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Seven Surprising Secrets of Best-Selling Female Authors

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By Marji Ross 

As many of you know, Regnery is the preeminent publisher of conservative books in the country, and we have been for the past 65 years. In its early years, Regnery published many of the seminal works of conservative non-fiction, including William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale, Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, Whittaker Chambers’ Witness, and one of the most popular editions of Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative.

Acquired by Eagle Publishing in 1993, the Regnery-Eagle team has become a powerhouse of conservative political best-sellers. In the past dozen years, we’ve published almost all of the most influential conservative writers in the country and have almost 50 New York Times best selling books to our credit.

As I was preparing for today, I reflected on what makes Regnery successful. I also began to consider the unique lessons I have learned from the female authors and businesswomen with whom I’ve worked, and how their approach to work and to life has shaped my own definition of success.

Let me start with some of Regnery’s success secrets that I think have universal application.

Our first rule for successful publishing—and I would assert a key to all successful communication—is to start with the questions: Who is this for, and why do they care?

We are all communicators, whether as a parent, a volunteer in the community, or a business person. Always ask that question before writing a speech, a letter, a memo, or any other communication that is important to you to ensure you successfully communicate with others.

Don’t try to be all things to all people—do what you know and do it well. At Regnery, we’re experts at publishing conservative political nonfiction books for the conservative audience. This clarity of mission helps us to be successful, and the same clarity of purpose is important in our personal lives as well.

Hunt where the ducks are. This comes from a wonderful story by Thomas Stanley in his book, The Millionaire Next Door. Duck hunters were sitting in the lobby of the hotel having drinks and sharing stories one evening at their annual convention when one hunter came in from outside carrying a huge bag of ducks that he had shot. The impressed duck hunters said, “Wow, Tom. How did you get so many ducks? You must be a great hunter.” Tom replied, “Well, while you guys were all spending time with duck hunters, I was spending time with the ducks.”

The moral of the story for us is to spend a lot of time with our market. I spend much more time with conservatives than I do with book publishers.

SEVEN SECRETS FROM WOMEN

Having worked with so many of the brightest and most outspoken commentators and pundits on the Right, I have learned some very interesting things about navigating politics and business—about what is effective and what is ephemeral—and about the many faces of success.

The following seven surprising secrets from best-selling female authors are insights and lessons uniquely well understood and embraced by women. I want to share them with you for two reasons. First, they reveal how women approach work, life, and making a difference in the world. Secondly, I think they are relevant to much more than just book publishing or conservative politics; they are applicable to most professions, and even more importantly, they are relevant to virtually every facet of life.

1. Women Build Relationships

Women, I find, prefer “building relationships” to “networking,” which can sometimes be code for who do I know and what can I get out of them?

We published a book a few years ago by a very smart and brave female doctor named Miriam Grossman. She talked about the very real differences between the male and female brains, starting in utero, and how these chemical and biological differences literally cause women to seek and nurture relationships in ways totally foreign to men.  I see these differences as an asset for women, not a liability.

Women understand relationships and the value of them. We seek them, we nurture them, we worry about them, and we promote and foster them. This lays a foundation for problem-solving and solutions.

2. Women Like to Communicate

It’s a popular cliché to say that women like to talk. It’s usually men who say this; and I guess it’s true, but it’s not the whole story. My husband teases me that there is a girl version and a boy version of every story (and of course, I love to tell the girl version; the boy version is no fun.) But men like to talk, too. They like to hear themselves talk, and they are very good at filling three hours every day on the radio talking. So I don’t really buy the myth that women like to talk more than men.

I think women like to have conversations. We like to talk with other women, not talk to them. Think of the book clubs you know—I bet most of them are made up of women. Although they come together to talk about the books they have read, the conversation strengthens their relationships, communications and rapport. In my business, conversations and brainstorming sessions lead to better ideas and better results. In my life, good communication leads to stronger relationships and mutual respect.

3. You Need Character to Have Integrity

Let me explain what I mean by that. Let’s talk about character first. We did a book earlier this year with Mary Beth Hicks called Don’t Let The Kids Drink the Kool-Aid. Mary Beth gave a lot of great advice about protecting your children from the brainwashing of the Left and from the PC myths about “fairness” and “victimhood.” In the end, her message was simple: It’s about character. It’s about who you are and about listening to your internal moral compass that is developed from faith and family.

One of my favorite authors—and one of the country’s most successful female conservatives—is Michele Malkin, who wrote a book for Regnery two years ago called Culture Of Corruption. (The book hit #1 on the New York Times best-seller list, so it clearly struck a chord.) Her book—and her work as a journalist over the years—has been about integrity and about being held accountable for what you do.

