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Midas Touch Latest Oprah Book, Yet Unreleased, Already Headed For Best-Seller List

Publishers hoping to move books onto the non-fiction best-seller list next fall can be reasonably sure that at least one slot will be taken - and it may be occupied for a long time. It was announced the other day that Hyperion and Harpo Entertainment Group, which is Oprah Winfrey’s media company, will publish a health-fitness book by the popular queen of daytime talk and her trainer, Bob Greene.

When Winfrey last put her imprint on a book, appearing in the spring of 1994 on the cover of cook Rosie Daley’s calorie-conscious “In the Kitchen With Rosie,” copies were sold as fast as Alfred A. Knopf Inc. could print them. There are more than 1 million in print.

Greene, described as an exercise physiologist, met Winfrey in 1992 when he led her on several mountain hikes at Telluride Ski Resort in Colorado. Moving to Winfrey’s home base in Chicago to become her personal trainer, Greene later helped the broadcaster lose more than 80 pounds through a regimen that placed a heavy emphasis on running.

Along the way Greene has become familiar to Winfrey’s vast TV audience from visits to her show. A cover story about his work with Winfrey - in the March 1995 issue of Runner’s World - was a runaway seller for the magazine. The issue outsold the magazine’s average newsstand sales by 60 percent.

“Bob has taught me to ‘make the connection’ - it’s not just about losing weight - it’s all about self-confidence, inner strength, feeling better on a daily basis and having control over your life,” Winfrey said in a statement released by Hyperion. “My life has changed, and I believe what I’ve learned will help other people. I will write the introduction and share my experiences and thoughts throughout the book.”

A workbook, in which a reader can track his or her progress following Greene’s regimen, will be sold separately from the Greene-Winfrey collaboration.

Winfrey’s agreement with Hyperion, which is owned by Walt Disney Co., follows her signing of a production deal last fall with Capital Cities/ABC. The deal calls for Winfrey to develop programming for ABC and gives the network first option on her publishing and other projects. ABC recently was acquired by Disney.

At the same time, word of Winfrey’s new book raises an all-too-obvious question about the status of her autobiography. That was the book she unexpectedly withdrew from Knopf’s fall schedule in 1993 after the Random House division had heralded publication with great promotional fanfare and plans for a first printing of 750,000 copies.

“She has not been in touch about that book,” Erroll McDonald, who had signed up and was editing the autobiography for Knopf, said last week.

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