Earlier this week, Hachette Book Group announced that its Grand Central imprint would be publishing Woody Allen’s long-rumored memoir Apropos of Nothing. The announcement immediately caused Ronan Farrow, also a Hachette author, to drop the publisher and employees to walk out en masse over the company’s decision to either let an accused sex offender tell his side of the story or allow him to ignore allegations completely in an attempt to rehabilitate his image. In response, Hachette says they will not be releasing the book on April 7
Today, Publisher’s Weekly released a statement from Hachette that indicates the publication knew the decision to publish a book by Allen might get backlash but proceeded under the guise of telling all sides of the story:
“The decision to cancel Mr. Allen’s book was a difficult one,” the statement read. “At HBG we take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly. We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard.”
However, after the staff walkouts (and most likely following being dropped by Pulitizer Prize-winner and best-selling author of Catch and Kill Farrow), Hachette says the company’s executives have decided to change course:
“Over the past few days, HBG leadership had extensive conversations with our staff and others. After listening, we came to the conclusion that moving forward with publication would not be feasible for HBG.”
The statement does some interesting semantic gymnastics to turn the decision to publish Allen’s book into a free speech issue while also indicate the company’s willingness to listen to its employees about controversial topics. But the rights to the book were purchased a year ago, and the memoir has already been printed. Why did no one in charge at Hachette think to have the conversations with employees, Ronan Farrow, or Dylan Farrow, who accused Allen of molesting her at 7 years old and says she was never contacted by fact-checkers in the year before the memoir was announced?
While we like to think of books themselves as important symbols of free speech, book publishing is ultimately a business. A “conflicting point of view” from the same company that, not even a year ago, was championing survivors’ stories while promoting Catch and Kill seems willfully, almost cruelly, obtuse. And the decision to publicly alienate a top-performing author, an accuser who says she was never asked for her side of the story, readers, and ultimately even employees, with a bombshell book announcement, seems simultaneously like bad ethics and bad business.