‘USA Today’ Book Club Drives Sales

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By: Hillel Italie, Associated Press Writer

(AP) In the race to replace Oprah, Kelly Ripa and USA Today are both off to strong starts.

A recommendation last Thursday from the co-host of “Live With Regis & Kelly” has made an instant best seller out of “If Looks Could Kill,” a murder mystery by Cosmopolitan Editor-In-Chief Kate White.

The novel, just published by Warner Books with a first printing of 30,000, had 105,000 copies in print as of Monday and was No. 4 on Amazon.com.

“This is a step above what a book would sell if the author makes a television appearance and a step below what an Oprah pick would sell. It’s very rare for a book to sell that fast,” says Chris Barba, executive vice president of sales at Time Warner Trade Publishing.

Meanwhile, USA Today has apparently helped sales of Richard Russo’s “Empire Falls.” In mid-April, the newspaper made Russo’s novel its debut book club pick, just days after Russo won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and after the paperback edition was released.

The paperback is now in its sixth printing, with about 285,000 copies in print, and Russo’s publisher says USA Today is the main reason. “We’re hearing from our sales people that the USA Today selection is really driving reorders,” said David Hyde, senior publicist for Vintage Books.

Don’t expect Ripa to cite any Pulitzer winners. A spokeswoman for “Live With Regis & Kelly” said “Reading With Ripa” will concentrate on commercial fiction. White is scheduled to appear on the TV show May 21, and Ripa will announce her next choice the following day.

The “Today” show has also formed a book club, which is scheduled to start in June.

Winfrey revealed in early April that she would no longer make monthly picks, which almost inevitably led to hundreds of thousands of sales. The televison host cited the difficulty of finding books she felt “absolutely compelled to share.”

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