Three days after Grand Central Publishing announced that it would publish director Woody Allen's forthcoming memoir Apropos of Nothing, employees at the imprint and at Little, Brown, a sister imprint at Hachette Book Group, staged a walkout in protest of the acquisition. The walkouts, which have affected both the New York and Boston offices, have been joined by select HBG employees at other imprints as well, including Basic, Hachette Books, Forever, and Orbit. Allen has been accused by his adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow, of molesting her in 1992, when she was seven years old.
"This afternoon, Grand Central Publishing employees are walking out of the Hachette New York office in protest of the publication of Woody Allen's memoir," an email auto-reply from Grand Central employees' email addresses stated on Thursday afternoon. "We stand in solidarity with Ronan Farrow, Dylan Farrow, and survivors of sexual assault."
Little, Brown is the publisher of Ronan Farrow, the author of the bestselling Harvey Weinstein exposé Catch and Kill and Allen's estranged son, who has staunchly defended his sister and stood by her allegations in spite of Allen's consistent denials. In a post on Twitter on March 3, Farrow severed his ties with the publisher.
"I was disappointed to learn that Hachette, my publisher, acquired Woody Allen's memoir after other major publishers refused to do so and concealed the decision from me and its own employees while we were working on Catch and Kill—a book about how powerful men, including Woody Allen, avoid accountability for sexual abuse," Farrow wrote in his March 3 post.
He continued: "Hachette did not fact check the Woody Allen book. My sister Dylan has never been contacted to respond to any denial or mischaracterization of the abuse she suffered at the hands of Woody Allen—a credible allegation, maintained for almost three decades, backed up by contemporaneous accounts and evidence. It's wildly unprofessional in multiple obvious directions for Hachette to behave this way. But it also shows a lack of ethics and compassion for victims of sexual abuse, regardless of any personal connection or breach of trust here. I've encouraged Hachette, out of respect for its readers, authors, and reputation, to conduct a thorough fact check of Woody Allen's account, in particular any claim that implies my sister is not telling the truth. I've also told Hachette that a publisher that would conduct itself in this way is one I can't work with in good conscience."
Representatives of the walkout, who were gathered outside the Hachette offices in protest late Thursday afternoon, have yet to respond to requests for comment. One Hachette staffer, who requested anonymity, told PW that the protestors' demands included the cancellation of the book and apologies from both Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch and Grand Central senior v-p and publisher Ben Sevier, who acquired the manuscript. On Friday morning, another source, who also requested anonymity, said that a number of employees were working from home, although that source was not under the impression that they were on strike. The source added that, to their knowledge, the higher-ups at Hachette were meeting to discuss a solution, but had yet to announce any decision to staff.
"We respect and understand the perspective of our employees, who have decided to express their concern over the publication of this book," Pietsch said in a statement about the walkout on Thursday. "We will engage our staff in a fuller discussion about this at the earliest opportunity."
In a conversation with the New York Times on Tuesday, Pietsch told the paper that HBG stands by Grand Central's decision. “We do not allow anyone’s publishing program to interfere with anyone else’s,” he said. “Grand Central publishing believes strongly that there’s a large audience that wants to hear the story of Woody Allen’s life as told by Woody Allen himself. That’s what they’ve chosen to publish.”
According to the New York Post, employees went to Hachette's human resources department to lodge formal complaints this afternoon around 3:00 p.m., at which point Pietsch attempted to call a town hall. “None of the senior leadership would stand with him and the staff walked out of the offices,” a source told the Post. “The staff felt so strongly about this and wanted to do this for Ronan, Dylan and all survivors of sexual assault.”
News of the acquisition comes ten months after the Times published a story detailing Allen's attempts to shop the memoir despite a lack of interest from publishers. While the agent John Burnham has long represented Allen for ICM Partners, Hachette declined to comment to PW on which agency, let alone agent, sold Sevier the manuscript.
This story has been updated with further information.