It’s a good thing President Obama already has written two autobiographies; otherwise, he would have a hard time finding a kind word on the bookshelves.
The publishing industry is pumping out anti-Obama books authored by conservatives in numbers normally reserved for young-adult novels about teenage vampires. More than 30 nonfiction titles blasting the president have been released by publishers this year, with several more hotly anticipated works expected to hit bookstores before the Nov. 6 election.
You might expect to see a similar deluge of pro-Obama books by liberal authors, but it’s not even close. The only laudatory book about the president to crack the best-seller list in the past month is “The New New Deal” by Michael Grunwald.
Why the disparity?
“It’s simple: This is where the money is to be made,” said Aaron Klein, author of “Fool Me Twice: Obama’s Shocking Plans for the Next Four Years Exposed,” which is No. 18 on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction best-seller list. “This angle is selling books, so obviously, publishers are going to be publishing more on the anti-Obama side of the scale.”
Analysts attribute the boom to several factors, including intense interest in and dissatisfaction with Mr. Obama, the heightened attention on presidential politics in an election year and moves by major publishers to reach out to conservative readers.
Not all of the best-sellers about the president take sides. “Barack Obama: The Story” by David Maraniss examines the president’s family history and upbringing, while “The Price of Politics” by Bob Woodward, slated for release Tuesday, goes behind the scenes of the 2011 debt-ceiling debate.
Compare that with titles too numerous to list that are critical of the president, starting with “The Amateur” by Edward Klein, a best-seller that was knocked off the top spot this week by “Obama’s America,” the second anti-Obama book by Dinesh D'Souza.
Also available are “The Great Destroyer” by David Limbaugh, the brother of talk-show titan Rush Limbaugh; “The New Leviathan” by David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin; “No Higher Power” by Phyllis Schlafly and George Neumayr; “Spreading the Wealth” by Stanley Kurtz; “The Corruption Chronicles” by Tom Fitton; and the forthcoming “Mugged” by Ann Coulter.
That is a partial list of major anti-Obama titles by well-known conservative authors released since June. A state-by-state “heat map” drawn up by Amazon confirms the trend, showing that readers buy more conservative books than liberal books, even in Democrat-heavy states such as Connecticut and Maryland.
Amazon reports that 57 percent of its political sales are “red,” or conservative, books, while 43 percent are “blue,” or liberal, books. Readers in only six states buy more blue than red books, according to the online map, which is updated hourly.
One explanation is that, like Hollywood, publishing is driven by a star system. In the case of authors, the right simply has more big-name pundits than the left.
“These conservative political books take off because authors like [Bill] O’Reilly, [Michael] Savage, [Glenn] Beck — they have a built-in audience, and anything they put out is going to be a best-seller,” said Tim Bueler, publicist for WND Books.
Marji Ross, president and publisher of Regnery Publishing, said the demand may be filling a void for those who don’t see their views reflected in the mass media. Conservatives may dominate talk radio, but liberals control television and movies, along with most newspapers and magazines.
“I think part of the reason is the mainstream media is still very skewed liberal,” said Ms. Ross. “It’s so slanted to the left, and I think there’s a great hunger among Americans to hear from the other side. And they’re not getting that from the big daily newspapers or Hollywood or the network news.”
Then there is the sheer number of red books. The success of smaller conservative publishing houses such as Regnery and WND led at least three major publishers in the past decade to spin off imprints dedicated to right-of-center political titles.
Simon & Schuster started Threshold Editions, which publishes Mr. Beck and Jason Mattera; Penguin Books begat Sentinel, which includes books by Mike Huckabee and Larry Schweikert; and Random House launched Crown Forum, which publishes Ms. Coulter, Mr. Horowitz and Michael Medved, and bills itself as “America’s leading conservative publisher.”
Regnery’s Ms. Ross traces the surge in interest to the release of “Unlimited Access” by Gary Aldrich in 1996, a book critical of President Clinton that shocked the publishing world when it shot to the top of the best-seller list.
Regnery followed the Aldrich book in 2004 with the biggest book in its history: “Unfit for Command” by John O’Neil and Jerome Corsi, which helped sink Democrat John Kerry’s presidential bid and spawned the term “swift boating.”
Jim Milliot, editor of Publishers Weekly, said presidents tend to inspire more books than their challengers during election years, in part because their first terms provide fodder for criticism.
“There are always more anti-incumbent books than pro- books, especially since Clinton, and there were plenty of anti-Bush books as well,” Mr. Milliot said in an email. “Books critical of a president draw more attention and sales, especially in this partisan time.”
Certainly, the number of books critical of President Bush released in 2004 outnumbered those in his favor. At the same time, none of the anti-Bush titles outsold “Unfit for Command,” which was the leading book of that campaign season.
While books cannot predict the outcomes of elections, Ms. Ross said, they can provide a gauge of the electorate’s mood.
“I think this whole phenomenon reflects an enthusiasm within the conservative base that you’re not seeing with the liberal base,” said Ms. Ross. “I just don’t think liberals are as excited about their candidate.”
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Valerie Richardson covers politics and the West from Denver. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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