Belfast Telegraph

Creator of Richard and Judy Book Club criticises presenters’ deal with WHSmith

Amanda Ross has since helped form a TV book club for Zoe Ball.

The producer who helped create Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan’s TV book club has described the presenters’ decision to put their names to a similar initiative with retailer WHSmith as “disappointing”.

Amanda Ross was working on the couple’s daytime Channel 4 programme Richard & Judy when she helped launch the show’s influential Book Club.

The feature championed the work of new and unknown authors and propelled more than 50 titles into the best-seller charts.

Ross’s production company, Cactus TV, made Richard & Judy throughout its run on Channel 4 and digital channel Watch from 2001 to 2009.

After the show was cancelled, Madeley and Finnigan signed a deal with retailer WHSmith to continue promoting their book club.

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Amanda Ross was speaking to Radio Times magazine. (Radio Times)

Speaking in an interview with Radio Times magazine, Ross criticised the duo’s decision, saying the commercial deal risked damaged the integrity of the work it had done for up and coming writers.

Ross said: “It was a paid-for campaign. I think Richard and Judy found it hard to understand that lots of authors on the show were becoming millionaires, while we couldn’t make any money out of it because you can’t be paid for your recommendations.

“It’s slightly disappointing that afterwards they used the integrity of the Book Club and went into a paid-for campaign in WHSmith.

“People don’t realise that to be part of that sort of campaign publishers have to pay £25,000.”

Ross’s idea for the club was part inspired by US talk show host Oprah Winfrey’s successful equivalent as well as a spike in book sales she noticed after an author made an appearance on Richard & Judy.

She has recently started a book club for broadcaster Zoe Ball’s new ITV weekend show.

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The book club for Zoe Ball’s ITV weekend show was set up by Amanda Ross (Yui Mok/PA)

At an event held last year to celebrate the success of Richard and Judy’s Book Club, the husband-and-wife team spoke of their surprise at the group’s enduring popularity.

Finnigan was quoted on the website of The Bookseller magazine saying: “It is beyond our wildest dream really.

“Once we stopped doing daily TV, we really never thought, as much as we adored our book club on TV and as much as we carried on, we didn’t think without the prop of a television show that we would be able to recreate the success.

“Astonishingly we have, and that is many thanks to WHSmith. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes.”

Madeley added that he and Finnigan’s favourite thing about the book club was that it enabled them to help give new authors “a kick-start”.

The full interview with Amanda Ross can be read in this week’s edition of Radio Times.

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