how can i get my book on oprah?

 

An appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s television show is the holy grail for authors. Her influence cannot be understated when it comes to launching a bestselling book. As a veteran book marketing and publicity professional and someone who has successfully booked authors onto her show, I been asked often how authors can get their book on Oprah. Here are some things I’d like authors to keep in mind when considering their book’s chances of landing one of those coveted appearances.

  1. Watch the show, many times. What types of guests do you see on Oprah’s show? What topics are those guests discussing? Does your book fit into the wide range of interests you’ve seen discussed on the show? For many, many authors this is the hardest point to digest. Not every book is right for Ms. Winfrey’s show. You may have written a fantastic book and still not be right for her show.
  2. Think like a producer. If you were in charge of booking guests for Oprah, would you be absolutely positive that the subject matter of your book is a perfect fit for Oprah’s audience? Would you stake your job on recommending your book to Oprah for a segment? Do you know the demographics of Oprah’s audience? They are women. Will your book appeal to women?
  3. Are you an experienced television guest? Television is a big business and the cost of an hour-long show is enormous. Would you and the topic of your book be a good investment for Oprah and her team? Would you and your book be so interesting that ratings might increase because people truly desire the information you have to offer? Can you, personally, deliver that information in a telegenic way and by that I mean can you speak passionately, animatedly and engagingly on your area of expertise? Can you make the viewers “see” your topic?
  4. Television is a visual medium. Standard talking head interviews are alright if you’re a celebrity. If you’re not, Oprah or any television show would be more interested if you had ideas for visually presenting your material. During one appearance on Oprah, Dr. Oz brought a human heart so that Oprah could see and feel what a damaged artery feels like. She was able to touch it and describe to the audience how stiff it felt. It was riveting TV. Do you have something amazing to show your ideas to her television audience?
  5. Can you surprise and inspire a television audience with your information? Do you have something so interesting to say that Oprah will feel compelled to share it with the women who watch her show? Now every author thinks they have compelling material or they wouldn’t have written a book. But to make your book a candidate for Oprah’s show, it needs to appeal to Oprah first and then to her audience. A book about a World War II battle, however important, might not be the best fit for her audience unless, perhaps, it’s about the Navy nurses who are still today, visiting veterans and have banned together to raise money to send deserving young women to nursing school to help fill the nursing shortage. That’s inspiring, motivating and engaging for Oprah’s audience.

Here’s the last observation I’d like to share. No one can guarantee you and your book a spot on Oprah. I mean no one. Oprah and her producers receive hundreds of books and book pitches every week. Her producers comb through the pitches and bring forward those that promise to be the most compelling to Oprah’s audience. Even then, a book may not be slated for a show because books are not the only basis for Oprah’s shows. The team will create a schedule of shows and mix in authors, artists, celebrities and experts throughout any given season. Oprah could, in fact, love your book and still not invite you to be her guest. She is responsible for putting together a season of shows that appeals to her audience across a wide range of subjects. You and your book may or may not fit the needs of her show during a given season. That doesn’t reflect on you as a writer or your book.

So what can you do? Go through the questions above and ask yourself honestly “Is my book right for Oprah?” If you believe it is, submit your pitch. But if after honest reflection you see that it’s not, your time might be better spent connecting with your natural readership where they live.

Make a list of media you watch and listen to ~ after all, the topic of your book was interesting to you. Where would you find YOU in the media? That’s your sweet spot, the place where you’ll find readers who will be as passionate about your book’s subject as you are. Go there and speak to your audience.

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24 Responses to “How Can I Get My Book on Oprah?”

  1. This is smart, sound advice: though I have only been in the audience on Oprah!, my terrific and inspiring RealAge partner Michael Roizen, MD has been on many times, some with our RealAge books.

    Ms. Winfrey seems like an amazingly gifted and generous person, who wants to share what she has read only if it is truly valuable and new. And there is a lot that has already been said in books in the self-empowerment aisle.

    I’ve spoken with several of her producers recently about my most recent book, and it’s clear that the subject (food that works like medicine and is incredibly delicious) is a good fit, but the right TV idea–the equivalent of the human heart Dr. Oz so brilliantly offered–just hasn’t come along. But it will.

