February 22, 2018
Milo Yiannopoulos’s lawsuit against his publisher goes down in flames
by Nikki Griffiths
Let’s check-in on everyone’s favourite bigoted right-wing jerk, Milo Yiannopoulos.
The former senior editor at alt-right site Breitbart News, Yiannopoulos gained notoriety for his offensive stances on… well, practically everything, including feminism, homosexuality, trans rights, immigrants’ rights, and Islam. His vitriol was rewarded with a book deal from Simon & Schuster, who offered an advance of $255,000. We covered the story in detail. It later came to light that S&S editors had some second thoughts when they actually saw the paper-thin arguments in Yiannopoulos’s manuscript, some of which Sian Cain highlighted in the Guardian:
Among other criticisms, the publisher’s notes said Yiannopoulos needed a “stronger argument against feminism than saying that they are ugly and sexless and have cats” and that another chapter needed “a better central thesis than the notion that gay people should go back in the closet.
Yiannopoulos’s contract was eventually cancelled — the last straw came in the form of comments that resurfaced in which Yiannopoulos glowingly condoned pedophilia. But this didn’t stop our plucky villain, who went on to self-publish his book, Dangerous, last July. Critics were, generally, not impressed. Publishers Weekly wrote. “To know author Yiannopoulos is to expect an over-the-top, self-promotional book, and his debut is just that.” And USA Today’s Jocelyn McClurg lamented, “Oh Milo… You’ve done the impossible. Written a book that’s largely… boring.”
Although Yiannopoulos, true to form, quickly claimed his book had sold like hotcakes (more than 100,000 in its first day on Amazon alone, he said), Danuta Kean published some numbers in the Guardian that were less robust: 18,268 copies in the US and 152 in the UK during its first week or so. (And well done, UK —I’m proud of us.)
So what was Yiannopoulos’s next step? To sue Simon & Schuster of course! He had already received $80,000 of the total advance, but this, apparently, was not enough. His plans hit a snag last month, though, when even his lawyers declared they’d had enough of him, leaving him to represent himself, which went hilariously badly for him.
By acting as his own attorney, Cain writes, he hoped to gain access to Simon & Schuster financial documents marked “attorneys eyes only” by the court. But bad luck! “In early February, the judge, Barry Ostrager, told Yiannopoulos this would not be possible, as he had not submitted the necessary paperwork for his proposal to be considered by the court. ‘Those documents, frankly, have nothing whatsoever to do with the substantive merits of your case,’ he said.” Zing!
Now, Yiannopoulos has decided to drop the lawsuit. Writing in The Bookseller, Heloise Wood quotes a spokesperson for S&S, who said, “We are pleased that Mr Yiannopoulos’ lawsuit has been withdrawn, with prejudice, and with no payment from Simon & Schuster. We stand by our decision to terminate the publication of Mr Yiannopoulos’ book.”
Yiannopoulos’s stance was, of course, one of proud aggression:
“I cost Simon & Schuster a fortune in legal fees and gave them one hell of a bloody nose. And I proved that libertarians and conservatives don’t need liberal publishers to succeed. My book was a New York Times bestseller for five weeks and made me millions. The era of all-powerful publishers and cowering authors is over. We can do it without them!”
It is true that any old talentless, loud-mouthed idiot can now publish a book by themself. So, yes, Milo: you can do it without us! In fact, that’s the only way your shitty books will see the light of day again.
Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.