« It's That Kind of Week | Main | Just Call Them Monday Smatterings »

July 23, 2009



Hey, as far as I can tell, people are talking about Simon's books. Which, for Simon, can't be a bad thing...


It may be working, but it's still reprehensible and should be embarrassing for Kernick. On the other hand, both Brown and Kernick are in the business of making money at all cost, so they're probably in sync on this. As for the buyer: Maybe Dan Brown fans are by nature careless and it serves them right. Or if Kernick writes like Brown, they'll be grateful to be introduced to him in this manner.

Jason Pinter

"Both Brown and Kernick are in the business of making money at all cost."

First off, IJ, that's a pretty thoughtless and petty statement. I think the point that most people are missing is that this book was being given away for FREE. Nobody was paying money for a Simon Kernick book thinking it was a Dan Brown book, and I'd be surprised if Simon was making a dime off of these giveaways. If anything, as Simon has said, it has helped sales of his backlist. What that means is people are READING these free copies, enjoying them, then going to check out his other work.

As for Dan Brown, let's look at the facts for THE DA VINCI CODE: it was the fourth book by an author whose first three books had mediocre sales. He was already being published by his third different house (that's got to be a record after four books). And it was the second book to feature the character of Robert Langdon, whose first book, ANGELS & DEMONS, was hardly a success when it came out. Yeah, that sounds like a TERRIFIC strategy for an author willing to do anything for money.


To echo Jason's point: "The book with the new cover is not, never was, and never will be for sale..."

In my opiniion, that makes it acceptable. No one is being tricked out of their money here. If they are lost they've only lost a little time, and can presumably recoup it by selling the book to a used book store. Or maybe it will become a rare collector's item some day!

tess gerritsen

I think it's a brilliant way to introduce a writer to new readers. Transworld has always had a highly creative marketing team, and this looks like a win for Simon. I would have said yes to it, too.

David J. Montgomery

Well said, Jason.

Kernick's a good writer and hopefully this will give him greater name recognition. It's nice to see publishers trying something new when it comes to promotion.

Naomi Johnson

And the reverse side of the ploy: I don't care for Dan Brown's work, ergo I will not be buying Simon K's work either. Nor even picking the book up to read the jacket.


I agree that it's rather ridiculous. I'd really like to know what Dan Brown thinks of this, having his name prominently displayed on a book.

However, I have to also agree with the first commenter. It DOES have people talking about (and maybe even reading) Kernick's book. So on the marketing side - it is working.

David J. Montgomery


You really wouldn't try a book just because the publisher compares it to Dan Brown? Damn.

Jason Pinter

I have no problem with people criticizing this campaign, but if you're going to do so please read Sarah's entire post and the comments from involved parties.

Lauren - As Simon's editor clarifies, Brown and Kernick have the same publisher and both authors approved the campaign.

In order to receive the Kernick book you have to pre-order THE LOST SECRET. At that point you get the free (I repeat, FREE) copy of DEADLINE. There are big displays both in the stores and on the book with details of the giveaway.

Again, people have every right to their own opinion, but I disagree with knee jerk "hawk...ptoeey!" reactions without understanding what is actually going on and what the promotion entails.


Brown's name is displayed far too prominently on the cover, so a lot of people are going to pick this up, believing it's Brown's work rather than Kernick's. That does seem intrinsically unfair. Although they might be getting the book for free, don't forget they're also committing to order the new Dan Brown from a specific retailer at a specific price. If their decision to do so is based on what they think is a free copy of a Dan Brown book, then this promotion is blatantly misleading.

Having said that, I think the far bigger mystery is: why Kernick? Thematically his books aren't anything like Dan Brown's (although the recent ones share the cardboard characters and sloppy prose). More importantly, I'd be alarmed to think he might need this kind of marketing push. Since ditching his far superior police procedurals in favour of these often quite trashy thrillers, he's been selected by Richard & Judy, stocked by all the major retailers - i.e. supermarkets - and presumably sells by the bucketload. Surely Transworld have more deserving writers whose careers could really have done with a boost?


I'm looking at this book cover, and I can't figure it out - which of the two books is that? The phrasing indicates it's the Dan Brown book, but if so...why is there no title? Dreadful.

