Whither the Simon & Schuster “Boycott”?
After I wrote about the most likely outcome of Milo Yiannopoulo’s cancelled book deal with Threshold Editions, a division of Simon & Schuster, a reader named Wisty asked the following questions:
How long do you think the negative campaigning against Simon and Schuster will continue? What impact will this have on other publishers choice of authors? Will controversial authors be more likely to self publish and rely on provoking outrage to promote their work? Is this good for the industry? Is it good for society?
Let’s take these questions in order.
How long do you think the negative campaigning against Simon and Schuster will continue?
Has there really been any negative campaigning? Obviously, there was a lot of negative reaction to the book deal, and some people did indeed say they would boycott Simon & Schuster over it. One online literary magazine vowed not to review any S&S books, and one bookstore slashed its orders with S&S by 50%. But campaigning, in the sense of an ongoing, focused attack on S&S? I haven’t seen much of that—if anything, I’ve seen a bunch of handwringing about how awful it would be if that happened. I don’t get everywhere and I don’t see everything, of course, so maybe I missed out, but it doesn’t seem like I did.
Anyway, I don’t think people are going to continue to demand S&S not publish a book they’ve committed to not publishing. And if people continue to think poorly of S&S for having been about to publish it, they’ll probably keep it to themselves for the most part—or, like Roxane Gay, say what they have to say and move on.
What impact will this have on other publishers choice of authors?
Absolutely none. Milo got the book deal from Threshold for one simple reason: They thought they could make money off him. They didn’t care about his bigotry; if anything, the notoriety from that bigotry made him that much more of a financially compelling proposition. They only decided not to publish him when he came out in favor of grown men having sex with young teens—and since most corporate publishers are already disinclined to give book deals to authors who publicly advocate for grown men having sex with young teens, nothing has changed about how other publishers will make up their minds about other authors moving forward.
Will controversial authors be more likely to self publish and rely on provoking outrage to promote their work?
As far as the self-publishing goes, maybe, if they can’t get book deals on their own. Remember: Milo’s book deal didn’t evaporate because he was “controversial,” it evaporated because he advocated for grown men having sex with young teens. Authors who are merely “controversial” will have just as good a shot at getting a book deal as they did before, and just as much opportunity to self-publish if corporate publishers don’t see them as financially attractive propositions.
Will they rely on outrage to promote their work? Almost certainly.
Is this good for the industry?
As I’ve outlined above, Milo’s cancelled book deal doesn’t really affect the publishing industry at all. At most, it’ll teach some editorial folks at Simon & Schuster to make sure an author that seems like he could make them a lot of money doesn’t advocate for sex between grown men and young teens so they don’t get burned like this again. And maybe some other folks at some other houses will work a little harder on that as well, I don’t know.
Is it good for society?
Anything that ultimately reduces the visibility of Milo in, and the relevance of Milo to, contemporary society is to the good.