Posted on August 27, 2021

In Backlash to Racial Reckoning, Conservative Publishers See Gold

Elizabeth A. Harris, New York Times, August 15, 2021

The book “How to Be an Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi, has sold almost 2 million printed copies, e-books and audiobooks since it came out two years ago, according to its publisher, an astonishing sales figure more commonly associated with books about Donald Trump than titles on difficult social issues.

But other books being published on race in America come from a very different perspective, including “I Can’t Breathe: How a Racial Hoax Is Killing America,” “Race Crazy: BLM, 1619, and the Progressive Racism Movement” and “Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape from the Democrat Plantation.”

Since George Floyd’s murder last year, books on race and racism have driven the publishing industry in ways that have been both eye-popping and profitable. But as the national conversation about racism has become a ferocious battle, conservative publishers see gold in titles catering to the backlash.

“Blackout,” by the right-wing media personality Candace Owens, has sold 480,000 copies across formats since it was published last fall by Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. “American Marxism,” by the best-selling author Mark R. Levin, which devotes a chapter to critical race theory, sold 400,000 books in just its first week on the market last month. “Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe,” by Voddie T. Baucham Jr., has sold 90,000 print copies since it was published this spring by Salem Books, a Christian imprint that is part of Regnery Publishing.

The success of Baucham’s book “just surprised the daylights out of me,” said Thomas Spence, president and publisher of Regnery. “I was not at all suspecting that. But it struck a chord.”

Hoping to capitalize on this kind of interest, Salem Books recently published “Christianity and Wokeness,” by Owen Strachan, which describes wokeness in the jacket copy as “a potent blend of racism, paganism and grievance” that “encourages ‘partiality’ and undermines the unifying work of the Holy Spirit.”

This fall, Regnery will release “I Can’t Breathe,” by David Horowitz, which examines 26 incidents described by the media as racially based attacks and argues that all but two were mischaracterized.

“People are looking at these racial questions in completely different ways,” Mr. Spence said. “I think the conservative side is starting to push back, trying to reassert its view of America and race in America. We’re a little late to the game but catching up.”

This year, right-wing outlets like Fox News have aggressively taken aim at critical race theory, a scholarly framework that examines the role of law and other institutions in perpetuating racial inequality, rather than focusing on individual prejudice. {snip}


In June 2020, just after Mr. Floyd was murdered, sales of books about race and racism exploded. Titles in the discrimination category, which primarily includes books about race, sold 850,000 copies that month, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks the sales of most printed books. The previous June, that figure was 34,000.

The category has been strong ever since. In the first five months of 2021, books on discrimination sold three times as much as they did during the same period the year before, BookScan found, reaching about 90,000 copies in June. Sales of books about civil rights more than quadrupled in those same five months compared with a year earlier.


There are still a lot more books exploring race in America from the left than from the right. Interest from progressives has been growing for years, as national attention has focused increasingly on issues of racism and racial disparities. But publishing moves slowly, and widespread outrage over critical race theory is relatively new.

“There may not be a lot of books in this category yet, but we’re very excited about it,” Mr. Spence said. “We think it’s a big deal. We have not had this kind of visceral reaction from our target audience in a while.”