'Four more years' & conservative publishing
By Alan Wallace
Published: Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, 8:48 p.m.
Last Tuesday's batch of new-book releases was a bit thin — and that's not the only effect that the presidential election had on publishers of books aimed at conservative readers.
“Publishers traditionally do release fewer books on the date of a presidential election because it is difficult for books and authors to be fully heard in the midst of all the election noise,” says Campbell Wharton, associate publisher of Crown Forum.
Jed Lyons, president and CEO of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, agrees, saying new-book releases just before elections “tend to get drowned out by election coverage.”
Still, Crown Forum deliberately targeted Greg Gutfeld's humorous “The Joy of Hate” for release a week after the election because it “would offer a much-needed respite from the fatigue that sets in after an election,” Wharton says.
This Election Day also brought additional, unforeseeable challenges for the many publishing houses in the New York City area: “The biggest effect on (our) schedule has been Hurricane Sandy, not the election,” says Roger Kimball, publisher of Encounter Books, whose offices were closed for a week by the storm.
He adds that Encounter “has not held off making decisions because of the election” but has timed some upcoming releases “so that the election will be over and people's attention can return to other matters.”
This election also raised a larger, more long-term concern: the fate of President Barack Obama, topic and target of numerous books appealing to readers opposed to him and his agenda. He's been very good for the conservative-books business.
This year has brought dozens of such titles. And in 10 of 2012's 46 weeks to date, The New York Times' hardcover nonfiction best-seller list — where such books compete with self-help titles and celebrity memoirs — has been topped by Dinesh D'Souza's “Obama's America: Unmaking the American Dream” (Regnery), Edward Klein's “The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House” (Regnery) or Mark R. Levin's “Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America” (Threshold Editions), all anti-Obama books.
Some publishers simply waited for the election's outcome to finalize plans. Lyons says his company has several such books on the way, including one by University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.
Wharton says presidential elections don't dictate book decisions at Crown Forum, which takes a long-term, best-books-by-best-writers approach: “Some of the best-sellers we've had over the last few years were bought well before we knew Barack Obama would be president.”
Crown Forum focuses more on issues relevant to conservatives than on who's in the White House, according to Wharton. Regardless of who won last Tuesday, he says, investment in Crown Forum was going to “remain robust,” and Crown Forum's publishing team, which had been brainstorming for months, already had six books set for 2013, including titles by Michael Barone and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinellii.
Crown Forum also just bought a Charles Krauthammer book that it would have bought “regardless of the outcome” of the election, Wharton says.
Kimball didn't anticipate Encounter's plans changing “in response to the election's outcome,” describing its mission as “educational, not directly political,” promoting “the virtues of democratic capitalism.”
Paul Kengor, Grove City College professor, regular Trib columnist and author of several conservative books, including this year's “The Communist” about Obama mentor Frank Marshall Davis, says last Tuesday's outcome wasn't critical for the business.
“There's always an audience” for conservative talk radio, he says. “The same will be true for conservative books.”
Conservative authors' bigger problem, Kengor says, is that “the book industry is a disaster.” Books — print and electronic — just aren't selling in the numbers they once did, something he experienced despite “The Communist” reaching No. 9 on The Times' hardcover nonfiction list and No. 1 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble nonfiction lists.
Noting that such rankings once would have meant sales of 100,000 copies, he says, “Not anymore. Not even close.”
He expects interest in books about Obama to continue for a long time — not just because he's been president, but “because the liberal media never vetted the man. ... I expect to learn far more about Obama only once he's out of office and no longer being protected and coddled by the mainstream media.”
Kengor also says Tuesday's outcome wasn't a factor in his own future as an author.
“I'm planning another Cold War book. But, hey, you never know. Plans often change.”
Pakistan's bomb, Russia's oil
Two titles of interest, available Tuesday: “Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb” by Feroz Khan (Stanford Security Studies) — The U.S. military values the views of this author. A 30-year veteran of Pakistan's army who retired with the rank of brigadier general, he's now a lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. And he has had a number of visiting-scholar stints and fellowships in the West, including one at Stanford University's Center for International Studies and Cooperation. He recounts how Pakistan's nuclear-energy program, begun in 1956, became a nuclear-weapons program, impelled by 1965 and 1971 wars with India, which first tested a nuclear weapon in 1974. The publisher says “international opposition to the program only made it an even more significant issue of national resolve” for Pakistani leaders. For Americans so often puzzled by Pakistan's actions and decisions, this book offers rare insight from an authoritative Pakistani perspective.
“Wheel of Fortune: The Battle for Oil and Power in Russia” by Thane Gustafson (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) — Accounting for almost 12 percent of global supply, post-Soviet Russia now rivals Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest oil producer and exporter. In this book, a Georgetown University professor of government who consults about and analyzes the Russian energy sector as senior director of IHS Cambridge Energy Associates traces the interdependence of Russia's oil industry, politics and economy from the closing years of the Soviet era to today. He also looks ahead, warning that, as oil gets harder and more expensive to produce, “Russia's growing dependence on revenue from oil exports, along with its inefficient and often-corrupt management of the industry, is unsustainable” and poses “the potential threat of a destabilized Russia” if the industry's not modernized and its relationship with the state isn't reformed, according to the publisher.
Alan Wallace is a Trib Total Media editorial page writer (412-320-7983 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
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