- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2003

The publishing world has gotten the message: Conservatives are a large and powerful audience with enough muscle to send an author to the top of the best-seller lists.

But it has to be the right author.

Ann Coulter, Michael Medved, Robert Novak, Tammy Bruce, Norman Podhoretz, Ken Timmerman and Linda Chavez all have signed on with Crown Forum, a new conservative imprint division of Crown Books — itself a division of Random House, the world’s largest publisher of books.

“In voting and book-buying, almost half the adult American public has a point of view considered conservative on some or most issues,” said publisher Steve Ross, who calls conservatives “an underserved readership.”

Is it necessary to splinter conservatives off into their own niche — right along with Westerns, lipstick romances and whodunits? Mr. Ross believes he owes it to a hungry public.

“It’s my job as publisher to identify new readerships to serve. But we’re not using some cookie-cutter conservative template here. There’s a huge range of ideas out there, and we want to serve as many of them as possible,” Mr. Ross said.

“Was it necessary to have a whole conservative TV network?” he asks. “Just look at the success of Fox News.”

Crown Forum will publish 15 titles a year, including memoirs, political analyses and commentary, plus the occasional volume of humor.

Yet some fear that Crown Forum — along with Penguin Putnam Books, which also has a new conservative imprint — is only out to cash in on the increasing strength of conservatism in a post-Clinton era, muscling in on smaller houses such as Regnery Publishing, WND Books, Spence, Encounter Books and News Max, which have long supported conservative authors.

“A new day has dawned in New York publishing. A taboo has been lifted. Liberal publishers can now make money selling conservative books,” Richard Poe, the New York-based author of “The Seven Myths of Gun Control,” wrote at the News Max Web site (www.newsmax.com).

After “right wing houses” such as Regnery scored with conservative megahits, Mr. Poe wrote on June 5, “it was only a matter of time before major New York houses swallowed their pride, held their noses and did the unthinkable: tried to publish some conservative books of their own.”

Crown Forum’s Mr. Ross rejects the idea.

“We’re not trying to take over any business here. But with the resources of the Random House infrastructure — the scope of the sales force, our nimble printing — we will give the public more choices. And that is a civic responsibility,” he said.

“The conservative movement is big. There’s room for plenty of publishers. The more, the merrier,” said Marji Ross, president of Regnery and no relation to Mr. Ross.

Regnery was founded in 1947 and includes in its stable such authors as Caspar Weinberger, Pat Buchanan, Wayne LaPierre, William F. Buckley Jr., Gary Aldrich, Dinesh D’Souza, Michael Barone and Steve Forbes.

“We’ve been successful because we are of the movement. We understand the market better, and I remain optimistic we’ll continue on our best-selling track,” Mrs. Ross added, noting the group publishes 25 to 30 titles a year.

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