Back in January, WND Books scored big when its lead title, The Savage Nation by conservative talk radio host Michael Savage, landed on PW's nonfiction bestseller list and remained there for 15 weeks. But those who are wondering what's coming next from the year-old imprint may not find the answer completely predictable.
True, many of WND's titles take aim at favorite conservative targets, such as Journalistic Fraud: How the New York Times Distorts the News and Why It Can No Longer Be Trusted (Aug.) by Bob Kohn, which came out a few weeks ago with a 75,000-copy printing. But the press doesn't represent a single ideology, according to Michael Hyatt, executive v-p and group publisher at Thomas Nelson, who established the imprint with WorldNetDaily.com co-founder and CEO Joseph Farrah.
Among the 19 titles WND Books will publish in the coming year, several highlight that independent streak. Crude Politics (Aug.), written by Paul Sperry, Washington, D.C., bureau chief of WorldNetDaily.com is a harsh critique of the government's current energy policies. The book, which contends that the "oil-friendly" Bush administration makes decisions based on commercial gain that undermine American security and anti-terrorist efforts, shipped 10,000 copies this week and has returned to press for 10,000 more.
Next spring, the imprint will publish two more titles that are likely to ruffle right-wing feathers. War Rackets by Harry Browne, a former Libertarian Party presidential candidate, is an investigation of the business side of war and those who have benefited from past and present U.S. conflicts. "It's a time bomb," said Farrah, adding that Browne "makes Howard Dean look like Donald Rumsfeld." Meanwhile, Bad Trip by WND Books editor Joel Miller will argue that the government's war on drugs is a "farce" that's eroding civil liberties and will "lead to tyranny," according to imprint publisher David Dunham.
Upstart Imprint in a Religion House
WND Books is the third general trade imprint that religion publisher Thomas Nelson has established over the years. It's a good fit for Thomas Nelson, Hyatt noted, because many of its Christian readers, especially the evangelical ones, define themselves as conservative and have an "affinity for the product." For WorldNetDaily.com, Thomas Nelson promised a solution to the problems that had slowed its attempts to publish books in the past, such as lack of distribution.
Now, WND Books draws on the resources of both organizations, combining Thomas Nelson's marketing, production, distribution and corporate services with WorldNetDaily.com's columnists and writers, and its considerable reach as a publicity vehicle. The seven-year-old site receives more than five million unique visitors and 40 million page views a month, according to Farrah, and Web site tracker Alexa has in the past ranked the site as one of the world's 500 most-visited sites.
Given the long average time most readers spend viewing the site's pages, Farrah quickly recognized that he had a valuable audience of readers. Within a few years, he was selling about 20 titles from various publishers through the site's online store. Most of the selections, such as books by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others, leaned heavily to the conservative side, but the site's store also listed partisan arguments from moderates and even an occasional liberal voice.
In fact, selling books directly to consumers has become one of the site's main revenue streams. In a 12-month period between 2001 and 2002, the site sold more than 100,000 books, a figure buoyed by Bill O'Reilley's The No-Spin Zone (2001), which sold 25,000 copies through the site. During the last 12 months, WorldNetDaily.com has sold more than 87,000 books. Going forward, the site will sell titles from WND Books 30 days before they appear in bookstores, in addition to titles from other publishers.
Farrah, who wrote one of the titles on WND's first list, Taking America Back (Feb), emphasized that neither the site nor the imprint are partisan outlets. "We don't limit ourselves to talking to one group of people," he said. "The Savage book did contribute to a frenzy out there in the marketplace, but I'd call us 'fiercely independent' or 'anti-establishment,' instead of conservative." In addition, he also sees both the site and the imprint harking back to a more activist role for the media. "I try to recapture the old-fashioned spirit of being a watchdog, or a safeguard against governmental abuse and fraud."
Dunham acknowledged that the rising popularity of conservative outlets like Fox and talk radio, along with the dominance of conservative commentators and analysts, had boosted the sales of WND Books. But he also said that the press may pay a price for titles that deviate from the conservative publishing formula pioneered by Regnery Press, to which WND is often compared. Farrah noted that he'd already gotten "a lot of static" from WorldNetDaily.com readers who saw Crude Politics posted on the site.