It’s a tricky, disturbing debate, with few insiders prepared to go on the record. And as Grady points out, it raises fundamental questions. “Is the industry’s purpose to make the widest array of viewpoints available to the largest audience possible? Is it to curate only the most truthful, accurate, and high-quality books to the public?
“Or is it to sell as many books as possible, and to try to stay out of the spotlight while doing so? Should a publisher ever care about any part of an author’s life besides their ability to write a book?”
Here in Australia we haven’t yet felt the full impact of this movement. Pressure not to publish does exist, but it tends to come from outside, as in the case of Clive Hamilton’s Silent Invasion, a critique of China’s operations in Australia that was abandoned by three publishers for fear of legal action from Beijing, until Hardie Grant published it in 2018. And good on the company for doing so.
Of course publishers turn down prospective books all the time, and are not expected to make their reasons public. But don’t expect this escalating debate to go away soon. I believe in airing all kinds of views in print, whether or not I agree with them or find them offensive. Yet somewhere, lines are drawn. The trouble is that at present, nobody can agree on where those lines should be.