Adrienne Sparks & Suzanne Herz

By Published on .

"The Da Vinci Code" is a rare bird-it offers something for everyone, including secret societies, religious conspiracies, codes, art history, murder and a touch of romance. "People who don't read books are going out to buy this book," says Adrienne Sparks, 34, associate director of marketing at Bertelsmann's Doubleday Books.

In stores since March, 18, 2003, "The Da Vinci Code" already has 6 million hardcover copies in print. As of Feb. 8, it had spent 45 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list-25 of those weeks in the top slot.

How big is 6 million in 11 months? After 10 years in print, "Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil" has sold 3.3 million copies, including paperback sales.

Doubleday distributed 10,000 advance review copies to booksellers and reviewers. Author Dan Brown, whom Suzanne Herz, Doubleday VP-associate publisher and executive director of publicity, describes as "incredibly charming, like your favorite college professor," went out on a rare pre-publication tour to meet booksellers large and small. Ms. Sparks kept 300 of the most enthusiastic industry insiders talking by sending background information about the book to an e-mail list the team called the " `Da Vinci Code' noisemakers."

On the publicity side, Ms. Herz, 42, was "saturating the reviewers." The New York Times' Janet Maslin was one of the book's most fervent early fans. In her review, which ran the day before "The Da Vinci Code" hit stores, Ms. Maslin wrote: "The word for `The Da Vinci Code' is ... wow."

After the bookselling community was "thoroughly primed, we shifted focus to the customer," Ms. Sparks says. Spier, New York, created an image of the Mona Lisa with a tagline that read: "Why is this man smiling?"

`Times' fully coded

One month before the book's release, Doubleday sent posters and shelf talkers of the Mona Lisa ad to bookstores to give readers a taste of the title. On pub date, even The New York Times was fully coded-every section had a teaser ad that drove readers to a page ad in "Arts."

Since publication, Doubleday has kept readers involved with the book through online code-breaking contests; more than 500,000 people tried to win the last contest. At this point, even if Doubleday put the kibosh on all marketing efforts, Mr. Brown's behemoth best seller probably wouldn't be in danger of disappearing. Other publishers have rushed "Code"-inspired books to print, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer have optioned the film rights, and, well, everybody is still talking about it. "It's so deeply in the air that it's creating its own publicity," Ms. Herz says.