Workplace Adventures: Oprah’s Book Club
For 15 years, Oprah Winfrey ran a “book club” on her show, where she promoted several books a year. In addition, she often had authors on her show promoting other books. Working at a bookstore back in the mid-2000s, I can tell you that booksellers have a love-hate relationship with Oprah’s Book Club. They love that Oprah’s followers pump money into the publishing industry, and into their paychecks. They hate everything else.
“That Book” by Some Guy
When I worked at the bookstore, I was very good at helping people find books. One thing I would do was look at Oprah’s Book Club. Generally, people came in looking for the same books over and over and over again. So sometimes I would get someone on the phone and they would call up and say, “do you have that book about some guy who did something?” Whenever that what happened, I would just name the most recent book in Oprah’s book club, and half the time I would be right. Once a customer asked me if I was psychic. I just played it cool and smiled to myself. It felt great to be so on top of things.
Supply and Demand
One of the weirder aspects of Oprah’s recommendations was the effect her show had on supply and demand. I worked at a used bookstore, so we had to wait for people to buy the books new and resell them to us. This meant that every time Oprah had an author on, the book she was featuring would sell out within a day or two. We would be completely out for a month or two. Then they would start to trickle in. Soon after that, they would pour. Before you knew it, we had stacks and stacks of them, often priced at a buck or two. We couldn’t give the damn things away. It made me appreciate waiting. Often, when a hot new book comes out, I’ll wait a little while and buy it used for pennies on the dollar. There really is something to be said for patience.