Regnery Publishing President and Publisher Marji Ross on how to put all of the pieces together to create a hit title.
We look for authors who are celebrities or are passionate and have some controversy. If we have [all] three, we’re probably on the road to a successful author. But we do also decide not to publish a book because we’re concerned that the author cannot conduct a serious campaign for us. It’s not enough for the author to be a good writer or [a] specialist. They have to be a good messenger. We have a rule at our office: We almost never will sign a book before we have met in-person with the author. Agents know that about us. It’s come to be an unspoken agreement with a lot of the agents we work with. It’s important to us, so we can have the face-to-face meeting where we can assess the passion and the communications skills of our author. We publish a relatively small number of titles.
Extra: If you had to sum up the methodology of seeing a title make its way onto The New York Times Best-Seller List into one course of action, what would it be?
Ross: We certainly have in our minds, with every title we acquire, “How are we going to make this into a best-selling book?” We sign every book with the idea that it has the potential to be a best-seller. We kind of are loading the dice in our favor. If this doesn’t have the chance to be a best-seller, we may not even take a swing. … The way we try to orchestrate our best-sellers is to make sure that every book is all three of the following things: interesting, unique and relevant. Most of the proposals I see are one or two of those things. Rarely are they all three.
We like to break news with our books. That’s a large percentage of the books that we publish. … We’re asking ourselves what’s new. So our backlist is quite small. Very few of our books wind up backlisting well. A handful do. We are in the interesting, challenging position of trying to reinvent our list every year. It’s a unique type of publishing model. We try to keep doing what we’re good at, [and] that’s what we’re good at.