The Abrams booth at BEA features a number of forthcoming titles with proven track records and built-in audiences—including a new Good Eats book from bestseller Alton Brown, Harper’s Bazaar’s: Greatest Hits, and a new Wimpy Kid book—but none proven as popular as Oprah Winfrey, who chose Abrams to publish the official look back at her show, which ended its run Wednesday after 25 seasons. Though Winfrey was not on hand, Abrams beamed in the final episode at 4 p.m. on a 40-inch TV bought solely for the purpose, and toasted the daytime star’s swan song with champagne.
“It’s one of the biggest books we’ve ever done,” said Abrams CEO and president, Michael Jacobs. “We started talking about it the first of the year, and started selling it two months ago.” The response among booksellers, Jacobs reports, has been “really positive,” both with nationwide chains and independents. An initial print run of 500,000 has been announced, but Jacobs expects that figure will change before the mid-October laydown date, once they have a better idea about demand.
Titled The Oprah Winfrey Show: Reflections on an American Legacy, the book came to Abrams last August following a publisher hunt by Oprah’s company, Harpo Inc. Jacobs says that Abrams was the answer to Harpo’s two biggest questions: “Who can make a beautiful book? And who can make a smart book?” The Abrams team won over Harpo with a sharp proposal from editorial director Deborah Aaronson, an aggressive marketing plan, and some of Abrams’s best work (Jacobs points to Vogue: Portraits as an example used to win over Harpo).
Aaronson says the book is organized by theme, consisting of eight chapters, each of which “focuses on a different area of culture where the show has really affected the conversation,” including women’s issues, health, and (naturally) books. Some 25 of Oprah’s prominent friends and guests will contribute essays to go alongside the narrative text by Deborah Davis; essayists include Bono, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Stanley Crouch. Images will be culled from still photos taken on the set and behind the scenes, screen grabs where necessary, and shots from off-site events, such as Winfrey’s trip to Australia.
Though the Harpo team has been busy with Oprah’s final shows and nascent network, it will likely be more focused on the book now that the finale has aired. “There’s an audience of millions who have been touched by the show,” said Jacobs. “I believe there’s a big audience out there for the book.”