By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Self-published books make cancellation a non-issue

Photo via Wallpaper Flare

The New York Times has yet another story on the pressures being placed on publishers to cancel controversial books. The example in question is by Jonathan Mattingly, one of the Louisville police officers who took part in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.

Probably the best known of such incidents was Simon & Schuster’s decision to cancel a contract with Sen. Josh Hawley earlier this year after he essentially endorsed the Jan. 6. insurrection. Hawley’s book was instantly picked up by the right-wing publisher Regnery, and Hawley has been talking ever since to whine about how he’s been silenced.

The Hawley situation shows that the marketplace can resolve disputes over speech. But I want to push it one step further by pointing out that publishing and distributing a book has become absolutely frictionless. Self-publishing a book, either in print or online, is cheap and easy — I’ve done it myself.

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And though it is true that Amazon will occasionally decline to carry a book, as was the case recently with a work that had come under attack by the transgender community, DIY methods are always available, starting with the web, email lists and the like. (I’m leaving out Facebook because the service has been making efforts to take down disinformation and hate speech.)

What this comes down to is that fringe right-wing books will continue to be published and will continue to be promoted by fringe right-wing media, with the most prominent authors finding a voice on Fox News.

And even lesser authors can find creative ways to make money from their books. Just ask Sen. Ted Cruz, now facing allegations that he used campaign funds to promote his tome.

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1 Comment

  1. MagellanNH

    This solves the publishing problem, but a big part of any cancellation effort is also to dissuade any and all mainstream media outlets from helping an author promote the book as well. You won’t find any “cancelled” authors talking about their books on NPR, on the morning shows, or being reviewed in any mainstream publications.

    Now of course, nobody has a right to make the rounds on the media circuit promoting their book or a right to a review in the NY Times, but I don’t think it’s accurate to say that as long as folks can self-publish, cancellation has no impact.

    OTOH, these days getting “cancelled” seems to practically guarantee an author an appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast among others and it’s getting to the point where that might be more valuable than MSM coverage (Just ask Jordan Peterson how that works out).

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