According to global information company The NPD Group, the volume of the sales bump varies with the celebrity’s level of popularity, but having a book selected by a celebrity reader with a big following can result in a huge increase exposure and sales.
As a longtime innovator in the high-wattage book club space, no one has had greater impact on the discovery of classics and new titles than Oprah Winfrey. Selection of a new book or author for her club virtually guarantees bestseller status, and she has also helped new generations discover great works for the first time.
Oprah’s first Book Club ran from 1996 to 2010, and it was rebooted again online in 2012 as “Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.” To date, Winfrey has put 77 books on her list and brought many new authors to the public’s attention, including Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild,” Cynthia Bond’s “Ruby,”and Imbolo Mbue’s “Behold the Dreamers.”
Hollywood actor Reese Witherspoon’s popular “Hello Sunshine” book club took author Delia Owens’s “Where the Crawdads Sing” and catapulted it onto the best seller lists in September 2018. It has gone on to sell more than 1 million copies in print formats, and it remains the leading title in NPD BookScan’s overall bestseller list today. Witherspoon’s pick for October 2018, Laurie Frankel’s “This Is How It Always Is,” achieved a 276 percent increase in unit sales in the three months following book club selection, while Maria Hummel’s “Still Lives” posted 103 percent growth after appearing on Witherspoon’s list.
While Barack Obama doesn’t have a celebrity book club in the traditional sense, he is a prolific reader. He is also a powerful social media influencer who shares what he’s reading with his large number of followers. Last year Obama posted his summer reading list on Facebook, prompting a 2,300 percent increase in three-month unit sales for “A House for Mr. Biswas,” by V.S. Naipaul, and a 32 percent increase in three-month unit sales for the better-known title, “Educated,” by Tara Westover.
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