Blake Crouch

I will admit to being confused when I first saw the details of this promotion, but I think it was because I wasn’t there holding the book in my hands and didn’t have the information that it was FREE and part of a pre-order promotion. I hope Kernick doesn’t take much heat for this. Having put out a free novella called SERIAL on Kindle in May with Jack Kilborn/JA Konrath through Grand Central, it has been, to some extent, a lesson in ingratitude. No matter that something is given away...no matter that the product description is made explicitly clear, a select number of people will take it upon themselves to beat the gift horse to death. If someone picks up this book and doesn’t have the mental prowess to deduce that Dan Brown didn’t write it, then perhaps they should stick with less intellectually vigorous activities than reading.


I stand by my opinion of this. It's a trick designed to confuse people and should be beneath the author. And Jason Pinter said himself: why should Kernick care? He sells a lot of books that way. I suppose that means anything goes as long as it sells a lot of books. The fact that this particular edition is free doesn't really enter into it. What was wrong with a more modest cover comparing Kernick to Brown and perhaps with Brown's endorsement and then giving it away free?
This business is simply dishonest.

Genre Reviews

Since the book with this cover was free, I don't see any ethical problem with it. I do think the cover (since it was made especially for this promotion) could have been clearer about what the deal/promotion was so as not to confuse potential buyers, but that's the only problem I see.

R.J. Mangahas

Though both sides present an interesting argument, I would like to point out something that Jason Pinter mentioned in his e-mail.

"In the U.S., it's a similar situation to how Andrew Gross began his career. He co-wrote several novels with James Patterson--one of the world's biggest selling authors and someone else with a spotty 'literary' pedigree--and when Gross's own book came out he was immediately recognized, bought and read to a far greater degree than 99% of debut novelists."

I wouldn't call it a similar situation, because there is a major difference. In the case of Andrew Gross, he co-authored the books. That means James Patterson (besides his name emblazoned on the covers) actually had involvement with the book. I'm not saying that having his name on a cover with James Patterson hurt Gross in any way, but with Kernick, it appears that Dan Brown's name is simply there to be used as a "if you liked this author...."

Now I see nothing wrong with offering a free book when pre-ordering another. I personally just don't think that it should have Dan Brown's name so prominently displayed on the cover.

Jason Pinter

R.J. is right, it's not a apples-to-apples comparison, I used it as an example of using one author's name to help promote another. Now, let me run down exactly why I think this is so overblown. Here is how one would actually come to own the free book:

1) You decide to pre-order Dan Brown's THE LOST SYMBOL from W.H. Smith. for £9.99 (£2.00 down payment + £7.99 on pickup).

2) At that point, and ONLY after you have pre-ordered THE LOST SYMBOL, you are given a free copy of DEADLINE by Simon Kernick (with said cover). You do not pay a penny (or in the UK, a pence) extra for the Kernick book, and you do not even have to accept it. You only get the book by pre-ordering Brown's book--you cannot purchase it, it is not given away with any other offer, and it is not forced upon you.

I disagree with Nigel's statement that some might pre-order THE LOST SYMBOL because of the free giveaway. I doubt many people buy something because of something free that might get, at least not without looking at the fine print. People who are unhappy with their free Kernick book are probably the same people who get upset when they don't get the prize they want in the Cracker Jack box. And my guess is that anybody who is 'duped' by the Brown/Kernick cover is also duped by all those Nigerian princes looking for someone to collect their frozen assets.

Jason Pinter

Quick apology - That last comment came off way snarkier than I intended.

Joanna D'Angelo

I agree with Jason Pinter - it was a good promo tool and yes - it's about getting eyeballs to notice another writer.

Finn Harvor

"At that point, and ONLY after you have pre-ordered THE LOST SYMBOL, you are given a free copy of DEADLINE by Simon Kernick (with said cover). You do not pay a penny (or in the UK, a pence) extra for the Kernick book, and you do not even have to accept it. You only get the book by pre-ordering Brown's book--you cannot purchase it, it is not given away with any other offer, and it is not forced upon you."

