Oprah's Book Club makes celebrities out of authors

Oprah's Book Club makes celebrities out of authors

Much like her other initiatives which began as special episodes or segments on her show, Oprah’s Book Club was started in 1996 as a book discussion club intended to showcase books selected by Oprah herself. With an impressive list of 70 books highlighted from 1996-2011, the “Oprah’s Book Club” stickered special editions are said to have generated over $55million in sales after being featured on the show. This comes as no surprise, given Oprah’s influence over her audience, and their tendency to consume services and goods recommended by her. The first book to be selected for the club was “The Deep End of the Ocean” by Jacquelyn Mitchard. The reception of the book was so successful that it was later adapted into a film; also adapted after being selected for the Book Club, was Hollywood blockbuster, “The Reader”. Sales of many obscure or otherwise un-featured books increased by large margins are being selected by Oprah’s Book Club. Among the books which saw rapid increased in sales were “A New Earth” by Ekhart Tolle which sold 3,370,000 copies, “A Million Little Pieces” by James Frey which, despite the controversy, sold 2,69,500 copies, “Night” by Elie Wiesel”, which sold 2,021,000 copies, and “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, which sold 1,385,000 copies. Oprah’s power to promote sales is said to be 20 to 100 times more effective than any other personality or platform, and the aforementioned figures serve as testimony to that fact. To have one’s book featured in an episode of the book club therefore, was considered as being a smart career move. Only one author, Jonathan Franzen, was not appreciative of his book, “The Corrections” being part of her selections, owing to the fact that he thought her earlier choices were “one-dimensional”. He later participated willingly on the show in 2010 when Oprah chose his book “Freedom” as part of her selection. This controversy and one which involved Oprah calling out James Frey, author of “A million little pieces” and his publisher, for printing lies and passing them off as the truth. Needless to say, Oprah’s yay or nay can either make a book sell like hotcakes, or sink to the bottom without a trace. The selection of the books themselves appear to stem from a desire to share raw human emotions with the world at large, and to promote understanding of differences. From Maya Angelou to Elie Wiesel, the highlighting of history’s most painful events and the need to learn from them has also been shared. Angelou, a survivor of abuse, and Wiesel, an Auschwitz concentration camp survivor, have been regular guests on the show, and are widely regarded as being among the most influential guests on the Book Club episodes. Whether they are being lauded or called out, the most inviting feature of Oprah’s Book Club has been to make household names out of authors who otherwise would not have seen as much success as they have. While the Book Club technically ended in 2011 along with The Oprah Winfrey Show, it now has a second version, aptly titled “Oprah’s Book Club 2.0” which indicates at its presence over digital media. Needless to say, the original formula of selecting mostly unknown books and turning them into bestselling literary gems, with their authors as the next big name in creative writing, continues. So far the digital edition of the club has promoted two books, namely, “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed, and “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie” by Ayana Mathis.

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