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Last Updated: Friday, 22 April, 2005, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Call for Oprah to back new novels
Oprah Winfrey
Oprah's endorsement turned new novels into bestsellers
A group of writers has sent an open letter to US TV host Oprah Winfrey, asking her to go back to picking new novels for her influential book club.

Word of Mouth said fiction sales fell after the popular segment on Winfrey's TV show stopped including new works in 2002, in favour of classic novels.

The letter said: "The readers need you. And we, the writers, need you."

A spokesman for Winfrey's Harpo Productions said there were "no plans" to change the club's selection process.

The 158 writers who signed the letter included Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri and Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club.

Best-selling novels

The letter said: "Book Club members stopped buying new fiction, and this changed the face of American publishing."

It thanked Winfrey for her contribution to book sales and asked her to "consider focusing, once again, on contemporary writers in your book club".

Word of Mouth is a female writers' group, but many male authors signed the letter.

Oprah's Book Club began as a segment on Winfrey's talk show in 1996.

An Oprah's Book Club logo on a novel's cover helped many of her choices to sell more than one million copies.

Club suspended

In 2001, author Jonathan Franzen publicly objected to the selection of his novel The Corrections. He said he feared it might affect his reputation in literary circles, but later said he regretted speaking out.

Winfrey suspended the club in April 2002. She said she would make only occasional recommendations because it had become "harder and harder to find books on a monthly basis that I feel absolutely compelled to share".

Relaunched in June 2003, the club now picks classics such as John Steinbeck's East of Eden and Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.

Authors have complained that with publishers and bookstores consolidating, there are fewer outlets for new authors.

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