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Stephen King: Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster Merging Will Hurt Book Authors

King said the potential merger was bad for authors and bad for competition.


Famed horror author Stephen King testified for the U.S. Justice Department Tuesday, arguing that a proposed merger between Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster would hurt authors, per the Associated Press.

King is one of the most famous authors in the world, with mega best-sellers like "The Shining," which was made into an acclaimed 1980 film, and "Carrie, his first published novel, which he sold in 1973 and also made into a movie, a 1976 cult classic. He has published nearly 100 novels and novellas, according to his site. His latest comes out in September 2022, called "Fairy Tale."

During his testimony, he said having fewer publishers available will hurt authors, and that the two publishing houses' claims that they'd still compete for manuscripts were dubious.

"You might as well say you're going to have a husband and wife bidding against each other for the same house," he said, per the AP. "It would be sort of very gentlemanly and sort of, 'After you' and 'After you.'"

Simon & Schuster is King's publisher, but he sided with the government, which sued to block Penguin Random House from buying Simon & Schuster last November, according to Axios.

King also discussed his career in a statement and under questioning, the outlet reported. He said that when he first was looking for a publisher in the 1970s, there were many to choose from, but now it is limited in New York to the "big five."

Those are Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins Publishing, Hachette Book Group, and Macmillan.

The CEO of Simon & Schuster, Jonathan Karp, maintained under questioning it's still a competitive environment.

There is also a sense in the publishing world that they need to band together to compete with Amazon, Frank Foer wrote in The Atlantic in November 2020.

"To counter Amazon, publishers have sought to increase their bargaining power. They believe that they can match Amazon's size only by growing their own," he wrote.

Like in many industries, consolidation has been the way of things for a long time. "With the big fish swallowing the little fish, the book business is becoming increasingly competitive and brutal," an author wrote in a 1970 Businessweek piece, according to a 2001 Bulletin of the Medical Library Association article.

King's also discussed the tough economics of bookselling for authors. "I came because I think that consolidation is bad for competition," King said, per the AP.

"The way the industry has evolved," he added, "it becomes tougher and tougher for writers to find money to live on."

Earnings for more than half of authors fell below the US federal poverty line in 2015 according to an Authors Guild survey, per The Guardian.

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