An open letter has begun circulating in publishing circles, in protest of the acquisition of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s forthcoming memoir by Penguin Random House. The statement, posted today, has been circulating online, including on the Instagram account @publishersbrunch, whose anonymous administrator told PW that the statement was drafted and circulated by “a group of concerned publishing professionals.”

In April 2021, AP reported that Coney Barrett had inked a book deal with Sentinel, an imprint of Penguin Random House. At the time the deal was announced, Sentinel founder, president, and publisher Adrian Zackheim declined to provide additional details. However, Politico, citing three anonymous “publishing industry sources,” reported that the Coney Barrett had garnered a $2 million advance for the book—a sum repeated in the statement.

In June of this year, the Washington Post obtained financial disclosure reports showing that Coney Barrett received $425,000 last year as part of the book deal with Sentinel. The payment came from the Javelin Group literary agency, which represents a number of political figures in shopping books to the business. Large book advances are usually paid in installments across several years, suggesting that this sum represented a portion of the total advance.

Barrett is an outspoken opponent of abortion, and cast one of the six votes that allowed the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24. That decision prompted swift response from multiple sectors of the book business, including a note to staff from PRH US CEO Madeline McIntosh pledging to "do everything we can to continue to provide all of our employees with access to all our benefits," including "protecting safe and reliable access to reproductive healthcare."

At the core of the statement argument against PRH’s decision to publish Coney Barrett is the alleged violation of the Bertelsmann Code of Conduct. The statement notes that Human Rights Watch, which was founded by former Random House publisher Robert L. Bernstein, cited the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights in declaring abortion access a human right. The Code of Conduct for PRH parent company Bertelsmann also cites that declaration, noting that the publisher is “committed to the principles” of the document. The statement claims that proceeding to publish Coney Barrett’s book would be in violation of both the company’s Code of Conduct and international human rights.

“With the midterms coming up, and the 2024 election looming, the group decided it was time to make a statement,” @publishersbrunch told PW on behalf of the group. “We cannot, and will not, amplify the voices of extremists (like Amy Coney Barrett) who would gladly take away the rights of millions of Americans if given the chance. I'm extremely proud to see the responses thus far and hope that this action encourages others in the industry to speak out!”

Representatives of PRH could not be reached for comment.