When the Justice Department bid to convince a federal judge that the proposed merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster would damage the careers of some of the most famous authors, it relied in part on the testimony of a writers have prospered as a few. Others: Stephen King.
The author of Carrie, The Shining and many other favorites, King was willing – even eager – to position himself against Simon & Schuster, his longtime publisher. He was not selected by the government just for his popularity but because of public criticism of the $2.2 billion deal announced at the end of 2021, joining two of the major publishers. world in what rival CEO Michael Pietsch of Hachette Book Group has called “horribly outstanding” Entity.
“The more publishers merge, the harder it is for indie publishers to survive,” King tweeted last year.
One of the few well-known authors, known for his modestly sized glasses and skinny features, King is expected to stand before the witness on Tuesday, the second day of his trial. Federal antitrust is expected to last two to three weeks.
He may not have the business knowledge as Pietsch, the DOJ’s first witness, but he’s been a fiction publisher for almost 50 years and knows well how much the industry has changed. : Some of his former publishers have been acquired by larger companies. For example, “Carrie” is published by Doubleday, which merged in 2009 with Knopf Publishing Group, and is now part of Penguin Random House. Another former King publisher, Viking Press, is an imprint of Penguin, joining Penguin Random House when Penguin and Random House merged in 2013.
King’s relationships with smaller publishers are more personal. Even while continuing to publish with publisher Simon & Schuster Scribner, he wrote horror films for Crime Hard Case Independent. Years ago, the publisher asked him to contribute an advertisement, but instead, King offered to write a novel for them, “The Colorado Kid”, released in 2005.
“Inside I was spinning trolley wheels,” Hard Case co-founder Charles Ardai will recall thinking when King contacted him.
King himself would likely benefit from the Penguin Random House-Simon & Schuster deal, but he has a history of advocating for priorities other than his material well-being. He has long criticized tax cuts for the rich, even when the “rich” certainly include Stephen King, and has publicly called on the government to raise his taxes.
“In America, we all have to pay our fair share,” he wrote The Daily Beast in 2012.
On Monday, lawyers for both sides offered conflicting views on the book industry. Government attorney John Read cited a dangerously narrow market, tightly ruled by the “Big Five” – Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins Publishing, Macmillan and Hachette – with little opportunity for publishers smaller publishing or disruptive startups.
Attorney Daniel Petrocelli argues in his defense that the industry is truly diverse, profitable and open to newcomers. Publishing doesn’t just mean the Big Five, it also means midsize companies like WW Norton & Co. and Grove Atlantic. He thinks the merger will not subdue many people’s ambitions for literary success.
“Every book begins as an expected bestseller in the eyes of an author or an editor,” he said.