Ouch. My 30-day test of The Secret is over, and now I know the secret of the universe: Taking advice from bestsellers can leave you worse off instead of better.
Yes, I knew when I started the test that the premise of Rhonda Byrne’s bestseller was scientifically “preposterous,” as Jerry Adler put it in his brilliant expose of the book in the March 5 issue of Newsweek. But One-Minute Book Reviews is the blog that gives out the annual Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books. http://oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/03/15/. And The Secret seemed like such an obvious frontrunner that I thought: Shouldn’t I at least try its techniques before giving it a booby prize? How often do I have a chance to road-test the advice in a Delete Key contender? It’s not as though I can turn myself into a Danielle Steel heroine and do what she does to get men to give her jewelry and take her on Mediterranean cruises, which would require shaving at least a decade off my age and more off my dignity.
So on May 2, I began a one-month trial of the premise of The Secret: You can have anything you want by tapping into a “law of attraction” in the Universe (always spelled with a capital U). Byrne says that Universe will “manifest” your desire as long as you know exactly what you want. Part of the beauty of the “law of attraction,” Byrne says, is that you don’t actually have to work to achieve your desire: You just have to visualize it act as though you already have it. No order is too tall for the Universe to fill. “It is as easy to manifest one dollar as one million dollars,” Byrne writes.
That’s why I asked the Universe for a one-million-dollar advance for my next novel or for a movie or paperback deal for one of my earlier books. Given Byrne’s claims, this had to be a much fairer request than many that readers of The Secret were making, because the Universe could fill in so many ways it. I wasn’t one of those people asking for a vintage Mercedes that hadn’t rolled out of a plant since the Eisenhower administration. There were hundreds of publishers who had my agent’s telephone number. (My agent represented the most recent winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction! Those publishers had to be practically hacking into her voice mail to find out what she had to sell!) There were probably even more filmmakers who know how to get her number. Some of those producers had to be desperate for romantic comedies that could serve as star vehicles for actresses who were just coming out rehab and needed to make a comeback fast.
I was also willing to be fair to the Universe and cut it a little slack if it was overwhelmed in by all the requests from people who bought The Secret. As Byrne advised, I visualized the million-dollar check. But I decided I would give the Universe credit if, say, a flush publisher or producer had invited my agent to lunch to talk about me. (As Gay Talese once said, New York is about lunch.) My theory was: I could assign credit based on how good the lunch venue was – say, a few thousand for the Four Seasons and under $25 for Burger Heaven. I also decided to give the Universe some credit if the sales of one of my novels spiked on Amazon, suggesting that producers were buying it by the carton to ship to those actresses in rehab.
So what happened? Here are the results:
1. Not only did I not get the million dollars, I had what may have been, financially, my worst month in years. I can’t even tell you how bad it was, because a lot of sites for writers link to One-Minute Book Reviews, and some of their visitors might quit writing forever if I did.
2. Apart from not handing over the one million, the Universe hit me with bizarre and unexpected expenses, which made the month even more of a disaster. For example, I had to file a Freedom of Information Act request for a few records I needed. Journalists do this all the time, but I hadn’t done it before. So I didn’t realize that you had to pay for documents you wanted, which in my case amounted to no more than five or six pieces of paper, none classified or top-secret. Just a routine request. For this the U.S. government charged me $158. Memo to journalists who plan to do this in the future: They don’t call it the Freedom of Information Act because it’s free.
3. As for the publishers and filmmakers: Here’s a tip for any writers who may be thinking of doing their own test of The Secret. Do not try this test during a month when publishers are getting ready for, going to or recovering from hangovers acquired at the year’s biggest trade show, BookExpo America. You’re cooked if Tina Brown is promoting a new book on Princess Diana when you’re trying to get the Universe to notice you.
4. My novels didn’t budge in the Amazon rankings, but The Accidental Bride did get a really nice mention on a books-of-the-week list at the Bensenville Community Public Library in Bensenville, Illinois, which is featuring books about “brides, bridesmaids, wedding planners, and everyone’s favorite, bridezillas.” Bless you, Bensenville.
5. I got a great idea for a soccer-novel series that could be written by a writer friend who coaches youth soccer if only he’d give up his other work. This wouldn’t make money for me could make millions for him. I told my friend about my idea, and he sent me an e-mail message headed, “Are you mad?” I’m still hoping he’ll see the genius of it. When his millions start rolling in, maybe he’ll take me to lunch to thank me.
Finally, I did get some great links from bloggers about my posts on The Secret and other books. Thank you! A book typically takes at least eight or nine months to reach stores after an author turns in a manuscript. So you can be sure that none of bestsellers and other books I’ve written about have achieved their success because their authors tapped into a wacko “law of attraction.” Except, of course, for The Secret.
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© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.