Oh, how we conservatives once envied liberal writers. Just 10 years ago, liberal writers could propose a book on, say, how American capitalism stiffs the workingman or how the bourgeois family spawns injustice. Major publishers would respond by throwing oodles of money their way, or at least consider putting out the book. But pitch a critique of affirmative action or a defense of limited government and, unless your name was Buckley or Will, you'd be lucky to get a personalized rejection letter.
There was "a tremendous amount of marketplace and institutional resistance" to publishing conservative books, said Adam Bellow, an editor at Doubleday. The New York publishing world was a liberal preserve.
How things have changed. Over the last 18 months, three superpower publishers have launched conservative imprints: Random House (Crown Forum), Penguin (Sentinel) and, most recently, Simon & Schuster (Threshold, headed by former Bush aide Mary Matalin). Nor is that all. ReganBooks and the Christian publisher Thomas Nelson are putting out mass market right-of-center books, while mid-list conservative titles pour forth from Peter Collier's 5-year-old Encounter Books and several smaller imprints. There's never been a better time to be a conservative author.
What's behind the shift? Crown Forum chief Steve Ross thinks Sept. 11 made the industry less reflexively liberal. There's doubtless some truth to that. But what really turned the big New York publishers was the steady stream of bestsellers that Washington-based Regnery (my publisher) was producing, including Bernard Goldberg's "Bias," which spent seven weeks cresting the New York Times bestseller list. Sentinel's first year produced two New York Times bestsellers and Crown Forum published four, with Ann Coulter's polemic "Treason" reaching more than half a million copies in print.