Unauthorized? Pah!


From The American Scholar:

Shortly after my book Oprah: A Biography was published last April, one of Oprah Winfrey’s open-minded fans wrote to her website saying she wanted to read the book. Oprah’s message-board moderator hurled a thunderbolt in response: “This book is an unauthorized biography.” The word unauthorized clanged on the screen like a burglar alarm. Suddenly I heard the rumble of thousands of Oprah book buyers charging out of Barnes & Noble—empty-handed.

Days before this exchange, I had felt the chill of media disdain when my publisher began booking my promotion tour. Larry King barred the door to his CNN talk show because, he said, he didn’t want to offend Oprah. Barbara Walters did the same thing, proclaiming on The View that the only reason people wrote unauthorized biographies was to dig “dirt.” There was no room for me at Charlie Rose’s roundtable and no comfy seat next to David Letterman. The late-night comic had recently reconciled with Oprah after a 16-year rift and did not want to risk another. On my 10-city tour I made few, if any, appearances on ABC-owned-and-operated stations because most of the stations that broadcast The Oprah Winfrey Show are owned by ABC or its affiliates. No one wanted to displease the diva of daytime television. Although they had not read the book prior to publication, they assumed, given the author and the subject, that my unauthorized biography would be a blistering takedown of a beloved icon.

The reviews ranged from rocks (The New York Times) to raves (The Los Angeles Times). My publisher, Crown Books, aimed for sales from the fan base fondly known as “Opraholics” and “Winfreaks,” but once Herself publicly denounced the book as “a so-called biography,” the fan base dwindled, and to date the book has yet to sell 300,000 copies (a disappointing figure for an author paid to sell millions).

“Unauthorized, But Not Untrue”, Kitty Kelley, The American Scholar