Simon & Schuster is declining to distribute a book by Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, one of two Louisville, Ky., police officers that shot six bullets that killed Breonna Taylor in her home March 13, 2020. Mattingly was shot in the leg by Taylor's boyfriend as police stormed into Taylor's home in what turned out to be a mistaken narcotics raid, and with another officer, fired 32 times in return.
The book, entitled The Fight for Truth: The Inside Story Behind the Breonna Taylor Tragedy, is to be published by independent publisher Post Hill Press whose titles are distributed by S&S. The press was founded in 2013 by Anthony Ziccardi, who had previously held management positions at several large publishers including S&S where he was v-p, deputy publisher Gallery Books and editorial director of the company's Threshold imprint. Post Hill's list mixes politically conservative titles with religious books, self-help titles and pop culture books.
When news of the book was released yesterday, initially by the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper, a firestorm of criticism erupted, with users on social media calling for the publisher to drop the book and bookstores to refuse to stock it. Many immediately targeted S&S, calling for them to drop distribution of Post Hill altogether.
Late yesterday, S&S issued a statement saying that it will not distribute Mattingly's book. "Like much of the American public, earlier today Simon & Schuster learned of plans by distribution client Post Hill Press to publish a book by Jonathan Mattingly. We have subsequently decided not be involved in the distribution of this book."
Despite S&S's decision to not distribute the title, Post Hill said it still plans to publish the book, which has a tentative fall pub date. "Post Hill Press continues to move forward with plans to publish Sgt. Mattingly’s book," said spokesperson Kelsey Merritt. "His story is important and it deserves to be heard by the public at large. We feel strongly that an open dialogue is essential to shining a light on the challenging issues our country is facing."
Shortly after noon on Tuesday, Simon & Schuster CEO Jonathan Karp issued an internal statement to the company's employees explaining the situation. The letter read in full:
Yesterday was a difficult day for all of us at Simon & Schuster, our authors, and our colleagues and contacts in the publishing industry. As you know, we decided that we would not distribute a planned book from Post Hill Press by Louisville police officer Jonathan Mattingly, who was involved in the death of Breonna Taylor.
Beyond our brief statement from last night, I am writing to share with you some more information about what happened and how it unfolded. Like you, we first became aware of the publishing deal with Mattingly through news reports, social media posts and press queries, beginning around 12:00pm. We had no prior knowledge of the book and had not been informed by our distribution partner that it was in the works. By last night we had decided that we could not distribute this book, and after informing Post Hill Press we issued an announcement.
Although all of us involved in this decision shared an immediate and strong consensus about not wanting any role whatsoever in the distribution of this particular book, we are mindful of the unsustainable precedent of rendering our judgment on the thousands of titles from independent publishers whose books we distribute to our accounts, but whose acquisitions we do not control.
You have our commitment to always be open to the exchange of opinions and points of view with our employees and authors. At times, that commitment will be in conflict with the editorial choices of our distribution partners, which we must also respect. As a publisher, we seek a broad range of views for our lists. As a distributor, we have a limited and more detached role. The distinction between publishing and distribution is frequently lost on people who do not follow the publishing business closely, but it is a reality of this important part of our overall business portfolio.
I understand and am sorry that yesterday’s events have caused distress and disruption for you. It has been a tumultuous year, marked by tragedy and injustice. We are grateful that throughout this time you have so openly and courageously shared with us your views and opinions and experiences. We will continue to seek your help and understanding as we strive to move forward as company.