I think in many ways women feel a special responsibility for keeping society, politicians, and kids on the right track. We know that success and happiness depends on character (i.e., who you are) plus integrity (i.e., what you do). It is your values and your actions that shape your future. We have seen how failures of character and integrity can bring down megastars on the national stage and wipe out successful careers. What women understand is that failures of character and integrity also devastate families, trust, and happiness.

4. Women Look for the Win-Win Solution

I negotiate with lots of agents for authors on book deals, and one of the things I see very frequently is that women agents almost always look for a win-win solution. I think that’s an expression of a belief that there isn’t a finite amount of success in the world.

There are two mindsets here. One is the zero-sum-game; that is, there’s a finite amount of success to be had, and if you have some, then I’m going to have less, so I’d better take some from you. The competing—and I think the truer—mindset is that success breeds success; and if you help others succeed, you will be more successful, too. Not to mention, happier.

5. Women Know that Little Things Matter

I have the privilege of working with a wonderful new partner in a new venture that Regnery is undertaking, namely, launching a line of children’s books called Little Patriot Press. She is an experienced author and very talented illustrator of children’s books, as well as a truly terrific person.

One of the many things she has taught me—or reminded me of – is that the little things count. Now I don’t by any means want to suggest that she obsesses about details or cannot see the big picture. Quite the opposite—she’s very creative and a big thinker. But she is also meticulous. And I have found that by and large most women I work with are excellent at making sure all the little things go right—at the same time as making sure the big stuff is done well.

6. Women Understand Service is Strength

In my very first full-time job, I worked for a remarkable woman named Suzanne Ives. She founded and led a public relations company, gave advice to high-powered CEO and owners, and ran major promotion campaigns. So I was a bit surprised the first time I saw her do something unusual for a person in her position. We were at an event for one of our clients, and the client was standing in line, holding a drink in one hand and carrying his coat draped over his arm. She said to him, “Oh, can I hang up your coat? Or hold your drink?” She was extraordinarily successful, and I believe part of that was because she wasn’t afraid to serve. It didn’t make her weak. It made her indispensable. And it kept her in the inner circle.

In my personal life, I have discovered that you can find great happiness through helping others. I lost my first husband to cancer about six years ago, and as I was trying to recover from that, I found myself volunteering for everything. I’m not sure why. It wasn’t a conscious decision, although I did want to keep busy. Yet I was amazed how much volunteering, serving, and helping other people helped heal me.

7. Conservative Women are True Feminists

We know that men and women ARE different, which is why conservative women are the real feminists and why Gloria Steinem gave feminism a bad name. Feminists brainwashed a whole generation of women into thinking that success meant being an “unwoman.” Basically, the more you were like a man, feminists told us, the more successful you’d be. Hogwash! The things we’ve discussed today are just some of the reasons to celebrate the difference between men and women. Not because we are better, but because we are NOT the same.

We are working on a book right now to be released next year by Elizabeth Kantor called The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After. And in this book, Elizabeth gives some very politically-incorrect advice about finding Mr. Right, based on how Jane Austen heroines like Elizabeth Bennett and Eleanor Dashwood pursued love. She points out that Jane Austen heroines were both more practical and more romantic about love, not to mention highly successful at finding true happiness.

YOUR FUTURE HAPPINESS

If I had to sum up what I have learned from the conservative authors and businesswomen I’ve had the privilege to work with over the years, it might be best said this way: Value and nurture the relationships you have, and if you want others to trust and support you, be trustworthy and be supportive to others.

So as you leave here today and go back to your jobs, your friends and your family, do this:

  • Embrace the “success breeds success” mindset: help others around you.
  • Be a problem solver, not just a problem spotter.
  • Find a good husband – and be a good wife.
  • When you feel depressed, help someone else.
  • With credit to Becky Norton Dunlop for this advice, figure out what you believe, write it down, live by it, share it with your children. It’s a clarifying exercise.
  • Be a person of character, and live a life of integrity.
  • Remember: it doesn’t start with you, but it might end with you. (I’ve told my daughters this often, especially when someone at school was mean to them. Almost all the time the meanness has nothing to do with you—the person simply had a bad day.)

Finally, I’ll end with Charlie Sheen. You know how he’s always taking about “winning.” Well, I assert he doesn’t have a clue what winning is.

Here’s what I think women know about winning, and the last bit of advice I’ll leave you with today: Don’t chase success and leave happiness behind.


About the Author: Marji Ross is president of Regnery Publishing and a member of the Luce Institute’s Board of Directors. This article was adapted from Ms. Ross’s speech to the Conservative Women’s Network.