October 16, 2017
What’s in a name? If the name is “Weinstein,” a whole lot of fleeing revenue
by Susan Rella
In a development surprising literally none people, Weinstein Books is officially shitcanned.
Hachette Book Group announced in a statement last week that Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s eponymous imprint was terminated “effective immediately,” following the actually insane number of accusations of sexual harassment, assault, rape, and general vileness that have been levied at Hollywood superplayer Harvey Weinstein. This all follows a New York Times report by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey outlining decades of abusive behavior (ignored and enabled by many, including—as we wrote on Friday—Amazon).
We reported last week that “Hachette Book Group, of which Weinstein Books is an imprint, [had] clarified that it [would] honor Weinstein authors’ contracts, which are formally with Hachette and not the Weinstein Company.” (Hachette took on Weinstein Books last year in its purchase of Perseus, with whom the Weinsteins had inked a deal in 2009.) The imprint has published works by Larry King, Padma Lakshmi, and Dick Van Dyke, among others. In the wake of the dissolution, David Canfield reports at Entertainment Weekly, all titles that are currently under contract, and all Weinstein Books staff, will be shuttled over to Hachette’s main imprint.
As John Maher reports in Publishers Weekly, “While today’s action effectively kills the imprint, a spokesperson explained that the co-publishing agreement will be officially terminated ‘after the contractual notification period.’”
So what does this mean, really? Effectively, nothing. It’s a name change and little else. With Weinstein already fired from the Weinstein Group, and with no layoffs or book cancellations planned, the only real adjustment is to the logo. It’s a rebranding.
But in an industry that can be slow to self-criticism (looking at you, S&S), Hachette’s “effective immediately” action is surprisingly swift. In the New York Times last week, Alexandra Alter contrasted Weinstein’s treatment with that of former Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly after he was ousted by Fox News following allegations of sexual misconduct:
[O’Reilly] released a new book in his best-selling “Killing” series last month, and promoted the book on television shows. Major book retailers like Barnes & Noble carried his latest work, “Killing England: The Brutal Struggle for American Independence,” and displayed it prominently. The book sold 65,000 hardcover copies in its first week on sale, according to NPD BookScan.
That number, as we reported two weeks ago, represents a steep decline in O’Reilly’s sales; it’s less than half the opening-week sales of his previous book. This will likely lead to a smaller investment in O’Reilly’s next book — and that will set the pace at which his toxic behavior erodes his access to influential platforms.
The Weinstein response, if cosmetic, has been much quicker. Of course, an imprint with a criminal founder is different than a single toxic author. Still, maybe if retailers had taken a cue from Mika Brzezinski, who announced after the story broke that she would have nothing to do with Weinstein, despite a three-book deal with the imprint, and if O’Reilly had been shunned by media, rather than invited to plug his book on national television, the ramifications would have come faster. (Incidentally, Brezinski announced shortly after Hachette’s hatchet job that she would be keeping her book deal with the company.)
Finally, lest we forget why we’re talking about this: Harvey Weinstein has been accused of being a disgusting sexual predator misogynist pig for the past several decades, paying off victims and blackballing women who threatened to come forward. These allegations have been made by everyone from Angelina Jolie to Rebecca Traister to Rose McGowan to Gwyneth Paltrow to a potted plant to
Susan Rella is the Director of Production at Melville House, and a former bookseller.