Culture Trips

Mike Pence’s publisher refuses to cancel memoir after staff protest | Publishing

Simon & Schuster has said it will not pull out of a seven-figure book deal with Mike Pence after some of its employees called for the contract to be scrapped, stating that “we come to work each day to publish, not cancel”.

An open letter circulated by staff at S&S said that the publisher had “chosen complicity in perpetuating white supremacy by publishing Pence”, in a two-book deal struck earlier this month and reported to be worth $3-4m (£2.1-2.8m). The letter, which did not reveal how many members of staff had signed, said that the former vice-president had “made a career out of discriminating against marginalised groups and denying resources to BIPOC and LGBTQA+ communities”, and demanded his book deal be cancelled.

“By choosing to publish Mike Pence, Simon & Schuster is generating wealth for a central figure of a presidency that unequivocally advocated for racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Blackness, xenophobia, misogyny, ableism, islamophobia, antisemitism, and violence,” says the letter. “This is not a difference of opinions; this is legitimising bigotry.”

Though in January S&S pulled out of publishing Republican senator Josh Hawley’s book over his part in the Capitol riot, S&S president Jonathan Karp told staff on Tuesday that the publisher would not cancel Pence’s deal.

“As a publisher in this polarised 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,” wrote Karp. “We will, therefore, proceed in our publishing agreement with vice-president Mike Pence.”

The employees also called for the publishing house to refrain from signing any more book deals with former members of the Trump administration, and demanded S&S stop distributing books for Post Hill Press. An independent publisher which focuses on “conservative politics” and Christian titles, Post Hill hit the headlines last week when it announced it would be publishing a book by by one of the police officers who shot Breonna Taylor, officer Jonathan Mattingly. While S&S subsequently announced it would not distribute Mattingly’s book, staff at S&S pointed to Post Hill titles which S&S still distributes, including embattled Republican congressman Matt Gaetz’s Firebrand.

“We impart to you the sad and unfortunate truth that we are actively making history right now,” says the open letter. “People will look back on this one day, and see that through our complicity, we chose to be on what is clearly the wrong side of justice.”

Karp said the decision not to distribute Mattingly’s book was “immediate, unprecedented, and responsive to the concerns we heard from you and our authors”. But he added that S&S has “contractual obligations and must continue to respect the terms of our agreements with our client publishers”.

Post Hill confirmed last week that it would go ahead with publishing Mattingly’s book without S&S, and declined to comment further.

Karp described the publisher’s role as “to find those authors and works that can shed light on our world — from first-time novelists to journalists, thought leaders, scientists, memoirists, personalities, and, yes, those who walk the halls of power”.

“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,” he wrote.

“When we allow our judgment to dwell on the books we dislike,” he added, “we distract ourselves from our primary purpose as a publisher – to champion the books we believe in and love.”

Pence’s currently untitled autobiography is set to be released in 2023.

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