Secret of 'The Secret': Unlocking the Mysteries of the Runaway Bestseller

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Overview

The bestselling blockbuster The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes has taken America by storm. The Secret of "The Secret" explores the explosive success of The Secret as well as the intriguing people and ideas behind it.

The Secret has already become a runaway sensation. All across America, people are clamoring to embrace it. Karen Kelly delves into this extraordinary phenomenon — What IS the secret? Where did it come from and does it really work?

The ...

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Overview

The bestselling blockbuster The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes has taken America by storm. The Secret of "The Secret" explores the explosive success of The Secret as well as the intriguing people and ideas behind it.

The Secret has already become a runaway sensation. All across America, people are clamoring to embrace it. Karen Kelly delves into this extraordinary phenomenon — What IS the secret? Where did it come from and does it really work?

The Secret of "The Secret" also investigates why this little book, particularly in America, has struck such a chord—does hope always spring eternal in the U.S.? What is it about our culture that has historically drawn us to seek answers and change our destiny using the power of the mind and the universe? Scholars and popular culture experts provide perspective on what makes the idea so appealing.

Several participants from The Secret share their behind-the-scenes stories and insights. Renowned psychologists, scientists, and theologians, weigh in on the power and limits of positive thinking and The Law of Attraction (the basis behind The Secret). Uncover the scientific and religious roots that form the building blocks of The Secret, as experts evaluate the author's claims about the various connections between these principles and "the secret."

Finally, the answers to the burning questions behind one of the biggest success stories of our time have arrived. Discover The Secret of "The Secret."

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Rhonda Byrne's 2006 best seller, The Secret, is getting The Da Vinci Codetreatment: spin-offs. Author and journalist Kelly rounds up a team of experts that includes scholars, scientists, popular culture experts-even some of the participants from Byrne's book and DVD-to share their insights on the powers and limits of positive thinking and the "law of attraction," the tenets on which Byrne bases her book. Their arguments are as varied as their professions, e.g., that it is not simply about what you want but your wants not hurting others; that the law of attraction may work generally, but nothing is a guarantee.

Who Moved My Secret?, meanwhile, is a hilarious spoof of the book. Journalist and playwright Gerard introduces a secret he believes far superior called It's the Secret, Stupid! (ITSS), providing detailed instruction on how to use it and the great success that will come with it. He states that in order to get what you want, you must conceive, believe, and also receive and act like you already have everything-in other words, act delusional. Each chapter includes such sage words as "we are all connected, which makes it impossible to get dressed." Kelly's book is recommended for public and academic libraries as well as for anyone wanting to know the real "secret" behind The Secret; Gerard's is for anyone seeking a humorous read and a lighthearted look at life and the laws of attraction. [For a biblical perspective of the best seller, see the review of James Garlow and Rick Marschall's The Secret Revealed, p. 92.-Ed.]
—Susan McClellan

From the Publisher
"Kelly's straightforward writing style, inherent grasp of the content's subtleties and natural skepticism give readers a big-picture view of The Secret and its success. Readers who want to examine the real facts behind the phenomenon will not be disappointed." —Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641975806
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/24/2007
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen Kelly is a prolific author and journalist. She has collaborated on a number of non-fiction books, including Get Serious About Getting Married and Starring You! The Insiders’ Guide to Using Television and Media to Launch Your Brand, Your Business and Your Life.  She has written articles for The New York Times, Natural Health Magazine, Yoga Journal, and The Wall Street Journal.  Kelly also worked as a senior editor at Warner Books and was Editorial Director of Daybreak Books, Rodale's personal growth imprint, acquiring titles by Montel Williams, Darcy O’Brien, and Victoria Moran.

