WASHINGTON (AP) — As the Justice Department bids to convince a federal judge that the proposed merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster would hurt the careers of some of the most popular writers, it is relying on the testimony of one author . Who has flourished like few others: Stephen King.
The author of “Carrie,” “The Shining” and many other favorites, King willingly — even eagerly — put himself in opposition to his longtime publisher Simon & Schuster. He was chosen by the government not just for his fame, but for his public criticism of the $2.2 billion deal announced in late 2021, joining the world’s two largest publishers, known as Hachette Book Group. Rival CEO Michael Pietsch has called the entity a “massively dominant”.
“The more publishers consolidate, the harder it is for indie publishers to survive,” King tweeted last year.
One of the few widely recognized writers known for his modestly sized glasses and Gantt features, King is expected to take the witness stand Tuesday, the first of a federal antitrust trial in the past two to three weeks. Second day.
He may not have the business knowledge of Pietsch, the DOJ’s first witness, but he’s been a published novelist for nearly 50 years and knows full well how much the industry has changed: Some of his own former publishers have been acquired by majors. went. “Carrie,” for example, was published by Doubleday, which merged with Knopf Publishing Group in 2009 and is now part of Penguin Random House. Another former King publisher, Viking Press, was a Penguin imprint that joined Penguin Random House when Penguin and Random House merged in 2013.
King’s affinity for small publishers is personal. Even while continuing to publish with the Simon & Schuster imprint Scribner, he has written thrillers for the independent Hard Case Crime. Years earlier, the publisher asked him to contribute to a blurb, but King offered to write a novel for him instead, “The Colorado Kid”, which was released in 2005.
“Inside I was turning the wheel,” Hard Case co-founder Charles Ardai would remember when King approached him.
King himself would benefit from the Penguin Random House-Simon & Schuster deal, but he has a history of favoring other priorities beyond his own material well-being. He has long been a critic of tax cuts for the rich, even the “rich” certainly includes Stephen King, and has openly called on the government to raise its taxes.
“In America, we should all pay our fair share,” he wrote for The Daily Beast in 2012.
On Monday, lawyers for both sides presented opposing views to the book industry. Public prosecutor John Reed called for a dangerously narrow market, strictly ruled by the Big Five—Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins Publishing, Macmillan and Hatchett—with small or startup publishers breaking through. Very little chance.
Attorney Daniel Petroselli argued for the defense that the industry was indeed diverse, profitable and open to newcomers. Publishing means not just the Big Five, but also medium-sized companies such as WW Norton & Company and Grove Atlantic. The merger, he argued, would in no way affect so many ambitions for literary success.
“Every book starts out as an anticipated bestseller in the twinkle of an author’s or an editor’s eye,” he said.
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