Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Oprah Effect and Publishing. She Still Has It.

It’s no secret that Oprah is the ultimate bookseller. All of her Book Club selections, beginning with The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard in 1996, have become instant bestsellers.

Marilyn Johnson, who wrote Oprah Winfrey: A Life in Books, on Winfrey as an evangelist for books in Life magazine in 1997, has said: "You have to understand that Oprah is in awe of the writers she loves, in the same way that people revere her. She's like a writer's groupie."

Oprah has made publishers a TON of money, but most importantly she made reading accessible again for millions. She let people (primarily women) know that it was ok to take a bit of time for themselves to relax and join in an adult conversation about something they had in common.

Kathleen Rooney, an award-winning poet and a writing instructor at Emerson College, wrote how the Book Club, adored by its fans, deplored by its critics, has been at the center of arguments about cultural authority and literary taste since its inception in 1996 in Reading with Oprah: The Book Club that Changed America. Through close examination of Winfrey’s picks and personal interviews with book club authors and readers, Rooney demonstrates how the club that Barbara Kingsolver calls “one of the best possible uses of a television set” has, according to Wally Lamb, “gotten people of all ages to read, to read more, and to read widely.”

Last year, Nielsen BookScan published a list of the best selling titles in her book club over the past decade.
  • A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle (3.37 million)
  • A Million Little Pieces by James Frey (2.70 million)
  • Night by Elie Wiesel (2.02 million)
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy (1.39 million)
  • We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (1.35 million)
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck (1.31 million)
  • The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (1.11 million)
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (817,000)
  • Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio (794,000)
  • The Story of  Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (770,000)

When Oprah left daytime talk, she said the Book Club would follow her to her fledgling cable network, OWN. Without offering details at the time, she vowed, "I'm going to try to develop a show for books and authors." I couldn't wait to see what she would come up with, being the business woman she is, I was sure it would be brilliant. But I wondered if it would still make the kind of impact her club on network TV had.

Enter Oprah's Book Club 2.0 that she started this year. Her newest Book Club thoroughly incorporates technology and social media to facilitate interaction among readers.

  • The ebook versions of her selections include exclusive content, including Oprah's personal notes highlighted within the text. 
  • Readers can follow @OprahsBookClub on Twitter and join in conversations with #OprahsBookClub. 
  • With a virtual book club feature, friends can connect on GroupMe and can also discuss the book at Goodreads.

This ain't your Mama's book club. It's evolved, and all are invited.
Is she still selling books? Hell yeah, she is.

She announced her first pick, Cheryl Strayed's memoir, Wild, last May. It has sold around 500,000 copies. 

I might add, Wild made my Top Ten list in March.

This week Oprah announced her second pick, debut novel The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis. Another title that made it onto one of my Top Ten lists in September. Twelve Tribes was not scheduled for publication until January 2013, but if anybody can bump up a publication date, it's Oprah Winfrey. So the first edition of this book will carry the Oprah's Book Club 2.0 seal.

Oprah Announces Her Second Pick for Oprah's Book Club 2.0
This masterful debut novel was so astonishing that Oprah had to share it with the world. Watch to find out what Oprah loved so much about Ayana Mathis' The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.

Learn more about how you can participate in Oprah's Book Club 2.0.
Talk to you soon.

Happy reading,



  1. I have immense respect for Oprah--and just as much for the country that saw her wisdom, and ran with it.

    Thanks for enlightening me about 2.0!

    1. You're so welcome. Thanks a million for stopping by.

  2. Anyone who can get people reading is doing something wonderful. This is a great post!

    1. I completely agree, Jennifer. I thought the same thing about JK Rowling too. Thank you so much for coming by.

  3. I'm not sure about her new pick (not really into historical fiction). But her enthusiasm is amazing.

    1. It most certainly is. Oprah is one of a kind.

  4. I love Oprah's book club, and have all of the ones I have not read (maybe half or a little less) on a priority list to read!

    1. She really has chosen some great reads and made some debut authors superstars!


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