The polarized publishing world

From The New York Times:

For a snapshot of how politically polarized the country has become, consider the best-seller list in this Sunday’s New York Times. Political books hold the top five spots on the hardcover nonfiction list, but they offer wildly divergent views.

No. 1 on the list is “American Marxism” by the Fox News host Mark Levin, which argues that liberals, including President Biden, are advancing a socialist agenda. Two titles that follow present sharply critical views of the Trump administration: “Here, Right Matters,” a memoir by Alexander Vindman, the retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who had a role in Trump’s first impeachment; and “I Alone Can Fix It,” an explosive account of Trump’s last year in office by the Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker. Next come books by the conservative media stars Ben Shapiro and Jesse Watters.

“The same kind of polarization that we’re seeing in the mainstream culture is happening in the book market,” Kristen McLean, an analyst at NPD BookScan, a market research firm, said. “The appetite is there on both sides of the political divide.”

When Biden took office, publishers braced for a slump. The Trump years had been an enormous boon to their industry, with a torrent of best sellers that included bombshell exposés by Bob Woodward and Michael Wolff, and tell-all memoirs from John Bolton and Mary Trump. Political book sales hit a 20-year high, according to NPD BookScan.

As predicted, sales of political books fell in the first seven months of this year. But publishers remain bullish about the genre. While sales have tapered off, the numbers are still well above what they were in 2016, and even 2019. Books by conservative authors are starting to pick up, as is often the case when there’s a Democrat in the White House.

“It’s easier to sell political books when your audience is in the opposition, when it’s feeling embattled and they’re more worked up and angry,” Thomas Spence, president and publisher of the conservative publishing house Regnery, told me. “The first two quarters of 2021 have been great for us.”

The conservative book market also carries risks for big corporate publishers, though. After the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in January, Simon & Schuster canceled plans to publish a book by Senator Josh Hawley, who tried to overturn the results of the presidential election. (Mr. Hawley, who accused the company of violating the First Amendment, released his book with Regnery.)

Simon & Schuster later announced that it had signed a two-book deal with former Vice President Mike Pence. The decision outraged liberals, including some of Simon & Schuster’s own authors and staff members, who signed a petition calling on the company to stop publishing books by former Trump officials. But the petition failed to sway executives, and news broke soon after that Simon & Schuster had bought a book from Kellyanne Conway.

Those acquisitions didn’t appease conservatives like Tucker Carlson, who attacked Simon & Schuster over its decision to drop Hawley, and accused the company of censorship in his new book, “The Long Slide.” (His claim of censorship is undercut by the fact that his book was published by, well, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.)

Link to the rest at The New York Times (link may expire. if so, PG says sorry.)

PG’s heart aches for the poor wittle New York publishers. They have such a tough job. Their little hearts must ache all day when people say bad things about them.

It’s no wonder they have to drink and do drugs when they get home.

16 thoughts on “The polarized publishing world”

  1. One wonders whether the writer of the OP had ever compared the positions of John Dos Passos and F. Scott Fitzgerald in American publishing and literary history… let alone their respective backgrounds. Just about a century ago, which gives a rather Santayanish tint to the OP.

    • I think recalling Santayana’s wisdom on a regular basis is probably called for during the time of Covid craziness, C.

      • Sadly, again, just about a century ago, the flu was a… problem. And substantial portions of the population have learned very little from that.

        I was a minority, slowly working toward being a member of the majority (I hope): Fully Vaccinated-American.

        • Well, welcome to the majority – for what little it is worth. According to the “experts” at the CDC, 51.1% are fully vaccinated as of three days ago.

          I can agree that substantial portions of the population have learned very little from anything – and are truly shocked by events like in the past week.

        • Well, at least some of the…hesitant…are freaked out by the “Emergency Use Authorization” description of the vaccines and the government failing to explain that the only difference between an “approved” vaccine and the available ones is bureaucrats signing off. Rather than treat people like rational adults with concerns, the government and media keep on telling them to parrot the party line ‘vaccinate for the common good” and calling them idiots and worse.
          Not exactly a good way to convince individualists and others skeptical of government and its history of lies. Plus, there’s the legacy of Tuskegee.

          Taking what many see as a risky, experimental drug “for tbe good of others” is not the most enticing of propositions anywhere but in authoritarian states.

          Assigning a political motive to all the hesitant fails to consider the same issues in other educated nations, especially those that have seen horrors from the masses blindly following the herd. (Talk of herd immunity is similarly stupid. Humans are tribal but not herd creatures.) Blind acceptance of the vaccine is only prevalent in the third world among the government dependent. European resistance is, not surprisingly, strongest in France, Germany, and Eastern Europe. Their history makes them somewhat skeptical of government-driven herds.