This is fine, and accurate, Jason, but it sidesteps the issue of the initial hook, which is the book's misleading visuals.

Allen Appel

This reminds me of those old Mad Magazine ads that would say things like (in tiny type) "this book is not by JAMES MICHENER in giant type. The cover originally infuriated me, but after having the whole deal explained it seems way too complicated to stay angry about. But if I had been sent this book with this cover to be reviewed, I would have spent at least half the review ripping the publisher to pieces.

Howard Shrier

How come no one's trashing the publisher for using the word "unputdownable" in the blurb?

David Thayer

What I find fascinating about this promotion is the perception of the book buying customer. The benefit they derive from preordering Dan Brown's book is receiving a book written by Simon Kernick for free although the customer may be confused by the cover. WH Smith must be assuming that the target customer is someone they will never see again once the Dan Brown uproar subsides. If that's the case, that customer is unlikely to buy Simon's backlist or any other book not written by Dan Brown. The obvious answer here is to have all books written by "Dan Brown" or stop chasing customers who don't read.

Richard S. Wheeler

I would not want to piggyback on a more successful author other than to welcome an endorsement from one. I suppose that is generational. I want my work to stand and fall on its merits, and have no wish to borrow anyone's moxie.

Sandra Parshall

It seems absurd to me, but if the author is okay with it AND READERS KNOW WHAT THEY'RE GETTING, it's no more sickening than any other form of advertising. I suppose we may see a time when blurbs by well-known writers are printed on covers in larger type than the obscure author's name and title.


I went to Barnes and Nobles today to purchase the book, but I was told that it was either pulled or never got published. Do you know anything about that?


I considered this matter with interest, but wanted to wait until the excitment subsided.

Anything that might [and I stress 'might'] get some non-readers back into reading is for my $00.02 well worth it and must be applauded.

Let's hope the Dan Brown effect may get reading back on the agenda at the water-cooler to some degree.

The real issue [that this post raises] in my opinion is that as bibliophiles, we all must work hard to talk about books to as many people as we can in the real world, as well as online. At dinner parties, when I get my haircut, when I'm at the dentist, shopping, talking to work colleagues, etc I always make a point of telling people what the best books are out currently. I buy volumes of books as presents, never anything but books from Ali [my friends know], and to some it may well be the only book they read that year, but others, it prompts them to enter a bookshop and pick up another, and habits form.

The Dan Brown release can only but help uplift "books" into the 'line-of-sight'. Books are a crucial and relevant part of the human experience of life. Many people I know may only read the Dan Brown this year, but in many cases it will get many others back into reading.

I applaud methods to get non-readers back browsing bookshelves. Using Dan Brown as the 'bait' on the Simon Kernick 'hook' a good way of doing just that; as Kernick's thrillers are highly addictive; this little campaign may help all of us in the world of reading, books, and bookselling.

You only need to look at how 'books' and 'thinking' are treated by totalitarian regimes to understand that books are considered dangerous by the controllers.

This debate illustrates just these points.

Tell a non-reader the best novel you read last week, or buy them a copy of it - we all need to push books, because if we don't there will be no publishing industry of any significance, and debates like this will echo in the memory only.


Richard S. Wheeler

There is the question of self-respect in this. Would, say, Hemingway or Steinbeck or Fitzgerald, as struggling young authors, accept any part of such an arrangement? I don't think so. For the rest of his days, Mr. Kernick will know he got a free ride, and it had little to do with the merit of his work. I would not want to be in his shoes.


I don't see how any reasonable person could interpret this as anything but misleading and cynical on its face. Argue all you want about sales effectiveness, writers' talent, and their willingness to go along with it. It doesn't change the lie supported by simple typography and placement. It's a stunningly willful ignorance. This is genre fiction, so perhaps it isn't as indicative of anything but of a particular market or demographic (I'd like to think there'd be more respect for these readers, regardless). But it surely doesn't do much to distinguish the writers, less so because they're so willing to go along with it.

The publisher has effectively turned what is usually considered a craft, at the least, into dish soap.

Dana King

That's just cheap. The real irony is that Kernick is twice the writer Dan Brown, but he's the guy trying to ride brown's coattails.

The comments to this entry are closed.