On Monday, news broke that Woody Allen will be releasing a memoir titled Apropos of Nothing this April. The book, an autobiography about Allen’s life, family, and films, is to be published by Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, for an undisclosed sum. On Thursday, between 75 and 100 employees of Hachette Book Group walked out of the company’s New York City headquarters in protest. According to a Hachette Book Group employee who spoke to Refinery29 on the condition of anonymity Thursday afternoon, employees who staged the walkout are “not optimistic” that the company will listen to the demands of those protesting and drop the memoir.
“We respect and understand the perspective of our employees who have decided to express their concern over the publication of this book,” Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch told Vox in an emailed statement. “We will engage our staff in a fuller discussion about this at the earliest opportunity.”
Little, Brown and Company, another imprint of Hachette Book Group, was responsible for publishing Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill, the Pulitzer Prize winner’s account of reporting on the sexual assault and misconduct accusations against now-convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein. Dylan Farrow, Ronan’s sister, accused Woody Allen of sexually abusing her as a child (in 1993 the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic of Yale–New Haven Hospital concluded that Allen had not sexually abused Dylan, and to this day he maintains his innocence). Ronan has repeatedly stood by his sister’s accusation, and announced on Tuesday that he is dropping Hachette Book Group as his publisher. Ronan’s Catch And Kill sold 44,000 copies in its first week, per THe Hollywood Reporter.Allen’s most recent book, Mere Anarchy, sold 40,000 copies in print, according to NPD BookScan per the New York Times. The New York Times also reported that Apropos of Nothing was shopped around to a number of publishers before it landed with Hachette Book Group.
While the walkout is certainly a statement, the anonymous Hachette employee says there’s still a battle ahead when it comes to the future of the memoir. With Weinstein freshly convicted, it’s now publishing’s turn to draw the line for alleged abusers and continue to shape the future of the #MeToo movement.
Refinery29: When did you find out that Hachette was publishing Woody Allen’s new memoir?
Hachette Book Group Employee: “Everybody but the decision makers in all of the company found out when they sent out the press release on Monday”
What was your immediate reaction?
“Personally, we asked to speak with the publisher and to lodge a complaint, and we went to human resources as well.”
Was that conversation with HR productive?
“Yes and no. I think our feelings are understood. I don't know if there will be meaningful change. I don't think they expected us to be as angry as we are.”
What were people’s specific complaints?
“The biggest complaint is that we feel strongly about everyone's right to tell their own story, but we don't agree with giving Woody Allen a platform with which to tell it that includes distribution, marketing, publicity. I think we feel he does not deserve a platform, that by publishing him we are in some way validating his story."
How did the idea for the walkout begin and start to spread?
“A few people who I would say work with the parties involved met up and discussed and talked person to person and passed out papers. We had a town hall meeting with our CEO and our publisher. After we were able to raise our questions with them in a public forum, we grabbed our things and walked out.”
What kind of response did you get from the company in that town hall?
“I think they are trying to understand, but I don't think they're going to make any changes.”
What would the ideal outcome be for employees who staged the walkout?
“That [Hachette] chooses to cut our losses and not publish the book. I am not optimistic that that is the choice they will make.”
Do you have any next steps planned if the walkout doesn’t accomplish this?
“We're trying to figure that out, but I think this was a good first step. It's such a strong message, and we're hoping that that will be enough.”
Refinery29 has reached out to Hachette Book Group for additional comment.
This is a developing story.