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Read an Excerpt

The Secret of The Secret

Unlocking the Mysteries of the Runaway Bestseller
By Kelly, Karen

Thomas Dunne Books

Copyright © 2007 Kelly, Karen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312377908

Chapter One From Down Under to On Top: How the Secret Spread It’s too soon to tell whether or not The Secret book will make the list of bestselling titles of all time, which is a very high bar to reach considering that those at the bottom of the list have sold nearly 30 million copies. Books at the top of the list include everything from the Bible (50 to 60 billion) and Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong (900 million—but he had a built-in audience) to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (107 million) and Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull (40 million). (The numbers are from Wikipedia.com and Amazon.com.) Yet The Secret is heading in the right direction, with nearly 4 million copies in print. People who do not work in the publishing industry sometimes misunderstand what big print numbers actually mean—and what an accomplishment it is to achieve sales of even 100,000, let alone a million. Most books are lucky to make sales in the five-figure range. “Writers are up against the 200,000 books that are published each year. One year the publishers will say, ‘Too many books,’ so they cut back to 195,000 a year,” explainsConstance Sayre, a principal in the publishing consultancy Market Partners International. Added to that, she says, new authors are also facing the fact that independent booksellers “are dying like flies and the chain booksellers’ sales are dropping.” The book itself is up against various forms of electronic media, which is why Sayre and others in the business say that the The Secret DVD made such a huge difference; otherwise, it is hard to get anyone to pay attention. Indeed, there would have been no book without the movie—it is a direct result of the DVD’s popularity and of its actual content (most of the book is a transcription of what the experts said). Both DVD and book aroused a lot of debate and complaint (which is not to say that the Bible and Harry Potter haven’t—of course they have). Yet the story surrounding Byrne’s book, its marketing, and the inevitable criticism and discussion that generally follow are what cultural studies professors call part of its “production”—the more people talk about something, the longer it exists. The story of how it came into being, which by now has become a mini-legend, offers lessons in publishing, Internet marketing, convergence culture, optimism, cynicism, collective unconscious, and wishful thinking. Inspiration and Origins The law of attraction is not new, and it’s been called many different things over the years: positive thinking, psychology, flow, faith, the power of intention, or the law of abundance.
It even has an opposite: Murphy’s law. So was Rhonda Byrne simply rehashing an age-old idea, one that had appeared several times before in books and even movies? When New York Times reporter Allen Salkin asked Byrne about the Secret business, because it seemed like hocus-pocus, she said, “No, no, no, if you look at The Master Key System, it was very expensive knowledge to buy and was subscription only.” Byrne was referring to Charles Haanel’s twenty-four-week success program, which was originally published in 1912 and cost around $1,500—a royal sum at the time. It is widely available in inexpensive book form today, and I even found a free Internet version. Apparently, Byrne believed that although the law of attraction wasn’t new, compiling the ideas in an easy-to-digest and readily available format was groundbreaking. According to the official Web site of The Secret, thesecret.tv, Byrne’s version, which was first articulated as a DVD, came about “on a spring day toward the end of 2004.” This may seem contradictory to those of us in the Western Hemisphere, where winter ends the year, but Byrne’s home base is in Australia, which is in the Eastern Hemisphere, where the seasons are reversed. On this particular day, the fifty-something mother of two was in the midst of a personal and financial crisis, which she recounted on an episode of Oprah. According to Byrne, her daughter, Hayley, gave her a copy of self-help writer Wallace D. Wattles’s The Science of Getting Rich, originally published in 1910 and still in print today. Wattles’s book explains the secret laws of the universe—and most primarily, the law of attraction—in this way: “A thought, in this substance, produces the thing that is imagined by the thought.” Wattles repeats this idea in various ways throughout his book: “There is a thinking stuff from which all things are made, and which, in turn, in its original state, permeates, penetrates, and fills the interspaces of the universe. A thought, in this substance, produces the thing that is imagined by the thought.” But it’s not so simple: “To think according to appearance is easy,” he writes; “to think truth regardless of appearances is laborious, and requires expenditure of more power than any other workman is called upon to perform.” More about Wattles later, but for now, it’s notable that these quotes unmistakably mirror what The Secret says, and the similarities suggest Byrne did indeed read Wattles and drew upon his ideas. However, most books about the law of attraction say generally pretty much the same thing, so there is some debate about whether it was Wattles’s book alone that inspired Byrne to create her documentary. And that’s where this part of the story becomes interesting. Reporter Allen Salkin, who wrote about The Secret for the Times, said that Byrne was “100 percent familiar” not only with other law of attraction books but also with another thematically related film, What the Bleep Do We Know!?, a documentary about the science of the mind and the power of consciousness made in 2004 by William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, and Mark Vicente.
