Stephen King testifies in merger trial

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the Justice Department tries to convince a federal judge that the proposed merger between Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster will hurt the careers of some of its most popular authors, it is relying in part on the writer’s testimony. who prospered like few others: Stephen King.

The author of Carrie, The Shining, and many other favorites, King willingly—even willingly—opposed Simon and Schuster, his longtime publisher. He was chosen by the government not only for his fame, but also for his public criticism of a $2.2 billion deal announced in late 2021 that would merge the world’s two largest publishers into what rival Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pitch called “giantly outstanding.” ” organization.

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

One of the few well-known authors known for his modest glasses and thin face, King is expected to testify on Tuesday, the second day of the federal antitrust trial, which is expected to last two to three weeks.

He may not have the business knowledge of Pitch, the Justice Department’s first witness, but he has been publishing novels for almost 50 years and knows how much the industry has changed: some of his own former publishers have been acquired by larger companies. Carrie, for example, 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 after Penguin and Random House merged in 2013.

King’s attachment to smaller publishers is personal. While still publishing under Simon & Schuster Scribner, he wrote thrillers for the independent Hard Case Crime. A few years ago, he was asked by a publisher to write a commercial, but instead King offered to write the 2005 novel Colorado Kid for them.

“Inside, I was spinning cartwheels,” Hard Case co-founder Charles Ardai recalled when King contacted him.

King himself is likely to benefit from a deal between Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, but he has a history of prioritizing other priorities besides his material well-being. He has long been a critic of tax cuts for the rich, even if “the rich” certainly includes Stephen King, and has openly called on the government to raise his taxes.

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

On Monday, lawyers for both sides offered opposing views on the book industry. Government Attorney John Reed cited a dangerously tight market ruled tightly by the “big five” – ​​Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins Publishing, Macmillan and Hachette – with little chance for smaller or emerging publishers to break through.

Lawyer Daniel Petrocelli argued that the industry is in fact diverse, lucrative and open to newcomers. The publishing house is not only the Big Five, but also mid-sized companies such as WW Norton & Co. and Grove Atlantic. He argued that the merger would in no way reverse the ambition so many had for literary success.

“Each book starts out as the expected bestseller in the gleam of the author’s or editor’s eyes,” he said.