For the second time in a matter of days, Simon & Schuster CEO Jonathan Karp was forced to write a letter to employees addressing a business decision.
Yesterday, Karp wrote a letter after S&S management became aware of a petition being circulated by some staff members calling for the publisher to cancel its deal to buy former Vice President Mike Pence’s memoir, as well as to drop Post Hill Press as a distribution client.
Last week, S&S said it would not distribute The Fight for Truth: The Inside Story Behind the Breonna Taylor Tragedy by Jonathan Mattingly - one of the police officers who fired the shots that killed Taylor - after the book was signed by Post Hill. Some employees had pushed for S&S to cut ties with Post Hill entirely, something Karp said wouldn’t be done.
In yesterday’s letter, Karp, citing contractual obligations, reiterated that S&S has no plans to drop Post Hill. He also wrote that as a publisher dedicated to publishing books from authors with a range of views, S&S will move ahead with its plans to publish the Pence memoir.
“Regardless of where 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,” Karp wrote.
Noting that S&S has “experienced outrage” from a wide range of groups, he said S&S’s job is to publish books. “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,” Karp wrote. “We will, therefore, proceed in our publishing agreement with Vice President Mike Pence.”
Karp’s full letter is below.
I am writing to you in response to a petition, circulated by some of our employees, that calls into question recent acquisition decisions and ongoing business relationships at Simon & Schuster.
The question of which books we should publish is addressed by our editors and publishers on a daily basis. Our role is 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.
As a publisher in this polarized 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. We will, therefore, proceed in our publishing agreement with Vice President Mike Pence.
On Friday I wrote to you with background on our decision to not distribute a planned book from Post Hill Press by Jonathan Mattingly. That decision was immediate, unprecedented, and responsive to the concerns we heard from you and our authors. At the same time, we have contractual obligations and must continue to respect the terms of our agreements with our client publishers.
The judgment each of us renders about particular books is inherently subjective. Discussing how we perceive various works is one of the joys of our business. When we share an enthusiastic consensus about a title, we are a positive and powerful force in the culture. When we allow our judgment to dwell on the books we dislike, we distract ourselves from our primary purpose as a publisher – to champion the books we believe in and love.
A few years ago, when we were considering a book project by an esteemed political leader, she described the story of America as, “Two steps forward, one step back.” For those who think some of our titles are a step backward, let’s appreciate the many Simon & Schuster books that are taking us two steps forward. Let’s also acknowledge that we don’t agree on which titles are taking us forward and backward! That tension – that push and pull – is a healthy part of the dialectic provided by classically liberal publishing companies.
Over the last year we have done much work to make Simon & Schuster a more open and inclusive workplace. We remain focused on how we can change our culture for the better and improve our publishing programs. The conversations we’ve been having will help us evolve as a company. The pace of change may not be as fast as some of you would like, but we remain committed to progress.
Thank you for sharing your concerns with me and your managers.