It may come as no surprise that Republican Sen. Rick Santorum's bestseller, It Takes a Family, comes from a conservative press. But what may be surprising is that the press is not Regnery, but ISI Books, a division of the nonprofit Intercollegiate Studies Institute, an organization dedicated to promoting "a better understanding of the values that sustain a free and virtuous society" among college students.
The press was founded in 1993, began to grow in 1995 and has expanded rapidly since 2000, with sales quadrupling, according to sales director Doug Schneider. The Santorum title, with 50,000 copies in print, is by far the company's biggest seller, and came to ISI after the press published Every Day Graces by the senator's wife, Karen, two years ago. Santorum's book "started out more as a book on public policy," but shifted to place more focus on the family, explained Schneider. Not that ISI would have shied away from publishing a book dealing with policy issues. Schneider said ISI's niche is to "publish books Regnery used to publish"—those that have a scholarly bent, but are more accessible than most university press titles. (ISI does have some Regnery ties—publisher Jeff Nelson sits at Henry Regnery's old desk, for example.)
Most first printings for ISI titles run between 5,000 and 7,000, and the press's two big books for this fall, The History of National Review and From the Gulag to the Killing Fields, will have first printings in that range. And ISI is developing a solid backlist title in Choosing the Right College, now in its fifth edition and sellling 10,000 to 15,000 copies annually.
Schneider hopes the exposure It Takes a Family has generated for ISI will help the press land "some well-recognized names." On ISI's upcoming list is a big book due early next year that will have 600 recognizable names; American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia has been in the works for nearly 10 years and will include all the important people in the conservative movement since World War II. And ISI still has more work to do for It Takes a Family. The press is looking to do an audio edition and is debating whether to do it internally or to sell rights. It is also weighing its options for the paperback edition.