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As Oprah signs off from her daily talk show, closing the chapter on Oprah’s Book Club, how will this fare for the publishing industry?
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Norm Goldman


Reviewer & Author Interviewer, Norm Goldman. Norm is the Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com.

He has been reviewing books for the past fifteen years when he retired from the legal profession.

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By Norm Goldman
Published on May 20, 2011
 


As Oprah signs off from her daily talk show, closing the chapter on Oprah’s Book Club, how will this fare for the publishing industry?  The Nielsen Company takes a look at Oprah’s Book Club selections from the past ten years. 

As Oprah signs off from her daily talk show, closing the chapter on Oprah’s Book Club, how will this fare for the publishing industry?  The Nielsen Company takes a look at Oprah’s Book Club selections from the past ten years. 

The data can be found below and on the Nielsen Wire.   

The Oprah Effect: Closing the Book on Oprah’s Book Club

Oprah Winfrey, fairy godmother? For many in the publishing world, that’s not far off.  Oprah’s seal of approval, manifested in Oprah’s Book Club, translates to new editions, heightened attention and sales bumps (or jumps, as was sometimes the case).  Oprah’s Book Club—with picks ranging from older classics to lesser known works to Pulitzer Prize-winners—became a coveted and exclusive fraternity founded in 1996, with branded special editions selling more than 22 million copies in the past ten years.

As Oprah prepares to sign off from her daily talk show for good, The Nielsen Company takes a look at Oprah’s Book Club selections from the past ten years.

 Top 10 Bestselling Oprah’s Book Club Books in the Past 10 Years (US)

RELEASE

TITLE

AUTHOR

OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB EDITION ISBN

UNIT SALES TO DATE

January 2005

A New Earth

Eckhart Tolle

9780452289963

 3,370,000

September 2005

A Million Little Pieces

James Frey

9780307276902 

2,695,500 

January 2006

Night

Elie Wiesel

9780374500016

2,021,000

March 2007

The Road

Cormac McCarthy

9780307387899

1,385,000 

January 2001

We Were the Mulvaneys

Joyce Carol Oates

9780452282827

1,348,000

June 2003

East of Eden

John Steinbeck

9780142004234

1,314,000

November 2007

The Pillars of the Earth

Ken Follett

9780451225245

1,109,000

October 2007

Love in the Time of Cholera

Gabriel García Márquez

9780307389732

817,000

March 2001

Icy Sparks

Gwyn Hyman Rubio

9780142000205

794,000

October 2008

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

David Wroblewski

9780061768064

770,000

 While its undeniable that Oprah’s Book Club delivered mega-sales for its selections, it can be hard to track officially as all editions might have benefited (not just the Oprah edition), including used copies.  However, there are some titles that catapulted to bestseller lists following Oprah’s nod.  These include:

 Oprah Pick #63 (September 17, 2009): Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan (Hachette)

While the trade paperback and hardcover editions sold just 47,500 units together, the Oprah trade paperback sold a whopping 405,000 units—an 853 percent increase. 

Edition

ISBN

Release

Price

Units Sold

Oprah Trade Paperback edition

9780316086370

9-1-09

$14.99

405,000

Trade Paperback edition

9780316113953

7-1-09

$14.99

26,000

Hardcover edition

9780316113786

6-1-08

$23.99

21,50

 Oprah Pick #62 (September 18, 2008): The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (Ecco)

According to Oprah.com, Oprah compares this book to classics by John Steinbeck and To Kill a Mockingbird's Harper Lee. Sales nearly tripled after being named to Oprah’s Book Club.

 

Oprah Trade Paperback edition

9780061768064

10-1-08

$25.95

770,000

Hardcover edition

9780061374227

6-1-08

$25.95

259,000

 

Oprah Pick #57 (May 28, 2007): The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Random House – Knopf/Vintage)

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and named to Oprah’s Book Club in 2007, this title became a movie in 2009, so it’s no surprise that the book has sold more than 1.5 million copies in total.  However, P.O. (pre-Oprah), The Road sold just 156,000 units (178,000 copies of the hardcover edition to date); the Oprah trade paperback edition has sold a whopping 1.4 million units.

 

Oprah Trade Paperback edition

9780307387899

3-1-07

$14.95

1,385,000

Hardcover edition

9780307265432

9-1-06

$24.95

178,500

Oprah Pick #54 (September 22, 2005): Million Little Pieces by James Frey (Random House – Nan A. Talese/Anchor)

Perhaps the most famous and controversial of Oprah’s picks, Million Little Pieces was that autobiography that wasn’t.  Still, Oprah’s magic worked wonders.  The Oprah trade paperback edition of Million Little Pieces sold a stunning 2.7 million units, while the hardcover had sold 149,500.

Oprah Trade Paperback edition

9780307276902

9-1-05

$15.99

2,695,500

Hardcover edition

9780385507752

4-1-03

$22.95

149,500

 Breakdown of Total Units Sold Since 2001


*All figures have been rounded to the nearest hundred.

Source: Nielsen BookScan

*Nielsen BookScan's US Consumer Market Panel currently covers approximately 75% of retail sales and continues to grow. BookScan does not track sales from Wal-Mart/Sam's Club.