Culture Street

Books

The Book Gurus

On August 5, 2012

By Sophia Whitfield

Last week was a sad week for book lovers with the final show of The Circle going to air, cementing the end of The Circle Book Club. Cheryl Akle had become a familiar figure on the show, selecting her astute monthly book picks and recommending new releases.

So do readers really need Cheryl Akle or for that matter Jennifer Byrne, the host of The First Tuesday Book Club, to recommend a book? Akle tends to recommend both literary and popular fiction whereas The First Tuesday Book Club concentrates on literary fiction. And yes we do need them!

With the literary pages in newspapers shrinking to almost nothing, publishers are increasingly relying on book bloggers and the limited avenues available in mainstream media to promote their books. Cheryl Akle and Jennifer Byrne have garnered a following of interested readers who look to them for advice and recommendations. Akle and Byrne sort through the thousands of books that come their way and with savvy skill recommend to their audience the best of the best. Readers can check out their selections online and with the click of a button download the book or purchase it from an online retailer,

Publishers know that recommendations from well-respected individuals can turn an average book into a successful one.

Overseas there are even bigger players in the Book Club stakes, most notably Oprah and Richard and Judy. Oprah has the ability to make a book soar. Publishers were rubbing their hands together with glee when she recently announced the launch of her new book club Oprah Book Club 2.0. Oprah’s first recommended title, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, is now a New York Times bestseller and Reese Witherspoon has reportedly bought the film rights to the book.

Richard and Judy were paramount in cementing Australian author Kate Morton’s success by selecting her book, The House at Riverton. Sales increased by 450% after the Richard and Judy stamp of approval. Between 2001-2008 The Richard and Judy show was featured on Channel 4 before moving to the UKTV network Watch. In 2010 it went online, run in conjunction with retialer WHSmith.

Both Oprah and Richard and Judy have found new audiences online rather than in the more traditional TV show. Both still have the ability to escalate book sales dramatically.

Publishers are all jostling to get their books recommended by influential media figures. It equates to sales and good sales. But what about the book buyer? Do they need books recommended to them?

More books than ever are now published and added to the mix are self-published books. Oprah, Richard and Judy, Cheryl Akle and Jennifer Byrne all act as filters. They discuss the blockbusters, but most importantly they also discover the gems, bringing new work to the attention of dedicated readers.

 

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