Oprah rings up Avon

Yakker host feeling 'Crazy'

Forget Avon calling. It was Oprah Winfrey calling Avon that had publishing buzzing last week.

On Sept. 25, Winfrey announced that the next selection of Oprah’s Book Club was Avon Books’ November 1997 release “What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day,” by playwright Pearl Cleage about two African-American sisters’ struggle with such issues as HIV, suicide, sudden infant death syndrome, crime and drunk driving.

Cleage’s novel is Oprah’s 18th selection and the first of her third season of Book Club opinions. It is also the first time Avon, a publisher still struggling to establish a front-list literary reputation, has been picked.

Avon Books, a division of the Hearst Book Group that was primarily a paperback house until it launched a hardcover line a few years ago, promptly went to press for 650,000 copies of a paperback edition of the book, quite a jump from the 40,000 originally planned to be released this November. In its original hardcover release, “What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day” sold well for a first novel — just under 30,000 — but Avon is now also going back to press for more — about 40,000 copies — thanks to the Oprah news.

Cleage’s novel will be shopped around for film possibilities to time with the increased exposure, with William Morris agent Bill Contardi serving as co-agent for Cleage’s Detroit-based literary agent, Denise Stinson.

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