Regnery Publishing was a bright spot in parent company Salem Media’s publishing group in 2018. Total revenue in the group fell 11% in 2018, to $21.7 million, and its operating loss increased to $2.2 million, from $1.8 million in 2017. Regnery, however, had a 7% gain in revenue over 2017, and profits were also up.
Regnery president and publisher Marji Ross called 2018 a “peculiar year,” explaining that three of its top-selling titles were by well-known political figures who wrote nonpolitical books. A big-grossing book was Dennis Praeger’s The Rationale Bible: Exodus, a $34.99 hardcover that is the first volume in a planned five-book series examining the first five books of the Bible. This May, Regnery will publish The Rationale Bible: Genesis, which will be priced at $39.99.
Why We Fight by Sebastian Gorka, author of a previous Regnery bestseller, Defeating Jihad, was also a top seller last year for the company.
The third book by authors better known in the political world than in other areas was Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President, written by Vice President Mike Pence’s daughter Charlotte and illustrated by Pence’s wife, Karen, which was lampooned on the HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. During that episode, Oliver unveiled his own book featuring the titular rabbit: A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, but the publicity helped drive sales of Regnery’s book as well (the Oliver book became one of the top sellers of 2018).
A high-profile book that failed to meet expectations was Sean Spicer’s The Briefing, which Ross said “did good, not great.” Spicer did lots of media, and Ross speculated that he may have received so much attention that readers did not feel the need to buy the book.
In 2017, Regnery rebranded its Faith imprint as Salem Books, part of its effort to expand its religious publishing program. Regnery released nine religious books last year, and sales in the category jumped about 30% over the previous year, Ross said. Growing the religious line is in keeping with Regnery’s strategy of taking advantage of its parent company’s 116 radio station network, which focuses on Christian and conservative topics. Regnery will publish 12 Salem books this year, and Ross is looking for another 30% sales increase.
Regnery’s attempt to expand its presence in fiction did not quite work as planned. After the publisher’s success with Stephen Coonts’s Liberty’s Last Stand, it added a few more fiction titles to its list, but sales were disappointing, Ross acknowledged. Regnery will continue to release the occasional fiction title (novels that read like nonfiction, Ross said) and will release Coonts’s The Russia Account in August.
Regnery is also slowing down Regnery Kids, another relatively new venture. Ross said the company will publish select children’s projects in the future, with three children’s books on the 2019 list, including two new books in the Marlon Bundo series: Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Nation’s Capital and Marlon Bundo’s Best Christmas Ever.
During the year, Regnery moved its distribution to Simon & Schuster. Though Regnery will still call on its major accounts, the agreement with S&S gives it access to gift and specialty retailers, places where the publisher previously had no exposure. “We’re gaining some traction,” Ross said.
Since Trump’s election, political books have sold exceptionally well, especially for titles critical of the president. “It’s been tricky to navigate the political waters” for Regnery, Ross said, but she added that could change this year. Ross believes that in the second half of 2019 pro-Trump voters will start to get interested in presidential politics.
To meet the hoped-for demand, Regnery has several titles that should appeal to the base: Open Borders Inc. by Michelle Malkin; Justice on Trial by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino; Guilty by Reason of Insanity by David Limbaugh, his first political book in five years; and The War for America’s Soul, another book from Gorka, who, since January, has had a radio show on the Salem network.
Ross has also been encouraged by early results from Regnery Media, which had a soft launch in the fourth quarter of 2018. The unit provides public relation services for conservative foundations and organizations that are looking to build their brands. “We have great contacts in the conservative press, and we know how to navigate the mainstream media with a conservative message,” Ross said.
Though Regnery had a good 2018, other parts of Salem’s publishing group struggled. According to Salem’s 10-K filing with the SEC, revenue in its self-publishing company, Salem Author Services, declined by $2 million, due “to a reduction in the number of books sold and the phaseout of operations for BookPrinting.com, a small printing-only division.” Self-publishing author fees stayed flat at about $5.6 million.