Brian Anderson on South Park Conservatives

Kathryn Jean Lopez has a Q&A with South Park Conservatives author Brian Anderson today at NRO. Here is an interesting snippet on the publishing world:

NRO: When big publishers create conservative imprints, are they saying “conservatives can’t make it with the big kids” or are they investing in a huge book-buying market?

Anderson: The latter. The creation of superpower publisher conservative imprints — three now, Doubleday’s Crown Forum, which started releasing books in late 2003, Penguin’s Sentinel, which debuted last year, and most recently Simon & Schuster’s Threshold, which will launch in 2006 – is a tremendously heartening development. These imprints join Regnery (my publisher), Encounter Books, ISI Books, and several other companies favorably disposed to right-of-center ideas. There’s no question about the size of the conservative book-buying market: just look at the bestseller lists, where a new right-of-center title seems to show up every week. With all these publishers out there now, there’s really never been a better time to be a conservative author. You’ve actually got a decent chance to find someone willing to publish and promote your book!

It makes good marketing sense for these publishers to establish separate imprints, since it creates in the reading public’s mind the expectation of a certain kind of book. I remember when I was in college and starting to become interested in conservative ideas and a new Free Press book would hit the bookstores – Roger Scruton’s Sexual Desire, say, or Pascal Bruckner’s Tears of the White Man. I’d immediately check it out and be predisposed to buy it, since Free Press (back then) had the earned reputation for publishing a certain kind of highbrow, exciting conservative book, in the same way Verso is known for left-wing books.

Even more important, having separate conservative imprints, staffed by relatively autonomous right-of-center editorial teams, also means the books published will be treated with enthusiasm – and an understanding of the conservative audience. New York publishing has long been a liberal encampment, so in the old days, even if a right-of-center author landed a book deal with a big publisher, there could be internal resistance to it from editors and staffers. To take one example, back in the early nineties, Judith Regan, who worked at Pocket Books at the time, acquired Rush Limbaugh’s first book, The Way Things Ought to Be, and her colleagues went completely nutso. “Judith has reached a new low,” the publisher’s editorial director said. Other Pocket Book employees booed and left nasty notes for her in the company bathroom. The book went on to sell millions of copies, so I guess Regan had the last laugh. But now these new conservative imprints can bypass such distractions and get on with the business of putting out interesting books for a sizable – and expanding – market.

For my take on Anderson’s South Park Conservatives see here.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).