Stephen King to testify before government in book merger trial

WASHINGTON – As the Justice Department tries to convince a federal judge that the proposed merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster would hurt the careers of some of its most popular authors, it is relying in part on the testimony of a writer who thrived like few others: Stephen King.

The author of “Carrie,” “The Shining” and many other favorites, King willingly, even eagerly, pitched himself in opposition to Simon & Schuster, his longtime publisher. He was not elected by the government only because of his fame, but because of his fame. his public criticism of the $2.2 billion deal announced in late 2021, joining two of the world’s biggest publishers in what rival CEO Michael Pietsch of Hachette Book Group called a “gigantically prominent” entity.

“The more publishers consolidate, the harder it is for independent publishers to survive,” King tweeted last year.

One of the few widely recognizable authors known for his modestly sized glasses and gaunt features, King is expected to testify on Tuesday, the second day of a federal antitrust trial expected to last two to three weeks.


He may not have the business savvy of Pietsch, the first Justice Department witness, but he has been a published novelist for nearly 50 years and knows well how the industry has changed: Some of his former publishers have been acquired by larger companies. “Carrie,” for example, was published by Doubleday, which in 2009 merged with Knopf Publishing Group, and is now part of Penguin Random House. Another former King publisher, Viking Press, was an imprint of Penguin that joined Penguin Random House when Penguin and Random House merged in 2013.

King’s affinity for smaller publishers is personal. Although he continues to publish under the Simon & Schuster Scribner imprint, he has written thrillers for the independent Hard Case Crime. Years ago, the publisher asked him to contribute a note, but King offered to write a novel for them, “The Colorado Kid,” published in 2005.

“He was doing cartwheels inside,” Hard Case co-founder Charles Ardai would recall thinking when King contacted him.


King himself would likely benefit from the Penguin Random House-Simon & Schuster deal, but he has a history of favoring other priorities beyond his material well-being. He has long criticized tax cuts for the rich, although “the rich” certainly includes Stephen King, and has openly called on the government to raise his taxes.

“In America, we should all have to pay our fair share,” he wrote for The Daily Beast in 2012.

On Monday, lawyers for the two sides offered contrasting views of the book industry. The government’s lawyer, John Read, invoked a dangerously narrow market, strongly ruled by the “Big Five” (Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins Publishing, Macmillan and Hachette) with little chance for smaller or upstart publishers to make way

Attorney Daniel Petrocelli argued the defense that the industry was indeed diverse, profitable and open to newcomers. Publishing means not only the Big Five, but also mid-sized companies like WW Norton & Co. and Grove Atlantic. The merger, he stated, would in no way alter the ambitions that so many have for literary success.


“Every book begins as an anticipated bestseller in the twinkle of an author’s or a publisher’s eye,” he said.

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Stephen King to testify before government in book merger trial

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