On Thursday, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Milo Yiannopoulous—a man who was deemed too bigoted for Twitter—had received a book deal from Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster (which is itself a division of CBS) worth a quarter of a million dollars. Dangerous will be rushed to print and will be available in March of next year.
I’ve reached out to Threshold to ask why the book is being crashed—something that’s usually done for books that are particularly newsworthy or time-sensitive, neither of which apply to a memoir by an alt-right leader with a long history of racist and sexist remarks. But, whether it’s intentional or not, rushing the book to print may be a strategy for trying to mitigate inevitable controversy: At the very least, it’s harder (or at least more costly) to pull a book that is in the middle of a production cycle than it is to pull one that’s still being edited.
In any case, in the grand scheme of book publishing $250,000 is not a particularly large advance, and it suggests that Threshold Editions expects the book to sell modestly, but not set the world on fire. Selling 20-25,000 copies would mean breaking even, so 50,000 copies would vastly exceed expectations. And, while that would bring in significant revenue (over $500,000), it’s a drop in the bucket as far as Simon & Schuster and more importantly CBS are concerned. Milo’s advance suggests that Threshold doesn’t think it has a New York Times bestseller on its hands.
The worst case scenario, however, is that publishing Milo could cost Simon & Schuster more than the revenue Dangerous would bring in. For one thing, there are already signs that retailers like Barnes & Noble are going to be pressured to drop the book.
It strikes me as unlikely that Barnes & Noble (to say nothing of Amazon) will want to pick a fight with the alt-right, which is what would result from refusing to stock Milo’s book would do, but if they were, it would be extremely damaging to the book.
But it’s not just Milo’s book that will face a backlash. There are already (a great many) calls to boycott Simon & Schuster, suggesting the deal is damaging its reputation with non-conservative book buyers. Something more organized than people tweeting the word “boycott” again and again—perhaps akin to the #StopBeck drive that eventually got him booted from the airwaves—could be incredibly costly.
In any case, if they are disciplined—never a safe bet—liberal book buyers could use Milo’s book as a wedge to pressure Simon & Schuster into dropping the book, by effectively holding its other imprints hostage. This is something that Milo would inevitably exploit for his own gain, something that Simon & Schuster should have considered before offering him a book deal. (Donald Trump is fond of a story about what happens when you invite a snake into your house.) Simon & Schuster is between an alt-right rock and a hard place: They pissed off a lot of people by offering Milo a book deal, and will piss off a lot of other people if they drop him. Ultimately that could cost the publisher a lot more than $250,000.