    That’s the only point I’d add: if your idea is right for her audience, find a new way to present it, and keep trying.

    Best
    John La Puma, MD
    http://www.drjohnlapuma.com
    http://www.ChefMD.com

  2. Thanks for your comments and observations, John. It’s true. One of the many reasons her audience loves her is that she genuinely feels an obligation to deliver real value to her viewers. Authors like you, who have something important to say, just need that “magic moment” that helps her find a way to share your information with her audience. I believe yours will come. I love your work!

  3. I just published my first novel in April and I would love to have it receive international exposure to boost sales. However, I don’t think my book is a fit with Oprah. It is a historical novel set in the Roman Empire. I don’t think it would make it on Oprah’s show. However, I wonder if Oprah might put it in her magazine as a recommended read. It seems she includes all types of genres in her magazine. That is my dilemna now: whether to try her magazine. I am self published so I am on my own for marketing and many folks won’t give self published writers a chance.
    Charles

  4. Charles, I would send it to both her book club person on the television show and to her magazine book person. She chose to recommend Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth which is historical fiction. The challenge is that hundreds, maybe thousands of books are sent to her team for review and without the weight of a mainstream publisher and their relationship to members of her team, your book will have a steeper uphill battle to be seen and read. That said, it can never be considered if you don’t send it. My recommendation is to send it with a nice note telling her team a little about the book and then let it go in your mind. If they want to use it, they’ll let you know. The only other reason to contact them about it again is if something happens that will bring the book into the limelight such as movie rights being sold. Then contact them again as an FYI. Good luck.

  5. Hi Cindy,

    Thanks so much for the information. I’ve written a book about being raised by parents who suffer with mental illness and alcoholism and how that affects a person’s self-eteem and relationships throughout life. The book is based on events that happened in my childhood and early twenties, and I wrote it to help others in similar situations to perhaps understand why they feel and act the way they do. In writing it, I learned an enormous amount about myself as well.

    I think it is the type of story that would appeal to Oprah and I would love to take your advice and send copies to the book club and magazine. Can you point me to where I would find their contact information? I’ve hunted around on Oprah.com for this information and can’t seem to locate it – perhaps I’m looking on the wrong website?

    Thanks again for your post.

    Sabrynne McLain

  6. Hi Sabrynne, Oprah’s show is no longer taping new episodes and she has now moved on to create the OWN Network, which was formerly Discovery Health. She has left her Chicago studio’s and is producing an entirely new kind of programming that, at this time, doesn’t offer an opportunity for a pitch such as yours. The magazine will list the editorial team on the masthead, which is usually in the first 10 pages of the magazine and the address of the editorial staff should be on that page of the magazine as well. Choose an editor who covers articles or lifestyle and send a copy of the book, along with a cover letter introducing yourself, to that editor and share with him or her why you feel your book would be right for the magazine, even pointing out the section of the magazine where it might work best. Explain the unique point of view that a feature on you or the book might bring to the magazine and lay out the transformation a reader might have by learning about your story. Good luck and congratulations on your book.

  7. Christa Gorman says:

    I am getting my book published with a release date of april 2013 and was wondering where i would be able to mail a complimentary copy to Oprah? My book is inspirational non fiction horror novel a detailed catalog of nightmares and dreams written to inspire people who have survived traumas. Thank you, Chris Ashley (Christa Ashley Gorman)

  8. Christa, You should be able to find an address on Oprah’s website for her network OWN, Oprah Winfrey Network. Non-fiction and novel are confusing. Is it true or not true? Non-fiction is fact based. Novels are fiction. Oprah has begun recommending reading club books again and you could also send books to her editors at O magazine, the address of which you can find in the front pages of her monthly magazine. Best wishes on your submission.

