Feminist author Roxane Gay has pulled the publication of her forthcoming book with Simon & Schuster, How to Be Heard, in response to the US publisher's reported $250,000 book deal with far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos.
Gay told BuzzFeed: "I can’t in good conscience let them publish it while they also publish Milo. So I told my agent over the weekend to pull the project."
Yiannopoulos' book deal for Dangerous, due out in March this year through imprint Threshold Editions, has caused widespread controversy in the US and overseas. He is an editor of Breitbart News, known for its "alt-right" views, and was last year suspended from Twitter after allegedly encouraging abusive conduct towards "Ghostbusters" actress Leslie Jones on the platform. Jones herself has accused S&S of helping Yiannopoulos to "spread hate" by giving him a book deal and calls to boycott the publisher followed.
Gay instructed Maria Massie at Lippincott Massie McQuilkin in New York to terminate the deal last weekend, just one month before she was due to deliver her manuscript of the TED book, after realising TED was an imprint of Simon & Schuster. The book, exploring "the urgent concept of being heard brave, practical, and inspiring wisdom for anyone pursuing a creative life", had been scheduled for March 2018.
The Bad Feminist (Corsair) author told BuzzFeed she "kept thinking about how egregious it is to give someone like Milo a platform for his blunt, inelegant hate and provocation", in spite of reassurances made to authors by S&S US chief executive Carolyn Reidy this week the publisher will not “support, condone” or publish “hate speech”.
English PEN recently spoke out in defence of Milo's "right to offend", but Gay explained her decision was "not about censorship".
"Though TED Books and Threshold are vastly different imprints, they both reside within Simon & Schuster and so I guess I’m putting my money where my mouth is. And to be clear, this isn’t about censorship. Milo has every right to say what he wants to say, however distasteful I and many others find it to be. He doesn’t have a right to have a book published by a major publisher but he has, in some bizarre twist of fate, been afforded that privilege. So be it. I’m not interested in doing business with a publisher willing to grant him that privilege. I am also fortunate enough to be in a position to make this decision. I recognize that other writers aren’t and understand that completely," she said.
Gay added her editor at TED Books, Michelle Quint, was "committed to putting good books into the world". S&S UK said it has no plans to publish Milo Yiannopoulos in the UK.
Guy Gadney, director for To Play For, wrote for The Bookseller yesterday that the vehement reaction to Yiannopoulos was due to an expection of morals from publishers. "The anger aimed at Simon & Schuster for commissioning Milo Yiannopoulos‘s book is, I believe, a reflection of how we see publishers. Old school maybe, but also consistent in their ability to be a sensible moral compass for those willing to take the time to read a book and not get caught up in headlines," he said.
Gay's book has not yet been placed with another publisher, she confirmed, adding: "I do hope the book is published someday."