Sunday, July 19, 2009

Conservative Political Books and Their Non-Existence

I just finished a conservative political non fiction book and after a great deal of effort put together a pretty good query letter if I do say myself. Of course, the real problem was the fact that it was a "conservative" book in the world of a very liberal publishing world. Do you honestly think that a first time conservative writer will get a fair shot in the very liberal world of publishing unless of course, he's got a major talk show?

With a straight face - tell me how the publishing world can ignore the fact that the mega hits of non fiction have come from conservatives - without a NY Times book review. Don't tell me that you have to be a major talk show host or big time blogger to write and sell a conservative political book because I think that's just a convenient excuse.

Regnery is no longer the only game in town anymore for conservative publishing - so I know liberals enjoy making money too. Here's a fact that the liberal publishing world cannot seem to deal with: Conservative books, like talk radio, resonate with the rest of America that doesn't live in the bubble of New York or a few other cities - and hold your breath - there are more of us than you!

I couldn't find "Regnery" in the dictionary, but apparently it's a conservative press. Why I didn't think of that first, I don't know.

I won't address the poster directly here, as I don't want to start I fight. I will say that a simple look on Amazon will assure him that there is a huge audience for books by conservatives and the publishing industry knows it and regularly publishes and promotes these books. Glenn Beck's book on common sense (insert your own 'does he have any?' joke here) is currently number 1 on Amazon, which means it sells about 300 copies an hour, and it's been there for 45 days. Mark Levin's Tyranny or Liberty: A Conservative Manifesto is number 9, and number 2 on the New York Times bestseller list for non-fiction (Bill O'Reilly is number 13). This is not unusual; the bestseller list on Amazon is generally made up of fiction that's doing insanely well, books by angry conservatives, and a slot for "flavor of the week" (the Jackson unauthorized biography thing). And this is Amazon, which ranks solely by copies it sells, as opposed to the New York Times, which is ranked in some mystery way no one knows, but does somehow reflect national interest in books. There's very few political books that are bestsellers that I would consider "liberal," though occasionally a book by a Bush staffer makes it up there. My boss handles a lot of "liberal" books that are quite good, and I say that not because of my political affiliations but because I've read them, and they're not rants but summaries and interpretations of things that have happened or are happening in the world, and only one them cracked the NYT and only for a week.

I will add an interesting side note here, which is that a lot of these conservative-rant books (as opposed to books written from a conservative viewpoint discussing history or a particular issue by examining it and drawing conclusions over the course of the book) get some nasty tags on Amazon. Ann Coulter is pretty much the queen of getting bad tags, as every one of every edition of her books was tagged by a ton of people as "stupid" and "evil" and "waste of a good tree." If you are an Amazon junkie, I encourage you to explore the tag system, an entirely impartial (as much as it can be) and spontaneous way that viewers can express praise or criticism of book.

For "waste of a good tree" here are the top 10: (meaning, they got the most of those tags)

Anne Coulter, Guilty: Liberal "Victims" and Their Assault on America
Katharine DeBrecht, Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!
Bill O'Reilly, A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity
Paris Hilton, Confessions of an Heiress
L Ron Hubbard, Dianetics
Alan Sears, The Homosexual Agenda
Ann Coulter, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism
Ann Coulter, If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans (paperback)
Bill O'Reilly, Who's Looking Out for You?
Ann Coulter, If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans (hardcover)

So, conservative books and Scientology. That's what internet shoppers don't like. For fun you can also try the tags "evil" and "Keeping America stupid" and get mostly the same results.


Hayden Thorne said...

Here's a fact that the liberal publishing world cannot seem to deal with: Conservative books, like talk radio, resonate with the rest of America that doesn't live in the bubble of New York or a few other cities - and hold your breath - there are more of us than you!

I'm half-afraid of finding out what the book's all about after seeing the way this writer ends his enquiry.

Meg Spencer said...

I'm sort of confused by this letter. All politics aside (and ignoring that somewhat um... colorful parting shot at the end), this seems like a contradiction: "...tell me how the publishing world can ignore the fact that the mega hits of non fiction have come from conservatives - without a NY Times book review..."

One would assume that someone is publishing those mega-hits, right? Presumably someone in the "publishing world"? I would guess (and of course, I could be wrong), that the writer has been having a hard time getting his/her book published and is looking for reasons why. I suppose politics is as good a reason as any, but it strikes me as probably not the issue.

One thing I've seen mentioned a number of times regarding non-fiction is the importance of platform. It's not that one needs to have a TV show to get a book published (though that helps), but they do need to be recognized as an authority somehow. People will buy fiction from an author they don't know if the story looks interesting, but I think usually if we buy non-fiction, we want to know that the author actually knows what they're talking about, so credentials are important.

