SINGAPORE - When books are adapted into movies, it means big business for bookstores as the novels go flying off the shelves
Box-office smashes also make bookstore registers ring. When a book hits the screen, sales may leap from zero to several thousands for a long-forgotten story.
Take The Hobbit, the classic 1937 children's novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. Sales of the comic tale about a band of dwarves setting out to rob a dragon were less than 100 copies here a week, even after The Lord Of The Rings film trilogy in the noughties, based on Tolkien's longer saga for adults.
Then director Peter Jackson decided to take another stab at Middle Earth and publisher HarperCollins re-released the classic novel as a movie tie-in edition.
Not a word was changed of the text, but the cover now featured art from the new film trilogy. Since December's release of the first movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, this movie tie-in edition has sold a whopping 13,000 copies in Singapore stores alone.
"A movie tends to really market a book to people that might not normally read, or perhaps read a book or two a year," a spokesman for HarperCollins US explains via e-mail.
This is why once the film rights are sold and long before casting is confirmed, publishers will re-issue novels with cover stickers that say: Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture.
Adds Ms Laura Christie, international sales director, Asia, of HarperCollins UK, in an e-mail interview about The Hobbit: "The film adaptation will have brought a whole new audience to the novel, especially children who weren't even born when The Lord Of The Rings film trilogy was released and who are now old enough to discover The Hobbit novel for themselves."
In other words, movies give books new and extended shelf life.
"Usually the sale of a particular title will decline abruptly or gradually after 12 to 18 months of its release," says a spokesman for MPH Distributors, which brings in several movie-tie-in books, including The Hobbit.
Among them is The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks, which sold 10,000 copies here in a year when it was first released in 2008.
Sales fell to less than 2,000 copies after that in the 2010 to 2011 period, yet the movie-tie-in edition released to coincide with last year's film sold more than 8,000 copies.