How book publishing fits into the conservative movement – an interview with Regnery President Marji Ross
Regnery Publishing, Inc. is one of the nation’s leading book publishing firms, with over 60 books having reached the New York Times bestseller list. Located in Washington, D.C. it is part of the Eagle Publishing coalition, which includes the storied Human Events and online powerhouse RedState.com.
Marjory Ross (“Marji”) is the first female President & Publisher of Regnery. We bumped into each other at CPAC, and she was kind enough to sit down for a short phone interview discussing how book publishing fits into the conservative movement and how fiscal conservatives can better reach out to women.
Dustin Siggins: What does Regnery do?
Marji Ross: Regnery is the leading conservative book publisher in the country. We’ve been around for over 65 years. We focus on publishing books by conservatives for conservatives.
DS: How long have you been with Regnery?
MR: Almost 14 years. I’ve been President and Publisher since April 2003. I succeeded Al Regnery, whose father started the business in 1947. We have a long, storied history. The Regnery family ran the business for many, many years. I am the first person out of the Regnery family to have the title of President & Publisher.
DS: You’re the first female publisher, yes?
MR: I am
DS: How big is Regnery? Can you give us some hard numbers?
MR: We were once called by the Wall Street Journal “Small but mighty.” I like that description. We are small in staff size – 20 people – and publish only 30 books per year (30 to 35), but we have a very large influence in the conservative movement and in the national discourse.
The entire book business is small in terms of dollars. It’s about $12 billion, which is a rounding error in some industries, and there are about 300,000 new titles every year. The influence of books is quite a bit larger than the dollar size of the industry, when you compare it to other industries. I think that’s because books are largely driven by ideas, and ideas have a much broader reach than the simple dollars and cents they may involve.
If you look at the book industry as a whole, it’s misleading to simply look at the dollar figures. This is not to say we don’t look at the book business as a business – we are a reliably profitable business, which is rare to say these days, with regards to print publishing businesses. Those that are usually are backed by other funding – online, for example.
We are profitable in print. We know how to publish certain topics well, and we focus on them. We don’t do cookbooks or other books outside of our forte.
One of the ways we measure our success is how many books are on the New York Times bestseller list. We have had several books on that list every year for 15 years. That’s a pretty good batting average, considering our number of published books versus the total published.
DS: Can you give our readership your perspective on bringing women to the fiscally conservative movement?
MR: It’s a natural transition. Women are often in charge of the household budget, household checkbook, discretionary spending, household spending, etc. Any sensible approach to personal finance leads you to fiscal conservatism.
It starts with the very basic principle that you don’t spend more than you take in. We teach our kids this. I don’t know how Democrats missed the memo. It’s part of the American DNA, that principle.
The other principle that should appeal to women and men, but especially women, is a meritocracy. Someone should be encouraged to work and try hard, to put in his or her best effort, to sacrifice, in order to try to make a better life for yourself. This is inherently American, inherently conservative, and appeals very much to women, both as moms and as people who (in previous generations) struggled to be taken seriously in the workplace.
The idea that you work hard, it doesn’t matter what your gender or color are, should appeal particularly to women. We should not play favorites as – in my estimation – this Administration does. People should be rewarded for their hard work.
DS: You say you write books by and for conservatives. Do you also work to reach out to non-conservatives?
MR: I believe, as a businessperson and marketer as well as a publisher, that the best way to reach the broadest possible market is to focus on your core market first. I do not think it means pandering or being cliché. I think it means asking “who is the reader who will care the most about this issue and will resonate most with this author?”
The more a book resonates, the more it will appeal. We have concentric circles:
People who may not describe themselves as “hard-core conservatives,” but agree with some principles of conservatism. I think this country is a majority conservative country, if you define “conservative” as not how someone votes but what someone believes.
I think people largely hold conservative beliefs, even if they don’t call themselves conservative. I think that’s why Regnery has such a large business principle.
As a businessperson, I think it’s a very bad idea to try to publish a book whose primary mission is to convert someone from the other side. It may be a laudable goal, but it’s bad business.