NEW YORK — Oprah who?
With the help of bestselling author John Grisham and an intro from first lady Laura Bush, NBC’s “Today Show” unveiled its first book club selection, Stephen L. Carter’s “Emperor of Ocean Park.” Within hours, the novel catapulted to No. 1 on Amazon.com.
Yet as sweet as the success may be for the book community, there may be some lingering bitterness among the nets swapping accusations about who stoles which idea from whom.
NBC insiders contend that its breakfast-gabber rival ‘Good Morning America” ripped off its idea and preempted them before they could announce their pick. “Imitation is a sincere form of flattery,” posited “Today Show” co-anchor Katie Couric at the net’s Wednesday launch party, “but it would be nice to see some originality, too.”
The club, announced in April, will feature well-known writers who will choose the work of a lesser-known scribe.
In the case of Carter, “lesser-known” is a relative term. The Yale prof’s book garnered a $4 million advance and tremendous print run, and the D.C.-set novel has received gushers from major reviewers.
After the “Today” broadcast, Carter’s publisher, Knopf, has nearly doubled the political suspenser’s print run to 500,000 copies.
ABC’s “Good Morning America” announced its book club selection last week with similar impact. Ann Packer’s “Dive From Clausen’s Pier” — another Knopf title — also shot to the top of Amazon’s list and became a New York Times bestseller. The publisher responded by boosting its print run by almost 200,000 copies.
Several guests at the NBC party contended that “GMA” co-anchor Diane Sawyer heard about the Peacock show’s plans — announced the day after Oprah Winfrey said she would scale back her book club — and set the Alphabet’s program in motion.
ABC officials, however, deny the contention. As they point out, “GMA” aired a book club in March that featured the Pulpwood Queens, a group of older Texas women who wore tiaras, drank margaritas and talked about lit. Books, they say, are not an exclusive topic.
“It’s like saying that they own the corner on dieting,” says “GMA” exec producer Shelley Ross.