Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Club: A Lottery For Newbie Authors
Tue, April 20, 2021

Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Club: A Lottery For Newbie Authors

Reese Witherspoon is not only into acting but also into reading books /Photo by buzzfuss via 123rf

 

Reese Witherspoon is known for being an Academy Award-winning actress, a cover star for Harper’s Bazaar November 2019 issue, a mother, a founder of a media company, and an Emmy Award-winning producer, wrote Chelsey Sanchez of American women’s magazine Harper’s Bazaar. You can add bibliophile to this long list of Witherspoon’s hats. Her media company, Hello Sunshine, produces award-winning films and promotes a new book each month through her Hello Sunshine Book Club. 

In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Witherspoon narrated the origins of her book club. According to the actress, she posted books that she liked on Instagram, which led to her establishing the Hello Sunshine Book Club. Around seven or eight years ago, Witherspoon started a production company to “create more projects that had more roles for women in them.” 

 

The book "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed is unforgettable for Reese Witherspoon /Photo by Heather via Flickr

 

Witherspoon’s Book Club

The actress is drawn toward female authors and “women at the center of novels.” Hence, Witherspoon started optioning some books that fit her standards and turning them into films. She reads a lot of books, which has prompted her to share on Instagram all the literary works she has read. Witherspoon revealed some of the titles of the books that have really excited her, specifically the novels she plans to adapt into screenplays someday. This includes “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owen and Taylor Jenkin Reid’s “Daisy Jones & the Six.” 

Witherspoon stated, “It's just one of those really exciting, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities…it's very fulfilling.” The first book she optioned for a film adaptation was “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, which she also starred in and earned her an Oscar nomination in 2015. In the interview, she shared, “I think the book that had the biggest impact on my life was Wild.”

Witherspoon said she felt nervous when she asked Strayed if she could option “Wild.” The actress then did not have any track record as a producer. Fortunately, the author took a leap of faith. Witherspoon shared that she is “forever grateful” for the author’s decision to have her book adapted into a movie. “Wild” shed light on female characters “in ways that women are not usually represented,” she explained. Witherspoon admitted liking the theme of woman versus nature “with no man, no money, no job, no parents—just a happy ending.” 

 

 

An Author’s Road to Stardom

Megan Miranda, a well-established author who writes thrillers and young-adult novels, has won the publishing lottery, reported Constance Grady of Vice, an American news and opinion platform. Miranda published her 10th novel, “The Last House Guest,” in June. Two months later, Witherspoon chose it for her book club. Prior to that, Miranda was already aware of the Hello Sunshine Book Club. Since its launch in 2017, Witherspoon’s book club demonstrated its ability to catapult literary works into the top of the bestseller list. 

For instance, “Where the Crawdads Sing” rose from “midlist obscurity” to megastardom, selling over 1.4 million physical copies, in addition to those in e-book formats, per the findings of industry tracker NPD BookScan. The novel has been sitting at the top of the New York Times bestseller list for 52 weeks. 

Of course, not every book featured in the Hello Sunshine Book Club becomes a sensation. Nevertheless, all of the novels in the book club are “respectable successes.” In the publishing industry, a debut novel by an unknown author can sell around 3,000 copies, which means it has performed well. In Witherspoon’s book club, none of the 28 books she chose has sold less than 10,000 physical copies. For new authors, it’s like winning the lottery, noted BookScan executive director Kristen McLean. 

In Miranda’s case, her novel started strong, selling over 5,495 copies a week after Witherspoon announced it to be her pick. Before that, “The Last House Guest” only sold 594 print copies, according to BookScan. 

 

How Does Hello Sunshine Book Club Work? 

 

 

Hello Sunshine CEO Sarah Harden stated that all the books selected for the book club are read and approved by Witherspoon herself. Staff members may pass their own recommendations to the actress or she will bring in the novel she herself chose. All novels for the book club should be focused on women. A woman should drive the narrative, having agency in the story and not cast as a side character, Harden added. 

Witherspoon and her staff are not against male authors, so long as their work is centered on a female character. Hello Sunshine Book Club also tries to highlight women of color and international authors who are relatively unknown in the States. To illustrate, Balli Kaur Jaswal’s “Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows” was the pick for March 2018. Jaswal is an incredible author, but only a couple of her works are published in the United States, Harden commented. 

Book club readers loved Jaswal’s book and expressed their interest to read her other novels. As expected, no one heard of Jaswal until she was chosen by Hello Sunshine Book Club.