The Corner

Dana Perino Hits the Books

Former White House communications director Dana Perino will be editorial director for Crown Forum, the conservative-books imprint at Random House, Inc.’s Crown Publishing Group, National Review Online has learned.

Talking about the project, Perino tells NRO, exclusively: “You can’t beat a well-reasoned and longer-form book that allows the reader to broaden a perspective or challenge a perception. And, if you look at the bestseller lists, conservative authors rule across the board.  That must drive some people crazy, but it’s a fact!”

Perino will continue as a Fox News contributor and in other pursuits. Her new position grew out of an already-established-and-successful relationship with Crown, Perino having worked as a communications strategist on their publication of former president George W. Bush’s Decision Points.

According to a press release going out this morning:

Drawing on her many years of experience in Washington DC as well as her broad network of contacts in conservative political circles and beyond, Ms. Perino will recommend, initiate, and submit exclusively to Crown Forum six to eight nonfiction book projects each year, to be written by conservative political or media personalities. Ms. Perino will also play an active role in devising and implementing the promotional campaigns for select Crown Forum publications, including for Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer’s major work of political analysis that is scheduled to be published in advance of the 2012 presidential election.

In her new relationship with Crown, Ms. Perino will collaborate closely with Ms. [Tina] Constable and Sean Desmond, Executive Editor, Crown Forum. Among the authors whom Mr. Desmond has edited for Crown Forum are Ann Coulter, Charles Murray, Patrick J. Buchanan, and Catherine Herridge. Mr. Desmond will also edit Mr. Krauthammer’s forthcoming book.

Tina Constable, senior vice president and publisher of Crown Forum, gave NRO an exclusive interview about Perino’s addition to her team. The exchange follows:

KJL: At a time when people are talking about the death of books, why would you bother bringing in a big name like Dana? Desperation?

TC: On the contrary. This is actually a very exciting time in the book industry as we transition into a digital marketplace and enjoy robust sales of physical and e-books combined.  Our goal is to grow Crown Forum as a home for relevant and provocative conservative voices, and we think that bringing in Dana — who is widely respected, extremely well connected in conservative circles, and has her ear to the ground – will help us accomplish that. She is also super-smart and politically astute, and we think she will be invaluable in attracting the kinds of thought leaders and talent we seek to publish.

KJL: What do you hope Crown Forum offers that others can’t? There are, after all, other conservative imprints?

TC: Crown Forum was the first conservative imprint established within one of the traditional publishing houses in 2003 and we have enjoyed many bestsellers over the years. While we are a boutique imprint, we benefit from all the resources and muscle that being a part of Random House provides. We also have a clear sense of our editorial mission and a dedicated marketing and publicity team that knows how to publish successfully into the conservative arena.

KJL: Why is keeping a conservative imprint alive at publishing houses worthwhile?

TC: First and foremost, conservative readers are book buyers — as is demonstrated by the consistently strong showing by conservative authors and books on national bestsellers lists. There is a large base of conservative readers in America who are hungry for constructive new ideas and voices at a time when America faces major policy issues both at home and internationally, and we are excited to provide a platform for authors who represent the point of view of that base.

KJL: George W. Bush didn’t exactly leave office the most popular guy in the world. The current president seems to agree, or he wouldn’t keep referencing him in speeches. Why would his spokeswoman be a good face for your books?

TC: I think people respect the job that Dana did when she served as White House Press Secretary as well as her loyalty to President Bush, but that they also understand that she is not limited to representing the viewpoint of his administration. Since leaving the White House, she has made her own views known on a number of issues through articles, speeches, and her appearances on Fox News and has shown that she is very much her own woman with her own point of view.

For her part, Perino shares Constable’s optimism. She, too, talked to NRO about her new project:

KJL: Why get deeper into the book world? Isn’t the future very far away from the bound-papered world? What exactly do you hope to be doing at Crown Forum?

DP: There’s no doubt the publishing industry is going through a transition, and there are many different ways to read a book nowadays.  That will continue, and it’s actually a pretty exciting time to be a part of publishing — there is a lot of reinvention going on, and everyone knows they need to adapt and be creative.  What hasn’t changed, and I don’t believe will, is the desire for people to put their ideas and stories down on paper and for readers to want to read those books. Right now, we’re having many full-throated debates about several issues, across domestic and foreign policy — some of those discussions are taking place with just 140 characters or less.  But you can’t beat a well-reasoned and longer-form book that allows the reader to broaden a perspective or challenge a perception. And, if you look at the bestseller lists, conservative authors rule across the board.  That must drive some people crazy, but it’s a fact!  There are many strong, bold, and brash voices out there, and I aim to work with Crown to identify them and then to help the authors successfully bring their books to market.

KJL: Why do you think books by President Bush and other principals in his administration have done well?

DP: I think the books have been successful first and foremost because they’ve been well-written — they are very readable. When people read Decision Points, they would often tell me, I felt I could hear him saying every word.  And that’s because the books that have come out so far have been ones that were, to borrow from Laura Bush’s title, Spoken from the Heart.  There was no score settling, even though they had plenty of reason to pop back at those who for years had gone after them. The respect people had for their unwillingness to sling mud deepened after their books came out.  Plus, while in some ways they were writing the first chapters of history about the administration, I know President Bush believes he won’t live to see an accurate view of history written about him.  As he said, in one year as president he read three books about George Washington . . . and that if historians were still writing books about the first president, then the 43rd didn’t have a lot to worry about. I also believe that after the administration ended, and some space was put between the Bush and Obama administrations, people were interested to take a look back — and to do so without the filter of the media.  For Karl Rove, whose book Courage and Consequence sold very well, he was able finally to give his side of many stories (in very entertaining ways).  In addition, all of the books so far have pulled back the curtain on their personal lives — something that isn’t easy for people to do.  But if you get to know someone that way, and learn something new about them, maybe even realize you have something in common, you might then have a different perspective. 


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