An Update on Milo Y. & Resistance Efforts at Booksmith
If you missed it, last Monday Publisher's Weekly took to twitter to drop some bombshell news for book industry nerds: Simon & Schuster (finally) cancelled Milo Yiannopolous's book deal.
The abridged background: In late December of 2016, Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, announced they'd publish a memoir by noted hate-speech enthusiast and internet provacateur Milo Yiannopolous. We at Booksmith immediately began discussing whether we felt comfortable continuing to do business with S&S in light of the news. After feedback from our employees and our community of local writers, we decided on a two-part strategy. First, we cut our orders with S&S by 50% in order to communicate our concerns via financial pressure on Threshold's parent company. Second, we committed to donating all the profit from sales of Simon & Schuster titles to the ACLU, in order to show solidarity with S&S authors who were nervous about the potential financial impact of our boycott on them. (Read our full statement here.)
Despite vocal criticism from Roxane Gay, the Chicago Review of Books, Melville House, and other prominent people and organizations in the book industry (including us), S&S refused to back down, citing free speech and saying that Milo's views don't reflect their own in a statement.
Only last Monday, after the internet dug up an old video of Milo defending pedophilia and pederasty in an interview, did S&S finally cancel the deal. S&S confined their statement to a tweet, saying, "After careful consideration @simonschuster and its @threshold_books have cancelled publication of Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos."
Roxane Gay took to her tumblr shortly after the news broke to discuss what we were all thinking: that this was a business decision made after the last of the potential market for his book—his alt-right base—jumped ship. To quote Roxane:
“In canceling Milo’s book contract, Simon & Schuster made a business decision the same way they made a business decision when they decided to publish that man in the first place. When his comments about pedophilia/pederasty came to light, Simon & Schuster realized it would cost them more money to do business with Milo than he could earn for them.”
We agree with Roxane Gay. While S&S technically did the thing we were asking them to do, we felt they handled the entire debacle without integrity. The damage to our relationship with S&S has already been done, and going back to business as usual doesn't feel right for us as an organization. Going forward, we will continue to order at boycott levels (our discretionary dollars will go towards our local authors & historically underrepresented voices in the industry), and we'll give all our S&S profits to the ACLU through the end of February. We'll be sure to let you know how much we donate.
After February, we'll continue to consider donations where need and opportunity arises, as we have done in the past with the Ferguson Library, the Orlando LGBT Center, and others.
Post-election, we've had to pivot from being a bookstore with a point of view to being a more overtly political organization. Engagement through book displays, political art and signage, talking to the media, and boycotting Simon & Schuster helped our staff—and our customers—heal and find solidarity in Trump's America. And we want to keep it going using our three biggest assets: our time, our space, and our community.
We're launching a monthly series of events called Booksmith Resists, the first of which will happen on March 13th at 7PM. We've teamed up with sponsors Papa Llama, Chronicle Books, Quiet Lightning, and Lagunitas Brewing Company to throw a postcard party as part of #TheIdesofTrump, a campaign encouraging people to send a million postcards to Donald Trump on March 15. We'll have all the supplies you'll need; just show up and write from the heart.
On April 10th, we'll have a media literacy panel. We'll announce details for that, and future events, as soon as possible. These events will be free, safe, fun, and, hopefully, an effective act of resistance. At a minimum it'll give us a chance to gather and talk about what's happening and what comes next.
Thanks for reading (and resisting). Love,
The Booksmith Staff