Celebrity Book Clubs Spurring Book Sales, The NPD Group Says

Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Barack Obama are popularizing reading and bolstering book sales

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., July 22, 2019 –At a time when book discovery is challenging because of the amount of content clamoring for attention, celebrity book clubs are playing an important role in spurring sales for listed titles. 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. In fact, there are a host of celebrity book clubs for readers to choose from, not only the better-known offerings from Oprah Winfrey, but also others like actress Sarah Jessica Parker, NFL player Andrew Luck, musician Florence Welch, and many others.

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.”

“There is no doubt that having a trusted taste-maker champion your book can open the door to a higher level of discovery for the general public,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst, NPD Bookscan. “The publishing industry used to discuss the ‘Oprah Effect,’ but she has a lot more company now.”

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.

“In this day and age, a personal endorsement can be worth more than millions of advertising dollars,” McLean said. “It’s a whole new word-of-mouth paradigm, and those who receive it are lucky indeed.”

About NPD BookScan
NPD BookScan is the gold standard in point-of-sale tracking for the publishing market, covering approximately 85 percent of all the print books sold in the U.S. through direct reporting from all major retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Target, independent bookstores, and many others. Each sale of the more than 16 million units tracked on a weekly basis includes geographic information making it possible to identify key markets, map regional sales trends, and index the likelihood of purchase in 200 major metro areas. NPD BookScan is also the exclusive provider of ALR data for Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, and Sam’s Club to U.S. publishers.


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