It's a sad state of affairs when the entire book industry, plus major retailers like Barnes & Noble, can see only one ray of hope for the future: the next novel from Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown. Apparently, they don't have anything else going on (no one else writes books, obviously), because they are slavering like dogs in heat for the next sure-to-(possibly)-be bestseller. Just one big title can jolt the entire industry, the WSJ reports, "as customers pour into the stores and walk out with a bagful of titles." Since the fate of the world is clearly resting on Mr. Brown, he's receded into New Hampshire and refused to comment. His agent isn't speaking, either. Good for them!

Meanwhile, the nation's biggers retailers can barely restrain themselves. "We're constantly asking," says Bob Wietrak, vice president of merchandising at Barnes & Noble Inc. "When a major author doesn't deliver, you get down on your knees and pray," says Laurence Kirshbaum, a book agent who heads up LJK Literary Management in New York. "You can't threaten, you can't cajole, you wait."

But don't despair! "Dan Brown has a very specific release date for the publication of his new book, and when the book is published, his readers will see why," says Stephen Rubin, president of Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group.