Revenue fell 13.5% in 2020 compared to 2019 in Salem Media’s publishing division, a unit comprised of Regnery Publishing, the self-publishing operation Salem Author Services, as well as some digital and print magazine properties. Total publishing sales for the year were $18.5 million.
Tom Spence, Regnery's publisher, said sales took a big hit in the first half of 2020, hurt in particular by Amazon’s decision to prioritize essential products over books. “Amazon is our biggest channel,” Spence said. Regnery, he added, doesn’t publish the kinds of educational books that were doing well in the spring and fiction books that did well in the summer.
Business picked up in the second half of the year, helped by a good performance by its backlist—an area that Regnery has been building up in recent years, Spence said. Popular backlist titles included Life After Google and Drinking with the Saints. The fourth quarter was Regnery’s best, led by One Vote Away by Ted Cruz.
The company doesn't publish its own audiobooks, but Spence said audio rights sales remained solid last year. And while the digital audiobook market is booming, Spence doesn’t feel the need to start Regnery's own audio unit. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” he said. E-book sales also rose slightly last year.
Regnery’s big book for 2021 is Josh Hawley’s The Tyranny of Big Tech, which Spence acquired shorty after it was dropped by Simon & Schuster. Regnery has set a 75,000-copy first printing for the title, which will be released on May 4. Spence does not anticipate any difficulty in getting publicity for the title, between all the coverage Hawley has generated since the insurrection at the Capitol in January and the fact that the book’s subject matter—how to more effectively rein in the tech giants—is a hot topic.
Spence said he has heard rumblings that some other authors caught up in the culture wars could fall Regnery’s way. Regnery has already signed two former Trump Administration officials to deals: Kevin Hassett, chair of Trump’s council of economic advisors, and Keith Kellogg, a retired lieutenant general who served in roles for both former Vice President Mike Pence and Trump. Both men are working on as-yet-untitled books on their experiences in the White House to be released later this year.
Spence said Regnery’s small, but growing, Christian imprint has a strong 2021 list. That list is headed by author Dennis Prager’s newest title in his popular Rational Bible series, Rational Bible: Deuteronomy, set for a September release.
In brief comments on its Salem Author Services business, Salem said revenue fell due to lower author fees, which declined about 1% to $5.4 million, as well as to lower book sales. Revenue from its magazine business was also down.