          Trying to force people to conform without addressing their not always unreasonable concerns is seen as bullying and is counterproductive. Lotteries and bribes are also counterproductive. Plus more expensive than a proper educational campaign. Of course, said campaign would have to start by admitting that the missing certifications will in no way alter the nature or safety of the drug but are merely bureaucratic hoops. Which is an admission establishment types would never willingly make.

          Most everybody else with a shred of common sense has weighed the pros and cons, *based on their own risk* as they see it and chosen appropriately. Which is why the newer outbreaks are mostly among minorities and the “immortal” young-ish.

          Me, I jumped at the chance to get the Moderna as soon as available to my mother. But getting vaccinated was a *studied* choice.
          Just as I choose to continue to wear a mask in public and keep my distance from others (though that last is no change–I’m not a touchy/grabby type anyway) and I do it as *selfdefense*. Not because I particularly care what happens to others.

          Survival is a personal choice.
          I choose to try to live but I can accept other’s willing choice to accept risk as long as they’re willing to take responsability for their choices. And not just in matters of vaccination.

          Life is complicated.
          Then you die.
          No change there.

          • The irony that the designation “Emergency Use Authorization”, and the system/distinction between “preliminary” and “full” authorization, developed in response to two “t” scandals is a bit much. Neither thalidomide nor Tuskegee gave much credit to the system as it worked then. At least some people did learn, did attempt to apply the lessons of both those two scandals (the first of which is precisely on point concerning “one needs to gather data over time to discern longer-term effects”) to the unpredictable developments of the future by building in the best known safeguards (which, because they’re about human behavior and human diversity, are inherently imperfect, as it damned near everything else in medicine)… and those people are being at best ignored and more often pilloried by those who won’t pay attention to, let alone learn from, the past.

            • Sad, more tban ironic.
              All that competence being neglected and ignored.

              But has anybody even bothered to educate the masses on the changes?

              The two incidents are too politically useful to bury, for the luddites and the racemongers. Sow fear, reap outbreaks. And worse.

              We are now entering the third phase of the pandemic:

              1- Outbreak with a justified scramble to minimize the damage while trying to find tools to fight it. (15 years ago, the US had the best stocked pandemic emergency reserves tbat were depleted fighting non-medical incidents and never replaced. Lack of competence swept under the rug.)

              2- Emergency measures brought us good vaccines that work and are safe, better understanding allowed relaxing restrictions. Rapid vaccination of tbe educated and willing brought us close to a tolerable balance. But incompetence, political posturing, and triumphalism stalled containment.

              3- At a time we should be closing in on controling the pandemic with good vaccines, multiple known effective and sanctioned treatments, and broad mitigation, instead we have partisan politics lawsuits galore and demonization of the recalcitrant instead of education and rational outreach. Pox ‘pon all sides.

              Oh, and a new outbreak with yet another mutation (lambda) is rising. The vaccines are still very effective but the longer this goes on…

              To that internal crisis add multiple external threats brewing, a classic “Seldon Crisis”. Almost enough to make one start digging a survivalist bunker. 😉

              Classic snowball: take a barely manageable threat, add a big dose of incompetence, and you get a major a crisis. Very 70’s.

  2. Getting to you, PG? The snark is heavy today.

    It’s easier to ignore them completely.

    Wonder what (and don’t care enough to go look) the ebook prices are for these political diatribes.

    We live in so many different universes now, and the Venn diagrams provide little overlap.

    • My only excuse is that I was on perpetual hold (with incredibly annoying perky music interspersed with the same spoken messages over and over and over again) while waiting to deliver a 15 second message to one of the increasing number of healthcare providers that apparently are necessary to prevent me from devolving into a puddle of green mush, A.

        • The only way for me to determine the exact shade of my brain mush is to undergo an actual devolving, K.

          My concern is that, once devolved, I might not be able to restore the status quo ante.

          Perhaps I’m overestimating the degree to which I’ve actually risen above green mush and the change would not be all that extreme, but, in any case, I think it’s wise for me to be cautious about this sort of life change.

          I’d hate to disappoint Mrs. PG.

      • I understand, PG.

        This very morning I listened to endless loops of ‘we want to talk to you’ interspersed with the same horrible music – for over 16 minutes, which seemed like an eternity.

        In their defense, it was Monday morning, and I’m sure the volume of calls was larger than at other times, and they were helpful when I finally got through.

        But I got no writing done this morning because of it.

  3. The conservative book market also carries risks for big corporate publishers, though.

    What risks? Looks like S&S told their woke staff to sit down and shut up or they could learn about the market demand for French Literature grads by pounding the pavement. Then they went for the money.

    • Well, now, S & S executives, being employed by the only big publisher not owned by a Euroconglomerate, do have a risk – they won’t be invited to the good cocktail parties (and certainly not to former President’s birthday bashes).

      German owners, however, have no such worries.

      • S&S execs are too busy updating their resumes to be ready when the deal with the randy Penguin and they’re made “redundant”. When that time comes, bottom line contributions will outrank political correctness.

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