With the presidential election just decided, it’s a hot time to be submitting, or buying, political books. It might be too early to say what the election outcome actually “means,” but that won’t prevent a steady stream of pundits, academics, and Beltway players from giving it their best shot. Sure, insiders are waiting for the big names to drop: presumably Mitt Romney will write something, Hillary Clinton might throw her hat in the ring for a second title, and everyone is still waiting to find out what Game Change 2 will be about. (It was acquired by Penguin Press for a rumored $5 million after John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s 2010 Game Change, about the last presidential election, became a buzz book.) Given the heady moment for our nation’s government, we asked several editors and agents interested in political books what kinds of things they’re seeing, and what they’d like to be seeing.
Margo Baldwin, president and publisher of Chelsea Green:
We are focusing on acquisitions that will show people how to buld resilient local communities and economies from the ground up, since we assume political gridlock will proceed apace in Washington.... Even progressive analysis seems way off base in terms of the fundamental crises we face as a nation and indeed as a civilization. We don't expect Obama to make any headway on climate change or economic growth because there is no growth to be had in an era of long-term stagnation and decline.
Marjorie Ross, president and publisher of Regnery:
Regnery's core market—not to mention most of our authors and staff—is very disappointed with the election results. And the analysis (and second-guessing) began immediately. This translated into book proposals that seem to be falling into three basic categories: (a) Romney was not a strong enough candidate; (b) demographics are working against the GOP; and (c) the party needs to redefine and rebrand itself (either hard right or strongly to the center, we've got vocal advocates for both!).... We're hoping to publish books next year that provide some 'aha' moments for our market [and] that explain how a president with the worst economic record in more than 60 years got re-elected, and what that says about the conservative movement, about America, and about our future.
Philip Turner, Philip Turner Book Productions:
What I’d like to be seeing... is a break from the more vituperative titles. I think even rabid partisans are tiring of these and are beginning to show less support for them.... For the many authors and publishers who’ve featured criticism of President Obama in their books, I think they need to look in the mirror and offer work that is as much self-critical as it is bashing of the president.... For authors on the left or from the more traditional center, I look at Michael Grunwald’s The New New Deal [S&S, Aug.]—with its extensive reporting of facts (about the 2009 federal stimulus) that builds a case for his thesis that the Recovery Act was the most consequential legislation since the New Deal—as an example of the kind of book I’d be looking for.
Robert Weil, editor-in-chief and publisher, Norton's Liverlight Books:
What the election underscored—which many editors already know—is that there is a growing public that is interested in works of history, culture, and politics that not only embrace America's changing demographic face but seek to put it into historical perspective. Books that deal with race and gender can no longer be categorized as mere academic works. Also, I've already seen a few proposals in the last [weeks] dealing with the effects of climate change and global warming on our planet. So Sandy seems to be [having an impact].
Ryan D. Harbage, founder of the Fischer-Harbage Agency:
So far as I can tell, it's more of the same. For the past 12 years we've watched the market reward opinion-driven coverage of politics increasingly more than objective coverage... liberals want news filtered through liberal outlets, and conservatives through conservative outlets. Even as we get comfortable in our so-called information cocoons, I'm excited to see we have such a high level of participation in the conversation among writers, publishers, readers, activists, and voters. And in the end, I believe readers are smart enough to make their own decisions, no matter which point of view their information is filtered through.
Jessica Case, senior editor at Pegasus Books:
I think after this current election, people have realized more than ever the power of lobbyists, donors and super PACs, and how they factor into politics.... I would love to also see material about America’s changing demographics, from the increased importance of female and young voters, to an increasing Hispanic and Asian-American voting population. And a discussion of a change in demographics would not necessarily have to be limited to presidential electoral politics and could speak to a wider policy discussion as a whole.
Sean Desmond, executive editor at Random House's Crown Books:
The political book proposals I'm seeing include a lot of instant recriminations of the Republican Party, but that analysis may come and go before a book can properly summarize it. Looking to the future of both parties, the 2016 cycle has already begun—Crown just bought a very exciting book about Hillary Clinton's post-2008 life in the Obama administration (the book is currently called HRC and is to be written by Amie Parnes of the Hill and Jon Allen at Politico)—and with an open seat in four years and fairly deep benches on both sides of the aisle, it's an exciting time.