Interview: How Regnery Publishing Helps Lead The Fight For America
The mainstream media hates conservative views. Organizations such as The Stream, National Review, Fox News, and Blaze Media provide mediums for our views which otherwise would not exist. So does social media (when its outlets allow conservatives to use it).
But with the left-leaning stance found in most of the nation’s biggest media outlets, reaching millions of average Americans is difficult.
Enter Regnery Publishing, publisher of authors from William F. Buckley to Dinesh D’Souza to The Stream’s Jay Richards, Al Perrotta and John Zmirak. Many of their books are bestsellers.
The Stream recently interviewed Regnery president Marji Ross. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
A Long History of Conservative Publishing
The Stream: Tell us about Regnery, please: your background, books per year, and some of your strategic thinking.
Marji Ross: Regnery has published great conservative books for the past 70 years. We were founded in 1947 by Henry Regnery. Early on we published a number of seminal conservative books that have become classics. These are books like William F. Buckley Jr’s God and Man at Yale, Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, and Whitaker Chambers’ Witness.
Throughout our history, we’ve been dedicated to publishing books for conservative readers by conservative authors. This commitment has become more important as the mainstream media has tilted further to the left.
I joined the company in 1999 as vice president and general manager. I took on the role of president and publisher when Al Regnery (Henry’s son) retired in 2003.
In 2014, we were purchased by Salem Media Group, the country’s largest provider of radio, print and web content to Christian and conservative audiences. Regnery is now part of a media empire that encompasses all these media for right-of-center readers and listeners.
Publishing What Will Reach People
TS: Regnery has published books by several Stream staff. What is the process by which Regnery chooses to publish books? What factors do you consider prior to accepting a manuscript?
MR: Regnery publishes a relatively small number of new titles each year. We typically publish about 20 to 25 political books, plus 12 to 15 history books and 12 to 15 in our Salem Books imprint, which serves the Christian market. Therefore, we invest a lot of attention and resources in each book we publish. In effect, each new title has to carry its weight.
So, we’re looking for books that meet most — if not all — of several criteria. First, an author with a big platform who is a passionate crusader for his or her point of view or issue. Second, a topic that is relevant to our market and timely in the marketplace. Third, books that break news or tell readers something they didn’t already know and that stir a debate.
We love controversy — it’s what attracts attention and sells books. However, we don’t publish books merely because they are controversial. Rather, we aim to publish books that will challenge people to think about issues and questions in a way that we hope will make the world a better place.
TS: Regnery has published many bestsellers. What do you attribute that to?
MR: It’s true we’ve had a very large percentage of our books become national bestsellers — more than 75 in the past 20 years. I think that’s a result of a few key factors.
First, we publish fewer than 50 new titles each year, so we can take the time to really optimize each of them. Second, we focus on three key areas (politics, history, faith), so we know those categories very, very well. Third, we take what I call a “direct marketing” approach to publishing, which means we start with the question, who is this book for and why will they care?
So many authors and publishers fall in love with their subject. We urge authors to fall in love with their readers.
We do focus on our target market of conservative readers. However, there are many readers who would not call themselves “conservative” who like our books. These are people who listen to talk radio, watch cable news and are proudly “independent.”
We also know that we reach many times as many people through media than our authors do through books and speaking. Therefore, our goal is to make sure that TV, radio and print exposure for our books and our authors provides valuable content and insight even for those who will never read the book. This way, we reach people who might not buy a book from a conservative publisher. But they might be influenced by the message.
Adapting to a Changing World
TS: Have Regnery’s business model, topics, angles on so on changed as politics have changed? If so, how?
MR: After Donald Trump’s election, many media outlets asked me how our publishing program would change, or was changing, based on his election. My response was that President Trump is not the cause, but the effect, of changes in our politics and our culture. Voters elected Donald Trump because they were fed up with establishment politicians, ineffective and corrupt government bureaucracy, political correctness and pop culture that is increasingly anti-family and anti-American. In the same way these trends are also driving our publishing program.
TS: Regnery is part of a powerful network of media outlets which includes Twitchy, Hot Air, Bearing Arms, Townhall.com, Human Events, Eagle Financial, RedState, Salem’s radio network — and more, I’m sure! How does Regnery’s unique brand fit into such a large, diverse, and influential network of conservative media organizations?
MR: Corporate acquisitions are often disruptive. When Salem acquired Regnery in 2014, we didn’t know what to expect. To say we have been pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. Salem has been an excellent parent company. They are supportive, growth-oriented, collaborative, engaged, intentional, challenging and inspiring. Plus, the people are terrific.
In addition, the business opportunities for leverage, cross-pollination and amplification are tremendous. We have taken advantage of countless opportunities in that vein, but we have still only scratched the surface of what we can do together.
Where Do We Go From Here?
TS: Has the changing media landscape in the last two decades affected Regnery — especially online media? If so, how?
MR: Both the media landscape and the book publishing landscape have changed enormously over the past 20 years. Digital and social have driven change in both arenas. These changes have challenged us to be more responsive, more timely, more creative, and — perhaps most importantly — more in tune with our market than ever before. We must have our finger on the pulse of the market if we have any hopes of publishing books that are relevant, compelling and unique. It’s necessary, too, if we want to continue to enjoy commercial success as well as “influence success.” Those imperatives guide everything we do – from the selection of our books to the promotion strategies and campaigns that sell them.
TS: Where does the conservative movement go from here in terms of influencing the culture for the better? What role will Regnery play?
MR: Changing the culture doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over generations. The seeds that have grown to overshadow and perhaps suffocate many core American values were planted decades ago. They’ve been cultivated and nourished in our schools and in our entertainment industry — the two most influential forces on young minds. Can books turn back that tide or change that course? Books can be enormously influential, but they cannot work alone. Our mission must be to make sure the ideas in our books are heard, discussed, debated and spread.
That’s why we do what we do. That’s why leveraging our Salem connection is vital, that’s why our authors must be passionate, fearless crusaders. And that’s why we look for books that speak the truth in a compelling, urgent way.