Sign O’ Times | Profiting from the Nation’s Social Conscience

Vitruvian Man

How does a mid-list novelist with less than 10,000 copies in print per novel, become one of the bestselling authors of all time?

A possible answer to this quandary comes from Chemist Louis Pasteur.

When referring to observation, Pasteur said, 

“Chance favors the prepared mind”

5 years after publishing his first novel, “Digital Fortress” followed by “Angels and Demons” and “Deception Point”, Dan Brown sold more than 80 million copies of his fourth novel “The Da Vinci Code”.

Yes, you saw it correctly, 80 MILLION copies.

While I enjoyed the book, Brown’s sudden popularity intrigued me even more. The Templars theory or Mary Magdalene as Jesus wife wasn’t new. I’d already read about it in the 1983 non-fiction work “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” while doing research for my own novel.


Looking back, I realize there were only a few of us familiar with the theory.  It was reported in 2001, “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh’s work sold 165 copies .

With the release of The DaVinci Code in 2003 sales increased to more than 78,000, but I digress. I’ll save the ‘coattail’/piggy back book sales concept for another post.


For now, let me share a theory about the meteoric rise to fame of this unknown author. I’ll first need for you to suspend disbelief for a moment. Once your mind is receptive you’ll be able to see how to prepare for your own success.

Ok here we go.  Did you ask yourself why in 2001 did “Holy Blood, Holy Grail”, a book that was first published in 1983 sell 165 copies? Besides Nielsen BookScan coming on line in 1998 and charting book sales, it was clear early adopters were receptive to a possible cultural shift.


Simultaneously, the Catholic church sex scandal had reached its apex.
In 2001, Pope John Paul II finally addressed the priest sex scandal declaring it a grave sin.


According to Wikipedia and National Catholic Reporter, The Pope declared that sex with a minor (under age of 18) was a sin against the six commandment of the Decalogue. (The Ten Commandments). For non-Catholics, that commandment is “thou shall not commit adultery.”


Now back to the future of 2003, not only we beginning to experience a cultural shift, we are at the start of a new generation (not to be confused with age generation such a Baby Boomers/Generation X/Millennials/Echo-boomers), the Civic (minded) generation that will last the next 40 years.


In the Civic generation, according to Neil Howe and William Strauss, we become more community-minded and will strive to do the best for society especially where our children are concerned.


Obviously, if an institution such as the Catholic Church is harming our children we aren’t going to overthrow the church. We as a society however are going to look for ways to change it.


It was a desire for change that allowed The DaVinci Code to get our collective attention. The Catholic Church is a patriarchal institution devoid of its Divine Feminine in a way that is relevant. Therefore, the idea of returning the Divine Mother to the Divine Father appealed to the collective conscious.

This concept of joining the Mother and Father/Masculine and Feminine/ Yin and Yang is instrumental to community building.

The DaVinci Code was the perfect Alpha ‘guide’ to usher in the Civic Generation.

While we may have an Omega “guide” mega-bestseller such as a “Harry potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” to close out this generation,

I can’t predict if we’ll have another 80 million seller in the interim.

As a creative entrepreneur, however, this information helps me to understand where society is heading and what will appeal to us by way of products we purchase and how we promote them.


If I were a betting woman (I’m not) I would bet a nickel we’ll have more creative products and services that exhibit a combination of visionary yet practical, idealistic but pragmatic solutions.


Marketing, Publicity, Promotions and Media Relations will be included in the product and/or services’ design creating a new genre called Infotainment and/or edutainment.


One such example of this offering is Robert Townsend’s “Diary of Single Mom“. This on-line web series is in its third season and the focus is on family.

However, this innovative drama doesn’t limit itself to your PC screen.

It also encourages its viewers to share real life single mom stories on the show’s blog, hosts Single Mom Meet-up Mondays and offers best practices, tips and even gift bag goodies from its sponsors.


Robert Townsend may understand “Diary of Single Mom” will not be the alpha to usher in the generation but clearly he understands the rules of engagement for creative products in this generation.


Now back to the question of how a midlist author became an uber bestseller. The answer is Dan Brown or someone in his camp must have paid attention to the “Sign of the Times”.

We will do ourselves well to keep watch too.

Copyright (c) 2010 MH