  9. Steve Eaton says:

    Hello Cindy,
    My name is Steve and I am the author of a delightful heroic story titled THE LEGEND of BILLY MEAN. Cindy, to your knowledge does Oprah Winfrey except children stories? In your opinion, what is the best way for me to approach this issue and send her a copy of my book? Should I also contact the editors at O magazine? Thank you in advance for your reply. What advice would you give on self promoting a book? My title can be located@createspace.com and Amazon.com. Keep up the great work!

  10. Hi Steve, Take a look at the OWN network and at O Magazine, Oprah’s two primary media outlets right now. I think you’ll find that children’s books is not now, and hasn’t been, her focus. Some things that might cause her to want to promote you and your book, other than a strong interest in children’s books? Philanthropy, an astonishing and inspirational back story that would appeal to her primarily female audience and luck. That said, you never know when a major supporter of books like Oprah might turn her gaze on children’s literature. It’s just that the odds are not in your favor. Your marketing efforts would be better spent on getting the book to directly into the hands of Moms through Facebook, parenting sites, bloggers and school organizations. Google “Elf on the Shelf” and see their remarkable self-marketing journey for motivation.

  11. Dan McNulty says:

    Hi, Cindy:
    I followed your suggestions and sent my book and cover letter to O Magazine over 6 months ago, and never heard back. I can imagine how swamped the staff is with requests. But, I’m wondering if it’s typical for O Magazine not to acknowledge receipt. Any thoughts? Thanks!

  12. Hi Dan, It is typical for the media not to acknowledge receipt. They get thousands of submissions. You’ll only hear from them if they’re interested in pursuing a booking or an interview. Not fun to hear, but the truth I’m afraid.

  13. Dan McNulty says:

    Thanks, Cindy. I figured as much. But, sometimes, you have to hear it from an informed party.

  14. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t repitch her team whenever you have a new idea or new slant on your story or segment idea. Producers and editors are swamped. The more clearly you spell out your idea, the better chance you have that they’ll be interested. So a pitch that says “I hope you’ll read my book,” usually isn’t well received. They couldn’t possible read all the books they get. But a pitch that says “as we approach the fiscal cliff, you might be interested in my inside look at the power brokers who make the decisions that created the cliff. In my book, I outline the 7 steps we could take right now to make sure this never happens again. Those steps are #1…” You get the idea. Help the producer, editor see exactly what your solution is, so they can decide whether to look deeper at your book. With fiction, the more evidence you have that your book is worthy of their time, the better. Did PW give you a starred review? Has your book gotten an early blurb from several very high profile writers? Has your publisher submitted your book for an award? Is there early buzz on the book trending on Twitter? Find some reason for you to be able to tell the producer/editor that their valuable time will be well spent scanning through you book. The fact that you love it is not enough. We all love our own work.

  15. I have recently publish a book through createspce.com-called “Finally free at Last” Beginning to end. I was instructed to submitt it for review for the oprah book club- I just need to find the way to get my work recognized- This is powerful novel that I refuse to sit on a bookshelf to me forgotten, while I’m awaiting paitently I’m too, starting my second novel “Born to Mourn,” all I need to know is some outlets, and leadway and I wil take the book industry like storm! Help!

  16. First, Annie, congratulations on your publishing accomplishment and on your commitment to helping your book gain wider attention. There are publicists who offer lists as one of their services. They’ll send you a spreadsheet of contact names and emails or phone numbers so that you can submit your book to the right contacts. I must warn you, however, that people like the Oprah Book Club team get thousands of submissions. Your work may be better served through getting your novel reviewed and putting copies into the hands of people who will spread the word. Take a look at Goodreads, http://www.goodreads.com/ and consider building a community of supporters for your book there, as well as pursuing traditional support through magazines and the ultimate book supporter, Oprah.

