W&N delays Cohen's The History Makers by nine months

W&N delays Cohen's The History Makers by nine months

Weidenfeld & Nicolson has pushed back the publication of Richard Cohen’s The History Makers for nine months, days before its UK publication, following concerns by its US publisher it did not include enough Black perspectives. 

The author and former British publisher’s book is billed by W&N as “an epic exploration of who writes about the past and how the biases of certain storytellers — whether Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare or Simon Schama — continue to influence our ideas about history and about who we are today”. It was originally due out on 24th June backed by a high-profile publicity campaign with a "Book of the Week" slot on Radio 4. 

However, the book has been reportedly dropped by its original US publisher following concerns it did not take into account enough Black historians, academics and writers. It will now not be released in the US or UK until March 22nd 2022.

The 784-page tome was cancelled by its American publisher Penguin Random House US, according to the Observer, despite extensive rewrites seeking changes on Black history and historians. “It was to do with the publisher’s sensitivities,” Cohen told the newspaper. “I was then asked to write more, and have done about another 18,000 words.” Cohen’s wife and literary agent Kathy Robbins has since secured a deal with Simon & Schuster US, with publication also due in March next year.

“Weidenfeld & Nicolson confirm that the book’s publication date is moving to spring 2022 to match the new US publication date, set by Simon & Schuster as the book’s lead publisher," a W&N spokesperson told The Bookseller. "This replicates and mirrors our original strategy, which was tied to the US publication. The BBC has confirmed that the ‘Book of the Week’ reading has also been delayed as the book has not been published yet.

Additionally, Julieanna Richardson, the founder and executive director of The HistoryMakers, a not-for-profit otganisation in the US which collects oral and video records of the experiences of African Americans, has sent cease and desist letters to PRH US and W&N over the book's title. "It’s taking the name of my organisation,” she told the Guardian.

W&N confirmed to The Bookseller it had received the letters. A spokesperson said: "Along with the US publisher, the author and agent, we received cease and desist letters from The HistoryMakers about the title of the book. We have denied that there is any infringement of trademark."

Now based in New York, Cohen is the former publishing director of Hutchinson and Hodder & Stoughton in the UK. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and for two years was programme director of the Cheltenham Festival of Literature. 

He has written more than 10 titles including How to Write Like Tolstoy (Oneworld), By the Sword and his bestseller Chasing the Sun (both published by S&S UK). Altogether he has sold 23,992 books in the UK for £322,285, according to Nielsen BookScan.