Salkin describes The Secret as “a watered down, Kmart version of What the Bleep; you may think you are watching something similar, but What the Bleep is much more about science,” than spirituality, he says. “The Bleep came out in Australia well before they started to make The Secret,” says Bleep filmmaker Betsy Chasse, who interviewed one of the producers of The Secret DVD and asked him whether or not What the Bleep influenced him. “He said it did and it didn’t, so obviously it had to have had an effect on the filmmakers. And there’s a crossover of people they interviewed,” she explained, including physicists Fred Alan Wolf and John Hagelin. According to the official version of the DVD’s inception, published on The Secret’s Web site, Byrne dug a little further into the law of attraction and discovered there were people “alive today” who were aware of the information and were in fact writing books and producing tapes and DVDs about it, holding workshops, and traveling around the United States giving speeches about it—rather than hoarding it all for themselves. Byrne saw a hole in the market, and said she wanted to pull all the bits and pieces of information together in one easily accessible place, first in a documentary—a medium she understood quite well. Part of the secret of the DVD’s success is that Byrne is a savvy television producer who knows what she’s doing. The Secret Web site includes information on her Australian film company, Prime Time Productions, and lists an impressive roster of highly rated reality and documentary-style programs, including The World’s Greatest Commercials and related specials: “Adults Only,” “Cannes,” “Funniest Commercials Ever Made,” and “SEX SELLS.” Another program, Australia Behaving Badly, “explores the differences between what Australians say they would do when their conscience is on the line, and what they actually do when faced with temptation.” OZ Encounters, a one-hour special made for Australian TV, features unexplained phenomena experienced by “everyday” Aussies that range from UFO sightings by entire towns to one-on-one alien abductions. Since many law of attraction practitioners are in the United States, Byrne headed into the Western Hemisphere to start shooting footage with a range of self-help gurus, a physicist, and some metaphysicists. “The Secret is the first time anyone has ever put 24 teachers with their own following together in one movie,” says bestselling Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus author John Gray, who appeared in the DVD. An experienced television producer, Byrne knows what she’s doing in terms of appealing to broad public taste. “They are saying the same things in a very uplifting way, and that, along with good graphics, made an impact on people. We are a visual society and watch TV more than we read books; nothing holds our attention for very long, so she put the ideas across with that in mind,” says Gray. Among those experts Byrne enlisted to participate in the DVD were longtime law of attraction teachers Jerry and Esther Hicks.
The Hickses are two of the most widely recognized and popular law of attraction speakers today—the equivalent of rock stars in the metaphysical movement—so naturally Byrne sought them out. The couple has been on the road talking and writing about the law of attraction since the late 1980s. They say their messages come from divine guidance via a spirit named Abraham who speaks through Esther (they do not use the term “channel”). Their books The Law of Attraction, published by Hay House in September 2006, and an earlier volume, Ask and It Is Given, also published by Hay House in October 2005, were both channeled by Abraham. The Hickses are prolific; over the last twenty years they have produced more than six hundred Abraham-inspired books, workbooks, cards, calendars, cassette tapes, CDs, and DVDs. Byrne sought out the Hickses to participate in the first version of the DVD. In a letter the Hickses sent to friends and colleagues in late 2006 (widely available online by Googling “Jerry and Esther Hicks’ letter to friends”), the couple related their dismay with how their participation in the DVD was handled. They consented to participate and signed an agreement with Prime Time Productions, Byrne’s company, that would give them a small percentage of the net profits and 10 percent of direct-video sales. Esther’s “Abraham voice” ended up being used as narration in the first version of the DVD, but neither Esther nor Jerry appeared on screen. Copyright © 2007 by Karen Kelly. All rights reserved. 
 

Continues...

Excerpted from The Secret of The Secret by Kelly, Karen Copyright © 2007 by Kelly, Karen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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