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Does Oprah still have her book mojo?

Many in the book world are eager to discover if Oprah's book club – after a two-year hiatus and now on the lower-profile OWN network – will still draw readers in massive numbers.

By Husna Haq / June 4, 2012

Oprah Winfrey picked 'Wild' by Cheryl Strayed for her first book club selection after the group went on a two-year hiatus. Oprah calls her new book club "way different from the old book club," saying, "This time it's an interactive, online club for our digital world."

Charles Sykes/AP


Publishers, book publicists, authors: rejoice. The Queen of book promotion is back.

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That’s right, Oprah Winfrey, the publishing world’s unrivaled trendsetter, is reviving her bestseller-inducing book club after a two-year hiatus, leaving publishers and publicists salivating at the prospect of reaping the rewards of the “Oprah Touch” should their author’s book be chosen next.

Her first pick? “Wild,” by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir recounting the author’s epic hike up the Pacific Crest Trail as she struggles with her mother’s death and a failed marriage.

“I love this book,” Winfrey writes in the July issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, which highlights the new book club on its cover and features an interview with Strayed. “I want to shout it from the mountaintop. I want to shout it from the Web. In fact, I love this book so much and want to talk about it so much, I knew I had to reinvent my book club.”

Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 launches Monday with digital elements like e-books, social media outreach on Facebook and Twitter, and cross-media promotion. Winfrey taped an online video announcement of the re-launch, calling the book “stimulating, thought-provoking, soul-enhancing.”

“This is way different from the old book club,” she said in the video announcement, posted Friday on her website. "This time it's an interactive, online club for our digital world."

And this time Winfrey won’t have the clout of her 12-million strong network television audience, a popular syndicated talk show, or the momentum of a beloved book club with devoted fans.

Which makes this new enterprise an attempt to answer the – literally – million-dollar question: Does Oprah still have her book mojo?

Previously, while she still had her syndicated network TV show, Winfrey had an almost magical ability to sell books. Between 1996 and 2011, she had chosen 70 books for her wildly popular book club. The selections, kept secret until a “big reveal,” were trumpeted with fanfare on a show that averaged 5 million to 6 million viewers when it ended last year and up to 12 million at its peak. The impact? According to Fordham University marketing professor Al Greco, sales of “Oprah editions” of the 70 titles in her first book club totaled some 55 million copies, reports USA Today.

Toni Morrison, who had four novels chosen, says she got a bigger sales boost from Winfrey than from winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993,” USA Today adds.


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