“And we couldn’t advertise it, there were no reviews, many bookstores refused to sell it, many libraries boycotted it. The idea that a book like this that has 2,194 citations, that has texts from doctors and scientists, even a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, can just be censored in every way imaginable because the overall narrative is that which is unpleasant for powerful people or for a certain part of the public, is terrible. It is certainly contrary to the spirit of the American constitution, to the principles on which the United States was built.
Lyons is optimistic, however, that this trend may not continue – largely because it’s not working. “It’s so transparent that there’s this censorship campaign going on – people aren’t stupid. And so the book sold 800,000 copies in something like 10 weeks.
In 2020, Vanity Fair published an article excoriating Skyhorse – describing it as a “publishing house of horrors” – and attacking not only its books but its work practices. Former employees were arrested for complaining about overwork; on callous behavior towards workers who complained or attempted to organize the unionization of the workforce; and the slow response to complaints from staff members of racism, sexism or harassment by colleagues or Skyhorse authors. Did he recognize that there were areas where the company needed to improve?
“Yeah, that’s a tough question. I think in some cases they quoted former employees, which I thought was…” He pauses. “I think the idea that the way I run a publishing house made people work harder than they wanted to at times when I’m trying to rush a book out or something like that. of things – that, I think, was something that got me thinking about part of the process by which we make Instant Books I would definitely always ask the folks at Skyhorse to work very hard, but I would reward them more for this work, and I would like to make it clear that they want to do this.
What about the implication in the Vanity Fair article that Skyhorse has a strong editorial line on certain issues – being anti-vaccination and pro-Trump, for example?
“You know, I enjoyed the whole process of back and forth with the folks at Vanity Fair, but ultimately I thought it was sad,” Lyons says. “It was sad, they obviously thought we were publishing books that shouldn’t be published.
“They knew full well that we released the case against the vaccine mandate and the case for the vaccine mandate, and we released the case for the masks and the case against the masks, and we released the case for the impeachment of Trump and the case against trump’s impeachment – so it’s very clear that we were and are open to debate, and they just picked books because they thought it was important to attack a company they were with disagreed. At the same time, I thought it was an interesting process to take part in, and so I was glad to have had this experience because it taught me valuable things.
As? “I learned how little power that tactic had, in the sense that after this article, we actually got more submissions than fewer, because to a lot of people reading it, what was going on was transparent. All forms of censorship have unintended consequences, and it’s those unintended consequences that should convince people that a better tactic is to have a more unbiased response. To look at both sides of an argument.