Oprah Winfrey's brand may not be what it used to be, but the all-digital edition of her all-powerful book club is back out in the TV-less waters today, trying to maintain not just relevancy but dominance. Winfrey deemed Ayana Mathis's debut novel The Tribes of Hattie her second pick for her revived book club this morning, announcing the selection in a typically enthusiastic video:
Winfrey recently relaunched her book club as a digital enterprise, with reader participation encouraged on Twitter, GroupMe, and Goodreads — plus author Q&As on Oprah's web site, like the one conducted with Cheryl Strayed, whose Wild was the first choice in the online version of the book club. Though the audience is certainly not as wide as the days of Oprah's daytime talk show, according to a USA Today report from July her seal of approval still signals success for authors. Wild jumped from the no. 165 to the no. 14 spot in two weeks following Oprah's selection. But comparisons between the digital and non-digital book clubs are hard to make, Patricia Bostelman of Barnes & Noble told USA Today, because of the changing market. That said, Wild was doing better in sales than the two Dickens novels that Oprah chose for as her last selections for her original club. Other book club 1.0 selections ultimately sold upwards of three million copies.
Since Mathis's book hasn't been released, yet it's hard to measure the pre- and post-Oprah buzz, but it was called an "elegant, sure-footed debut" by Publisher's Weekly and Mathis comes from the pedigreed Iowa Writer's Workshop. That said, it seems like the book club seeks to do more for Mathis than it will do for Oprah, whose brand needs perhaps a celebrity seal of approval as it struggles to maneuver a world without an enormous regular audience elevating it to success.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.