American writer Kate DiCamillo’s “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” recently sold over 30,000 copies.
The book was first published in 2009, and was quickly forgotten without receiving much interest. However, it’s as if the book has sprouted wings; it’s selling like crazy. This is because of its appearance in the currently very hot SBS drama, “Man From the Stars.”
In the drama, which is about the fateful love story of 400-year-old alien Do Min Joon (Kim Soo Hyun) and top star Chun Song Yi (Jun Ji Hyun), Do Min Joon is often seen reading books, and they have become more than just simple props.
The lines from the book fantastically fall in line with the innocent heart of Do Min Joon, and give his story another level of wholeness, as well as an additional element of foreshadowing in the drama.
Another instance in which a drama made a book into a number one bestseller was with the 2005 MBC drama “My Name Is Kim Sam Soon,” which introduced the book “Momo” by Michael Ende. And it doesn’t stop there. Writer Kim Eun Sook’s “Secret Garden” (2010) featured Lewis Caroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” and “Gentleman’s Dignity” (2012) featured Shin Kyung Sook’s “Somewhere a Phone Call for Me” (“어디선가 나를 찾는 전화벨이 울리고”). Both of these books went on to become bestsellers.
Books featured in dramas receiving sudden interest isn’t anything new, but since last year, it has become a very noticeable trend.
Lee Joong Sub’s “Lee Joong Sub, Letters and Pictures 1916-1956” was featured in the SBS drama “Goddess of Marriage,” and is still on the list of bestsellers. Japanese children’s book “Stormy Night” (“Arashi No Yoru Ni”) was featured in SBS’s “Master’s Sun,” and also made it to the bestseller list.
Last year’s KBS drama “Secret” showed Emily Bronte’s classic “Wuthering Heights” and Emile Ajar’s “La Vie Devant Soi,” which became two of the most searched items on sites, and saw increases in sales, as well.
However, just because a drama features a book doesn’t mean its popularity will increase. The SBS drama “A Thousand Days’ Promise” featured Kim Jin Myung’s historical book “Goguryeo” as the book that the main character writes, but it did not receive any traction. In cases like this where the book didn’t really match the story of the drama, the influence on book sales was not very big, no matter how much the book appeared in the drama.
An official at Minumsa Co., a parent company of BIR Publishing Company, said, “The [‘Man From the Stars’] writer knew about ‘The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane’ from a while back, and liked it so much she included it in the drama. A book that really meshes with the story well definitely receives the interest of the viewers. No matter being introduced in a drama, the book has to have its own power and attractive quality to receive a lot of interest. Books that don’t have this fail to receive any continued positive effect from dramas.”
Nowadays, young drama writers who know how to escape from the standard “drama grammar” and approach new topics smoothly have been including books as a tool to do this. Literary critic Kang Yoo Jung said, “It has become very noticeable that young writers are including books that they’ve enjoyed, or received motivation from in their drama development process. They are using books as a medium of connection with the viewers.”
The critic continued, “While they do use the medium of the book in a great way, it honestly isn’t a fundamental solution. While the sales of the book in question may increase, it doesn’t continue to an interest in literature in general.”
An official at a publishing company also commented, “That hidden treasures in the literary world can start to receive interest through dramas, even late in the game, is something to welcome, but that the bestselling status of a work can be influenced by a single broadcast is very bittersweet, reflecting the fragile state of the Korean literary market.”