I would wish the writer good luck, and also patience - it's a tough market for everyone, and as is mentioned here and elsewhere, the only thing for a writer to do is make sure that their book isn't just good, but is great.

Aimee K. Maher said...

How you remain sane is the formula we really need to figure out. I always get a chuckle of a conservative who says "not Fair" followed by a thinly veiled "you idiot".

James Heaney said...

Reading letters like that make me so terribly embarrassed to be a conservative.


On the bright side, no one with an attitude like that toward publishing people will ever get published. Sigh of relief.

Anonymous said...

To Meg - who left the only useful comment. The contradiction is that publishers (liberal or conservative) enjoy making money and the public eats up a good conservative rant. The disconnect is the agent. My frustration is due to the fact that none of them have even asked for a sample chapter or two to evaluate. I do not have a national talk show or am I recognized as a think tank expert. But you'd think one of the dozens of query letters I sent would get something other than a form letter response. In reality I did this ass backwards. Silly me I wrote the book first and then sent out query letters. It hasn't been that long - but I do think that my book is time sensitive. Thanks for your useful feedback. As for Heaney - I doubt he's really a conservative - but if he is he's still a weenie!

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is at all unsual to have dozens of query letters yield nothing but form letters- I suspect most new authors have exactly the same experience regardless of their political affiliations.

jjdebenedictis said...

Your frustration is due to your entitlement complex kicking up against reality. Getting dozens of form rejections is hardly unusual, newbie.

James Heaney said...

If by "weenie" you mean that I don't write hostile and accusatory letters making wild-eyed assumptions and aggressive overtures against people from whom I am requesting free advice... then, yes, I am quite the weenie. And we're going to need a lot more weenies and a lot fewer... gentlemen like yourself... if our movement is ever going to win back the GOP and the nation.

I haven't read your book, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that your political affiliation may have nothing whatever to do with your stack of rejection slips--you may just have written a boring, hostile, and/or poorly researched book, and no agent's going to want to touch that with an eleven-foot pole. Particularly if you're a no-name. Particularly particularly if dealing with you is obviously going to be an ongoing exercise in fending off hostility and outrage at the least imagined provocation.

As for my own credentials, I have - unlike you - given my real name. I've written my share of letters to the editor, and I'm sure you can find them if you Google me hard enough. If you don't believe me, I don't especially care; I only commented (after many weeks of silently enjoying this excellent blog!) because I don't want people to think of letters like yours when they think of the word "conservative." And, having done all I can towards that end, I now return to a lurkful silence.

debra said...

I recently read an post by Brenda Rickman Vantrease. She received 136 rejections before her novel, The Illuminator, was finally published.

Patience and perseverance is everything in this business.

Meg Spencer said...

@Anonymous 12:05: I don't believe that it's at all unusual for you not to have received any sort of response after only a few dozen queries, and you may in fact be right about having gone about this in the incorrect order. I believe I've heard that it's not uncommon for non-fiction to be sold off a proposal rather than a completed book. I'm not sure though - I write fiction, where it's done the other way around.

Also, I kept trying to remember this weekend where I had read about platform and remembered where it was.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of liberals who don't live in the "bubble of New York or a few other cities." We're everywhere, even in small towns across America. Thanks for stereotyping!

shell said...

" and hold your breath - there are more of us than you!"

Yes, as Glenn Beck says 'We surround you!"

Or maybe not.

This e-mailer did sound at the end like he's trying to pick a fight.

~ Rebecca said...

Especially since it seems like most people identify as moderates, regardless of what they believe. I think that that's true regardless of what I or the letter-writer thinks of the 'Average American's' or 'Average Small-Town American's' politics, or what those politics are -- most likely that 'average' person sees himself or herself as a perfectly reasonable middle-of-the-road POV, and anyone too far from him/her is part of the 'fringe' (or should be).

Marsupialus said...

The person who asked you the question is going to go far: They already have that victim thing down pat, the single unvariable trope of all conservative writing.

You're much nicer than I would ever be. "Liberal" world of publishing. Jesus.

Anonymous said...

"...if our movement is ever going to win back the GOP and the nation."

James, I wouldn't sweat it. Obama's policies are taking care of the problem.

Anthony said...

The modern "angry conservative" movement seems to always have a victim mentality. They feel like they are always being picked upon, and that all these fancy intellectuals and New York (insert industry here) people are against them, when, in fact, they are given a very wide audience through them. It's really absurd, and a little pathetic, when you think about it.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a lot of butthurt, whining Liberals here.

Old corpsman said...

I can say from long experience that I have had many offers to publish my MS or to convert it to screen. In EVERY case the overriding intent was to excise the "troubling" parts of my work, i.e., aspects of a pro-American, Conservative and Christian world-view. So I am not presuming in noting such biases.