The Rapidly Changing Marketplace for Political Books

Simon & Schuster canceled Josh Hawley’s book for his role in the events of Jan. 6 at the United States Capitol. His new book, The Tyranny of Big Tech, will now be published by Regnery, an independent conservative house, in May. Hawley’s case is the most recent instance of traditional publishing’s shift to making editorial decisions based on ideology, a choice that will have ripple effects for years to come.

Election Book Recap

The 2020 political book season, as raucous as the presidential election itself, featured several noteworthy titles:

From the traditional publishing houses:

Rage by Bob Woodward revealed that former President Donald Trump concealed the threat of the coronavirus from the public because he didn’t want the Americans to “panic.”  Live Free or Die by Sean Hannity argued against encouraging authoritarianism of the left; former White House aide John Bolton’s The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir  depicts a president “addicted to chaos.”

A recent self-published title:

Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and The Democrats’ Defense of the Indefensible offers a different take on the only twice-impeached U.S. president. That’s understandable, considering its author is Donald Trump’s oldest son and namesake. Donald Trump Jr.’s book claimed the No. 1 spot in the following Amazon politics and government categories: Ideologies & Doctrines, Political Conservatism & Liberalism, and Nationalism.

From the world of hybrid publishing, we here at RealClear Publishing also had several political titles in the mix.

The Rise of Alternative Publishing

The rules have long been changing, and Sen. Hawley is just the latest in a long string of authors pursuing alternative publishing routes. Others include Alex Berenson, a former New York Times reporter who self-published Unreported Truths About COVID-19 and Lockdowns in June, which hit No. 1 on Kindle; and Marc Reklau self-published 30 Days: Change Your Habits, Change Your Life which became the No. 1 bestseller on Amazon.

Why would respected authors choose a non-traditional pathway to publishing? The reasons include speed to market, creative control, and a potentially greater financial upside. Authors can turn a manuscript from draft to printed book in a matter of months, whereas traditional publishing usually takes more than a year. Self or hybrid publishing means authors can produce their book the way they want it, without editorial or design interference – and receive a significantly high royalty percentage.

The appeal of traditional publishing has historically been high editorial quality, access to bookstores, and robust marketing support. But ever since Amazon came onto the scene in the early 2000s and rocked the publishing world, playing by traditional rules (and dealing with literary agents, acquisition editors, and bookstore buyers) is no longer the only legitimate way to get an author’s book read. Now anyone can upload a PDF to their CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing services and create a sellable book.

A new presidential memoir is almost certainly on the horizon after Donald Trump’s departure from the White House. Whether he will choose to go traditional or follow his peers to an alternative publishing route is unknown. What we know to expect with Trump is, as always, the unexpected.

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