Entertainment Marketers of the Year

Cynthia Black, 'The Secret'

By Published on .

The central message of "The Secret," a best-selling book that has piled up a stunning 3.75 million copies since its release in November, is that we attract what we think about.
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Broke out of niche into mainstream and snagged well-timed appearances on talk-show circuit, notably winning over Oprah.

That's no surprise to Cynthia Black, president of Portland, Ore.-based Beyond Words, a veteran at promoting books in the body-mind-spirit genre. When "The Secret" found its way into the publishing executive's hands through a series of lucky coincidences, she knew exactly which levers to pull to make a best-seller.

The book, whose mantra is "Ask, believe, receive," is based on a 90-minute DVD by Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne. It was gaining grass-roots popularity through New Age believers who focus on the power of positive thinking.

Paperback persuasion
Instantly spotting the DVD's sales potential as a book, Ms. Black got in touch with Simon & Schuster's Atria Books, with whom she had earlier inked a partnership. That company's publishing muscle helped her persuade Ms. Byrne to turn the script into a book.

Next, Ms. Black helped lead the editorial and design team in a race against the clock to get the book out in November, just in time for the crucial holiday sales season last year.

"We did what's called 'crashing' the book -- working many long nights to get it done in just four months," Ms. Black says.

Publicists for the Atria/Beyond Words team then shipped copies of the original DVD, plus review copies of the book, to TV producers, and the phones began to ring.

"I've never seen anything like it. Overnight, top producers were calling us," Ms. Black says.

Prominent appearances
Well-timed appearances on talk shows with Larry King, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey -- twice -- electrified sales. As TV talk shows touted the book on the air, Ms. Black's team promoted it through New Age bookstores.

Ms. Black says she discovered "The Secret" through a chance conversation in an airport, which led her to meet a feng shui expert who appears in the DVD. That connection led to a meeting with Ms. Byrne. The fact that Atria Books Exec VP-Publisher Judith Curr is also from Australia helped to seal the deal for "The Secret," Ms. Black says.

"We all shared a vision for maintaining the book's spiritual integrity while making it accessible to the mainstream."

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