The power of positive thinking really works (for the author, at any rate)

Rhonda Byrne's previous book promised the secret of happiness and sold in the millions. Her latest self-help guide is about to do the same
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The Independent Culture

Her first book was a publishing phenomenon that spanned the world, offering readers The Secret to health, wealth and happiness. Now, Rhonda Byrne is back and expecting to garner millions more in royalties by promising The Power "to have everything you want".

Her new book, expected to storm up the sales charts in 10 days, claims to show "how perfect health, incredible relationships, a career you love, a life filled with happiness, and the money you need to be, do, and have everything you want, all come from The Power". Australian Byrne will share insights she has gained since letting readers in on The Secret, which revealed the "law of attraction" and claimed people can achieve what they want through positive thinking.

Publisher Simon & Schuster expects "massive" demand and sales to be on a par with, if not bigger than, The Secret. "The knowledge contained in The Power can and will change lives instantly," claimed Judith Curr, executive vice-president and publisher of Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster in the United States.

Bookshops are expecting The Power to be one of the bestselling non-fiction books of the year. "While most self-help books focus on one area, The Power claims it has the potential to change everything in life for the reader," said Joe Browes, non-fiction buyer at Waterstone's. "It's a kind of extreme self-help if you like."

The Secret, originally released as a film, became an international bestseller in 2006, with 19 million copies printed in 46 languages. According to Nielsen BookScan, more than 466,000 copies – costing at least £4m – have sold in the UK alone.

About four million copies of "personal development" books, including self-help, sold in the UK last year.

The Secret – boosted by celebrity endorsements from the likes of Oprah Winfrey – has consistently featured in Waterstone's non-fiction top 10, a feat usually achieved only by reference guides such as A-Z map books and driving test manuals. "It's something that's blown us away in terms of how it's performed," Mr Browes said.

It is also one of Amazon.co.uk's all-time top 20 bestsellers and has featured in its top 100 bestsellers list for 1,193 consecutive days. "We'd anticipate that The Power will be popular with those who have read Rhonda Byrne previously, as well as appealing to a new audience, and it is already up at number seven in our pre-order charts," said Amy Worth, the web bookseller's head of books buying. "You can expect that position to improve as we move towards the release date of 17 August."

Despite its success, The Secret has attracted criticism for its quasi-mystical tone and bold claims. Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World, said she found it "a little odd" that The Secret could be "taken semi-seriously" in the 2010s.

"One of the sad parts of that [people taking it seriously] is then they blame themselves when they fail to achieve all the money, the perfect relationships, the perfect health that was promised, because if they don't achieve it they are not trying hard enough, they are not focusing their thoughts well enough," she said.

"In this way of thinking, there is no such thing as economic conditions that are condemning many people to hard lives; there is no such thing as diseases that strike people independently of how nice their thoughts are; there is no room for earthquakes, tsunamis, oil spills, any kind of disaster, because anything that happens we really have brought on ourselves."

Stephen Joseph, professor of psychology, health and social care at the University of Nottingham, said individuals often found positive benefits from going through difficult times, such as improved relationships or gaining a new philosophy to life. "A lot of these types of self-help books are too overbalanced on the positive side. Life is just not like that," he said.

The secret: facts

19 million number of books sold worldwide

2 million copies of the DVD sold around the globe

32 number of languages the DVD is available in, including Turkish, Bulgarian and Icelandic

286,0000 number of fans on Facebook

1 where the book came on The New York Times bestseller list in March 2007. The film was also number one on Amazon.com's DVD chart in 2007

Bestsellers: Kings and queens of the self-help world

Susan Jeffers Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway: How to Turn Your Fear and Indecision into Confidence and Action

A bestselling author and public speaker, Jeffers has reached millions of people with a string of self-help titles aimed at helping individuals to overcome their fears, grow in confidence and heal relationships. Her workshops run in 20 countries.

Paul McKenna Change Your Life in Seven Days

The multimillionaire hypnotist and bestselling self-help author believes success and happiness are not accidents. He has also promised to make us thin, rich and sleep, and helped people increase confidence, quit smoking and fight phobias.

Anthony Robbins Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Life

The website of the American inspirational speaker, author and life coach to the stars features endorsements from the likes of Bill Clinton and tennis ace Serena Williams. However, positive thinking did not stop NBC this week from pulling his reality TV show, Breakthrough with Tony Robbins, after two episodes.

Allen Carr Easy Way to Stop Smoking

Not to be confused with the squeaky-voiced comedian, Carr became a millionaire by helping people to quit cigarettes with his bestseller and clinics. The former smoker, who died of lung cancer in 2006, also wrote about how to lose weight, stop drinking, enjoy flying, stop worrying and be successful.

Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People

The classic self-help book, first published in the 1930s, is still popular today and features in Amazon.co.uk's Top 100 bestseller list. Irving Tressler wrote the 1937 parody How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, the title adopted by Toby Young for his memoir which in turn became a film.

John Gray Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

Author of the bestselling relationship book of all time, Gray has sold more than 50 million books in 45 languages. Multiple spinoffs include Mars and Venus in the Bedroom.

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