  17. Hi Cindy,
    I have written a book, an autobiography about my arranged marriage, abuse, torture and attempted murders in my 12 year marriage. This book details how I mentally fought to survive alone. My cultural does not support women who want to leave their husbands (if even it is so abusive). We women are required to keep our families honor.
    I finally escaped and brought my 4 children back to Canada with me – the younger 2 I kidnapped them 21/2 years later from my in-laws.
    This book reveals Hope, forgiveness and personal dignity.
    Any suggestions how to get it to Oprah?
    Regards,
    Kamal

  18. Kamal, First congratulations on not only surviving a horrible ordeal, but then for having the courage and perseverance to write your story into a book. The current format for Oprah’s television network is not the same as her network show of years gone by. She interviews celebrities or those who are currently making news. Her book club choices, for the magazine, are informed by mainstream publishers who submit books to her team for review. They make recommendations to her after reading those books. Oprah herself, is an avid reader and she discovers her own books as well. So if your book is published by a mainstream publisher, I’d recommend you ask them to submit it to Oprah’s Book Club editor. If your book is self-published you’ll want to take a different approach. You’ll want to build such a groundswell of word of mouth about your book that your book comes to the attention not just of Oprah, but of other producers as well. With self-publishing you should think about building your following and sharing your work with readers as building momentum for the book and an appearance on Oprah as the grand finale rather than starting with an appearance on Oprah that leads people to find your book.

  19. D. Linn says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful advice. I also self-published a book in 2011 entitled, “What I want my Child to Know…A Mother’s Loving Advice” It did well in sales at first and now sales have slowed. I believe it is due to the marketing aspect. Aside from using most of the social media platforms available, it still needs more exposure. It was written with the young adult in mind, to help enhance thier own self-awareness of the issues assosciated with living everyday life. I believe it is a MUST read for parents and teens alike. Thank you again, I sincerely appreciate the advice provided!!

  20. D. Linn says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful advice. I also self-published a book in 2011 entitled, “What I want my Child to Know…A Mother’s Loving Advice” It did well in sales at first and now sales have slowed. I believe it is due to the marketing aspect. Aside from using most of the social media platforms available, it still needs more exposure. It was written with the young adult in mind, to help enhance thier own self-awareness of the issues assosciated with living everyday life. I believe it is a MUST read for parents and teens alike.

    Thank you again, I sincerely appreciate the advice provided!!

    Best,
    D. Linn

  21. D. Linn, authors must now be their own PR agents and getting your wonderful work into the hands of readers who will love it and then share your story with others is your goal. Social media is the most cost effective way to do that. Hopefully you have a business page for you, the author, and are promoting the book there as well as on your website. Feel free to leave the URL links here and I’ll be happy to take a look and give you some other ideas.

  22. Amy says:

    Cindy:

    Thanks for the good advice. I am a newly published author. I am trying to stay encouraged in this book process.

    Do you know what it feels like to have a dream taht continually runs through your mind, soul, and spirit? A dream that is on constant playback, and every morning when you awake, you hear it. You hear it in the spirit and it says, “Never quit believing,” and “Never quit achieving.” So, you push on in the pursuit of your purpose. You write out the vision and make it plain. You have a plan and you set out to fulfill it. You work endless hours, and those endless hours turn into endless days, months, and years, and one morning you wake up and you feel as though your hard work has yeilded no results.

    I’m not giving up, but I need results. Do you have any advice for me Cindy? I have paid for advertising, I do social media, I have a website (www.thevoiceofamy.com)… Where do you think I’m doing wrong. I believe in my book. How do I get others to believe in it?

    Amy…

  23. Cindy — thanks so much for keeping this informative thread going — for years! There are so many of us who think our books can make the big breakthrough (and I know some do!) — you are doing a great service by providing such directed information!

    I, too, have self-published a memoir. (There are so many stories out there!) Mine of my unjust imprisonment in Mexico and the solidary community of women I met inside. While I am using the basic social media tactics (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, WordPress, Tumblr) to get the word out slowly (175 books sold in this first month) I was wondering if you had some advice for those of us working on very small budgets. Where are we most likely to get the most bang for our buck? Book groups? Reviewers? Radio interviews? Magazine articles? Other?

    I have volunteered in prison and literacy issues since my release ten years ago, so I have a bit of a follow up story — but my focus and the focus of the book for me has always been the women I met inside. Reviews on Amazon have been favorable… but then, first readers are friends!

    Appreciating your solidarity, too, with those of us who wish to contribute stories to our communities and beyond!

    Warm thanks
    mes

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