The CEO of Simon and Schuster, a major book publisher, declined in a Wednesday letter requests by some of the company’s employees asking it not to publish an upcoming book authored by former Vice President Mike Pence.
“The question of which books we should publish is addressed by our editors and publishers on a daily basis,” CEO Jonathan Karp wrote in a letter to his colleagues obtained by New York Times journalist Elizabeth Harris.
“Our role is to find those authors and works that can shed light on our world.”
“Regardless of where those authors sit on the ideological spectrum, or if they hold views that run counter to the belief systems held by some of us, we apply a rigorous standard to assure that in acquiring books, we will be bringing into the world works that provide new information or perspectives on events to which we otherwise might not have access,” Karp wrote.
The company will “therefore, proceed in our publishing agreement with Vice President Mike Pence,” he added.
Some Simon & Schuster employees have circulating a petition asking S&S to cancel VP Mike Pence’s two-book deal and end S&S’s distribution deal with Post Hill Press, which is publishing a book by one of the officers who shot Breonna Taylor. Today S&S said no to those demands. pic.twitter.com/GOo5GN69aQ
— Elizabeth A. Harris (@Liz_A_Harris) April 20, 2021
The Publishing Deal
In an April 7 news release, Simon & Schuster announced that it would be publishing Pence’s autobiography, expected to come out in 2023.
According to the release, the “revelatory autobiography” will give readers an insight into “Pence’s faith and public service, covering his trajectory from Columbus, IN, to his time as the second-highest ranking official in the Trump Administration.”
Furthermore, it will allow readers to hear what Pence has to say about “the many pivotal moments of the administration, from the time he was selected to run as Vice President through Inauguration Day on January 20, 2021,” Simon & Schuster stated.
Pence’s agent, David Vigliano, told The Associated Press that “all major publishers” had competed with one another for the publishing deal, which was worth “well into seven figures.”
An anonymous senior editor at a rival publisher confirmed the amount to the outlet. According to Simon & Schuster’s announcement, the publishing deal also includes a second book by Pence. The news release did not provide much detail about that book.
In light of the deal, multiple Simon & Schuster employees protested the agreement through petitions distributed internally and via social media, The Wall Street Journal reported.
One such petition, titled “Solidarity With the Workforce of Simon and Schuster,” demanded that the company cancel the publishing deal it had signed with Pence and abstain from publishing books by those who had worked for the Trump administration.
The petition included a statement it states was by certain Simon & Schuster employees.
“Long before his Vice Presidency, Mike Pence made a career out of discriminating against marginalized groups and denying resources to BIPOC and LGBTQA+ communities,” the statement alleged, before laying out a long list of supposed wrongdoings Pence committed.
“From advocating for legalized discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, to eroding the teaching of science in favor of Christian theology in public-funded schools, to ending energy efficiency programs, to pushing for guns to be in schools and cars, to taking away funding for and shutting down clinics treating HIV patients, to promoting conversion therapy, to denying bodily autonomy to pregnant people, to abandoning a nation in crisis as the coronavirus ran rampant and killed more than half a million Americans. Mike Pence has literal and figurative blood on his hands,” the petition’s authors wrote.
For these alleged actions, the petition “demand[ed] [Simon & Schuster] cancel Mike Pence’s book deal.”
Post Hill Press
The petition also demanded that Simon & Schuster ends its distribution relationship with one of its distribution clients: Post Hill Press, which, according to its website, is a publisher focusing on subjects such as “pop culture, business, self-help, health, current events, Christian, and conservative [politics].”
After much outrage, Simon & Schuster announced last Friday that it would not distribute the planned Post Hill Press book “The Fight for Truth: The Inside Story Behind the Breonna Taylor Tragedy” by Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, one of the officers involved in the police shooting of Breonna Taylor.
— Simon & Schuster (@simonschuster) April 16, 2021
Arguing that the cancelation of the book’s distribution was not enough, the petition called for severance of ties between Simon & Schuster and Post Hill Press.
“Even though S&S cancelled its distribution of the book by white supremacist and murderer Jonathan Mattingly, by choosing to continue to distribute Post Hill Press, whose titles include Matt Gaetz’s racist manifesto, the company openly supports and normalizes violence against minors, Black women, and all Black people by individuals and the state,” the petition alleged.
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) July 22, 2020
By “racist manifesto,” the petition referred to Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz’s book “Firebrand: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the MAGA Revolution,” which Post Hill Press published through its imprint Bombardier Books.
“To Publish, Not Cancel”
In his Wednesday letter to Simon & Schuster employees, where he responded to this and similar petitions, CEO Karp wrote, “As a publisher in this polarized era, we have experienced outrage from both sides of the political divide and from different constituencies and groups. But we come to work each day to publish, not cancel, which is the most extreme decision a publisher can make, and one that runs counter to the very core of our mission to publish a diversity of voices and perspectives.”
On Post Hill Press and Mattingly’s book, the CEO wrote, “[Canceling the distribution of Mattingly’s book] was immediate, unprecedented, and responsive to the concerns we heard from you and our authors.”
“At the same time, we have contractual obligations and must continue to respect the terms of our agreements with our client publishers,” he added.
“For those who think some of our titles are a step backward, let’s appreciate the many Simon & Schuster books that are taking us two steps forward,” Karp wrote. “Let’s also acknowledge that we don’t agree on which titles are taking us forward and backward!
“That tension — that push and pull — is a healthy part of the dialectic provided by classically liberal publishing companies.”
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