Despite a big-money deal in the US for the Breitbart journalist’s memoir, major UK publishers say they are likely to refuse ‘a toxic book’
A week after “alt-right” figurehead and Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos landed a lucrative 0,000 (£203,000) book deal with publisher Simon & Schuster in the US, the UK division of the publisher has walked away from the opportunity, confirming it will not publish his controversial book.
A Simon & Schuster UK spokesperson confirmed to the Guardian that it would not be publishing Yiannopoulos’s memoir, titled Dangerous, which is due out in the US in March.
Senior editors at many of the UK’s biggest publishing houses told the Guardian they were unlikely to offer for the book should it come on to the market. “It will be a toxic book to try and sell here,” one publishing insider said.
A publishing director at a nonfiction imprint, who also asked not to be named, said: “A lot of semi-toxic books do go to large publishers, but I wouldn’t touch this if it was offered to me and don’t think anyone else will.”
Only Iain Dale, from small independent Biteback, showed an interest, but said Yiannopoulos’s reputation as a mouthpiece for the hard right might create problems selling the book through bookshops. “It would be a difficult book to push in the sense that some bookshops will be very wary of it,” he said. “Persuading Waterstones to take a book like that may be a difficult task.”
Dale has previously published rightwing commentators and politicians who were turned down elsewhere. Biteback, which is jointly owned by former Conservative party deputy chairman Michael Ashcroft, picked up Brexit mouthpiece Nigel Farage’s memoir The Purple Revolution after it was rejected by corporate publishers. In 2016, the imprint also published Leave.EU backer Arron Banks’s The Bad Boys of Brexit, which is reportedly currently being considered for a film adaptation.
According to Dale, both books had struggled to get distribution through the high street, but had sold well through the publisher’s website and on Amazon. “The Bad Boys of Brexit has been an amazing seller – apart from in Waterstones, because they only take one or two copies,” he said.
“In the US there is a massive market for right-wing writers through talk radio stations, and they also do events where they can sell 2,000 to 3,000 copies at a time. We don’t have that market here, so it makes it harder to sell.”
Asked how much he would be willing to pay for Yiannopoulos’s book, he said: “Not a huge amount because it’s a risk: four figures rather than five.”
Major publishers insisted their reluctance to take on Yiannopoulos had less to do with his opinions than that, outside media and rightwing circles, he was relatively unknown in the UK. “He doesn’t have a platform in Britain,” said one. “We have a history of publishing toxic books here that have done well, but this won’t be one of them, he’s just not that well known.”
London publishers also feared a similar backlash from their authors as had been experienced by Simon & Schuster in the US, which is to publish Yiannopoulos under its Threshold imprint. Earlier in the week, comedian Leslie Jones joined a chorus of discontent over the book, accusing the publisher of helping the likes of Yiannopoulos “spread their hate”. Yiannopoulos had allegedly encouraged a harassment campaign towards Jones that eventually saw him permanently banned from Twitter.
In the US, Yiannopoulos has built his reputation through the popularity of Breitbart. Though the rightwing site invested heavily in a European service, headquartered in the UK, it has failed to make a significant impact. Publishers said this reflected the differing tastes between the right wing in the UK and US.
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