Colson Whitehead’s time in the Oprah spotlight looks like it will be brief. Shortly after picking The Underground Railroad for her book club, Oprah has already picked her next title, and it goes on sale next week.
B&T recently notified librarians of the strict Sept. 6 on sale date for “Oprah Book Club September 2016 (9781250128546-hardcover, 9781427287236-audio CD).” That ISBN links to a St. Martin’s book classified as “world contemporary fiction (general)” running 263 pages. Ingram has it listed as “Fiction/General,” with a slightly longer page count of 272.
The Wall Street Journal was on top of the story earlier this month, correctly reporting that it would be a hardcover from a Macmillan imprint and speculating on contenders.
They guessed Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am (Macmillan/FSG; Sept. 6; 552 pages; fiction) but the author wrote back to them saying “Nope.”
Another shot was The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam (Macmillan/Flatiron; Sept. 6; 208 pages; fiction), but her agent said “Oh, god, I wish.”
Then came Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior (Macmillan/Flatiron; Sept. 6; 272 pages; memoir). Based on length (if you go by Ingram’s page count) and pub. date, this seems like the best bet, but if B&T and Ingram are correct, the pick is fiction and Love Warrior is a memoir. A spokesperson for Macmillan’s Flatiron Books was noncommittal, responding, “I can’t confirm or deny anything about it, I’m afraid.”
WSJ points out that Winfrey has connections to Flatiron Books. They will publish her first cookbook, Food, Health and Happiness (Jan 3, 2017), she has a deal with them for a memoir (recently postponed indefinitely) as well as her own imprint.
Whatever the title turns out to be, booksellers are happy and hoping the quick succession of picks means Oprah is getting back to frequent selections. Rebecca Fitting, co-owner of Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn told the WSJ, “It would be amazing if she started this up again. It would be amazing for books and booksellers.”
Signs point in that direction. Two picks announced just over a month apart represents a major increase. Oprah only picked one book in 2015, the less than blockbuster, Ruby by Cynthia Bond. 2014 also saw just one selection, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings. No titles were selected in 2013 and only two in 2012, spread out over six months, Cheryl Strayed ‘s Wild in June of that year and in December Ayana Mathis’s The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.
While her reign as queen of the hit makers has hit a few bumps, Oprah still has selling power. WSJ reports that Doubleday “increased the print run for The Underground Railroad to 200,000 from 75,000 after receiving the call from Winfrey in April [and it] shot to No. 4 on Amazon.com after the announcement.” It is currently #1 on the NYT Hardcover Fiction list.
Prior to the Oprah attention the highest level a hardcover by Whitehead reached on the NYT list was #16, for his 2012 novel Zone One.