Saturday, May 21, 2011

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

Report courtesy of The Nielsen Company

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)


January 2005       A New Earth by  Eckhart Tolle                                                - 3,370,000
September 2005  A Million Little Pieces by James Frey                                    - 2,695,500 
January 2006       Night by Elie Wiesel                                                                  - 2,021,000
March 2007           The Road by Cormac McCarthy                                             - 1,385,000
January 2001        We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates                  - 1,348,000
June 2003              East of Eden by John Steinbeck                                            - 1,314,000
November 2007    The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet                                    - 1,109,000
October 2007         Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcie Marquez - 817,000
March 2001            Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio                                        - 794,000
October 2008         The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski            - 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
21,500

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.