Stephen King Testifies Before Government in Book Merger Process

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the Justice Department tries to convince a federal judge that the proposed merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster harm the careers of some of the most popular authors, it relies in part on the testimony of a writer who has done well like few others: Stephen King.

The author of “Carrie”, “The Shining” and many other favorites, King has voluntarily – even eagerly – pitted himself against Simon & Schuster, his longtime publisher. He was elected by the government not only for his fame, but also for his public criticism of the $2.2 billion deal. announced in late 2021, joining two of the world’s largest publishers in what rival CEO Michael Pietsch of Hachette Book Group has called a “hugely prominent” entity.

“The more publishers consolidate, the harder it is for indie publishers to survive,” King tweeted last year.

One of the few widely recognized authors known for his modest glasses and skinny features, King is expected to take the stand on Tuesday, the second day of a federal antitrust trial. expect the last two to three weeks.

He may not have the business knowledge of Pietsch, the DOJ’s first witness, but he’s been a published novelist for nearly 50 years and is well aware of how much the industry has changed: some of his own former publishers were taken over by larger companies. For example, ‘Carrie’ was published by Doubleday, which merged with Knopf Publishing Group in 2009 and is now part of Penguin Random House. Another former King publisher, Viking Press was a Penguin imprint that joined Penguin Random House when Penguin and Random House merged in 2013.

King’s affinity with smaller publishers is personal. Even while he continued to publish with the Simon & Schuster imprint Scribner, he has written thrillers for the independent Hard Case Crime. Years ago, the publisher asked him to contribute a blurb, but King instead offered to write a novel for them, “The Colorado Kid,” released in 2005.

“I was spinning inside,” Hard Case co-founder Charles Ardai would think when King contacted him.

King himself would likely benefit from the Penguin Random House-Simon & Schuster deal, but he has a history of favoring priorities other than his material well-being. He has long been a critic of tax cuts for the rich, just as Stephen King certainly belongs to “the rich,” and he has openly called on the government to raise its taxes.

“In America we should all pay our fair share,” he wrote in 2012 for The Daily Beast.

On Monday, lawyers for the two sides offered opposing views on the book industry. State attorney John Read invoked a dangerously narrow market, tightly ruled by the Big Five — Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins Publishing, Macmillan, and Hachette — with little chance for smaller or start-up publishers to break through.

Attorney Daniel Petrocelli argued the defense that the industry was actually diverse, profitable and open to new entrants. Publishing means not only the Big Five, but also medium-sized companies like WW Norton & Co. and Grove Atlantic. The merger, he claimed, would in no way negate the aspirations so many harbor for literary success.

“Every book starts out as an anticipated bestseller in the gleam of an author’s or editor’s eye,” he said.

Leave a Comment