I once worked for the man, no longer with us, who claimed to have invented the idea of reprinting books to tie in with TV adaptations (he’d been head of marketing at Penguin when The Forsyte Saga was on telly first time round). Obviously, a high-profile TV or movie (or even radio) version works wonders for sales, sometimes decades after a book first came out.
But if we accept that many book are purchased because they reinforce the desired self-image of the reader (the black-clad 19-year-old with a copy of Camus or Kerouac in his greatcoat pocket), are these TV tie-ins such a great idea? The movie version of Watchmen has prompted a lot of me-firsting, not just from people who read the book in the 80s, but also from those who read the original comics. Surely wielding a copy of Slumdog Millionaire or The Damned United with a movie still on the front brands you as a meek belonger, a pack follower, a Cloughie-come-lately?
Maybe publishers should just print dummy copies, with the movie poster on the cover, but blank pages inside, and deposit them on the shop shelves to lure in the punters - who can then buy artfully distressed copies (discreetly displayed next to the dummies) without cover shots of Michael Sheen or that bloke from Skins, so they can affect cultured ignorance that the movie even exists.