It looks like the recent expansion, in most markets, of the nationally syndicated TV show Martha Stewart Living from a half hour to an hour will be, as Martha might say, a "good thing" for publishers.
On February 16, Stewart had fellow avid gardener (and novelist) Jamaica Kincaid on her show; publisher FSG believes this to be the first-ever national TV appearance for this rather reclusive author.
On air, Martha praised My Favorite Plant: Writers and Gardeners on the Plants They Loved, edited by Kincaid, and also featured the book, a November release from FSG, on her popular Web site, www.marthastewart.com. Sales of the book rocketed online, particularly on Amazon.com, where the book's morning sales rank, under #9000, jumped to the top 500 by day's end.
It's too soon for FSG to see a full report of a Stewart-induced sales spike, said FSG publicity chief Jeff Seroy, although he noted that the book, a gorgeously designed small-sized hardcover, is already in its second printing, with 15,000 copies in print. He said Stewart may also host a return visit with Kincaid, perhaps when Kincaid's next book, her own gardening essay collection entitled My Garden (Book), comes in November.
Seroy said the meeting with Martha was in the works before the show's time frame was expanded. And Stewart's program, which premiered as a weekly half-hour series in September 1993 and expanded to a daily half-hour in 1997, always has featured lifestyle authors who logically tie in to her interests. The Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia empire (which includes magazines, a newspaper column, the Web site and a radio show, as well as TV) serve as channels to promote them -- as well as Stewart's own bestselling books. (Her latest, Martha Stewart's Hors D' uvres Handbook, has just been released by Clarkson Potter.)
But it looks like the new hour format for the popular show, carried on 188 stations and the #1 rated new syndicated daytime series for 1997-1998, will bring more opportunity for more and less typical author bookings."I certainly hope so," Stewart told PW. [This reporter was relieved that Stewart seemed to have forgotten her pique over a previous story (June 16, 1997) on that unauthorized bestselling bio, Just Desserts]. "I'm a real book person and while I'm not consciously seeking books out, I'd like to have people on that I connect to and that of course includes authors."
So what's next -- a Martha book club, à la Oprah? "That would be interesting," Stewart said, although there are no plans in the works. But it looks like she'll continue expanding the boundaries of what sort of authors to have on her show. The Queen of lifestyle told PW she desires an audience with the King -- Stephen, that is. "I just bought a house in Maine and I'd love to talk to him about Maine, as well as his books," said Stewart. Stay tuned.