinci paperback.

But Baigent, by phone from London, says it “absolutely” was not planned.

“There have been a lot of coincidences this year, at least I assume they are coincidences,” he says. “It’s funny, with just being on trial, and now we’re head-to-head with books.”

Last week, testimony in the copyright lawsuit against Random House brought by Baigent and Holy Blood, Holy Grail co-author Richard Leigh wrapped up in London after three weeks. A verdict is expected by mid-April. Baigent and Leigh say Brown stole “the architecture” of their non-fiction book for his novel.

The trial has renewed interest in Holy Blood, Holy Grail, first published in 1982, and will likely help sales of The Jesus Papers, which expands on Holy Blood’s discussions about Jesus and Mary Magdalene and challenges to Jesus’ divinity.

“I’m not a publicity person,” Baigent says. “But the fact they are coming out the same day is probably a good thing. Suddenly there are two aspects going on. Dan Brown is raising issues and I’m exploring them.”

Though the Da Vinci paperback is the Big Kahuna, other Code-related books also hit stores Tuesday, including The Da Vinci Code: Special Illustrated Edition paperback (Broadway); Fodor’s Guide to the Da Vinci Code; and The Da Vinci Code Travel Journal (Clarkson, Potter).

All are being released in anticipation of the Code movie, starring Tom Hanks, due May 19. But in an unusual move, the Mona Lisa, which plays a pivotal role in Brown’s book, is on the cover of the paperback instead of Hanks. “That’s the art (Sony is) using right now to promote the movie,” Anchor’s Perreault says.

The paperback is being released even as sales of the hardcover, first published in 2003, continue to grow. There are 12 million copies in print in the USA,40 million worldwide. It’s No. 3 on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list.

Perreault doesn’t expect the paperback to hurt hardcover sales. “It’s being released in a lot of places that don’t carry hardcovers: drugstores and supermarkets and PX stores on military bases, and at airports.

“For us it’s the perfect storm,” he adds. “Not only is it the first time the paperback is coming out in the United States, but it’s coming out as the movie is being released.”

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Mar. 26, 2006
Carol Memmott

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday March 27, 2006.
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