Here's an interesting piece in the New York Times on a little-known piece of bookstore insider info. How does Oprah keep her new book club selections a secret, and yet make it available in the stores on the same day she announces it on her show? Booksellers have to order the title blind, not knowing what the book is until they open the shipping boxes. (In theory, those boxes stay sealed until the "laydown" or sale date, but sometimes, a few of us peek.)
Apparently, this trend was carried to an extreme with the recently canceled O.J. Simpson If I Did It book. The title was such a secret that bookstores had to order it without any foreknowledge of the title, subject or author. As noted in the NYT article, this has happened at least once before, with the forgettable tell-all by Princess Diana's former butler. "The what? By whom?" you say? Exactly.
It's all, of course, a result of the event-book, blockbuster mentality. If you don't have the new Oprah book on the day of the announcement, you're going to miss a large fraction of your sales, and moreso because the people you turn away will go somewhere else the next time Oprah announces a title. When a book makes a big splash in a news cycle, it'll usually fade and be forgotten within weeks if not days, so booksellers are willing to make a gamble on an unknown title based on the sales that the promised newscycle event will drive into the store.
Sure, it sucks, but any reading is good reading, right? Right?