Believe it or not, for the past few days liberals' fascination with conservative book publishing seems to have surpassed their fascination with righty talk radio (though neither will ever come close to matching the intensity of their obsession with Fox News).
Last Friday, McKay Coppins noted on BuzzFeed that while books by a few conservative electronic-media stars like Bill O'Reilly are extremely popular, "midlist" right-of-center titles have become a tough sell. On Monday, Salon's Alex Pareene took issue with much of Coppins's piece, arguing that the key problem with conservative publishing these days isn't niche marketing or excess supply, but lousy quality (emphasis added):
[T]he biggest publishing companies all fell all over each other to start their own conservative 'imprints' in the late 1990s and early 2000s to capitalize on the fact that crappy conservative books sold really, really well...[P]ublishers started separate imprints for these books in part because they were embarrassed to have their prestigious brands tainted by them, but also because conservative books generally couldn’t meet most publishing companies’ (already lax) standards of quality and accuracy.
The problem is not that shunting conservative books off into imprints somehow caused conservative books to become worse and fail to appeal to people outside the shrinking world of dedicated movement conservatives.The problem is that conservatives are embarrassed by which sort of conservative books conservative audiences actually want to buy and read. Conservatives don’t want to read good, smart books. They mostly want to read Fox and talk radio hosts writing about presidents. What’s 'killing' conservative books seems to be embarrassment.
...Right-wing intellectuals imagined breaking into mainstream publishing would lead to a thousand “The Closing of the American Minds” and “God And Man At Yales.” Instead, it’s Rush Revere and “Liberal Fascism.” Conservative books are bad for the same reason that talk radio and the Washington Examiner aren’t as high-quality as the New York Times and NPR: The [conservative] movement is rotten, and held together mainly by resentments that are dying out with the Silent Generation. Those who most loudly stoke those resentments — or those who simply appeal to that generation’s sour nostalgia — sell the most copies.
Conservatives frequently complain of being frozen out of the culture industry, though, like all industries, the culture industry will produce or sell anything it expects to profit from. There is actually plenty of room for conservatives in film, music, television and publishing — the biggest publishers in the world have been selling books by conservative pundits for years — and if conservatives don’t like the products they themselves create and sell to one another, they can’t exactly blame the liberal media.