Simon, Schuster, & Shame

Simon Schuster and SHAMEGiven the limited resources in the traditional publishing world, which overlooks scores of emerging writers, it’s outrageous to see a major publisher sink money into a failed author. By “failed author,” I don’t mean an author whose legitimate books didn’t sell; I mean an author who has admitted to plagiarizing and fabricating significant portions of his prior publications, which were recalled, and who had to resign from The New Yorker as a result of his dishonesty less than a year ago.

 I mean Jonah Lehrer.

A few days ago, news broke that Simon & Schuster has given Mr. Lehrer a contract for a book. Apparently, even the proposal for the book contains passages that are uncomfortably similar to others’ writings on the same subject.

 In my previous post, When Do Plagiarizers and Fabricators Deserve Our Sympathy?, I noted that Mr. Lehrer’s intentional transgressions are unworthy of sympathy. However, there does come a time when the public should forgive and forget. I hardly think we’re at that point with Mr. Lehrer. It hasn’t even been a year since he admitted to the malfeasance, and there are still multiple outstanding issues with his prior work that he has failed to address.

 So why is Simon & Schuster taking a risk with Mr. Lehrer? Is this some delusional version of “there’s no such thing as bad press?” Are they trying to distract from the testimony their CEO gave this week in the Department of Justice’s antitrust case alleging the company (and the other major publishers) conspired with Apple to raise prices?

I certainly hope this publicity doesn’t increase sales for Lehrer’s book. Then again, maybe it doesn’t matter, because there are good odds the books will be recalled and the customers will be refunded anyway. I, for one, am not ready to forgive Mr. Lehrer. Are you?


    1. That’s interesting. It sounds like something might be “off” in the culture of the place if they’ve been making these types of mistakes for 25 years. I can’t believe they gave Lehrer a contract.

  1. I am horrified to read this. I think they have lost their mind. I hope it is a HUGE flop. What kind of a signal does that send out? And not just as it relates to writing?

    It says it is okay to cheat and to lie. In fact, it is to your distinct advantage to do so.

    1. It feels like it’s a very late April Fools joke, doesn’t it? The quotes in the articles I linked to are ridiculous (it’s as though Simon & Schuster doesn’t know who they’re talking about!). I can’t believe a major publisher would give Jonah Lehrer this kind of a platform again.

  2. I’d love to know if the contact includes a “morals clause” or an indemnification for the cost of a recall if it turns out this book is a plagiarized, fabricated piece of crap, too. Then again, I guess Lehrer would have a pretty good argument that Simon & Schuster knew what they were getting.

    1. Interesting thoughts! I’m very curious about the contract, too. I wouldn’t be particularly sympathetic to Simon & Schuster if/when Lehrer turns out to be up to his old tricks.

  3. No, no, no, no. There are authors who work their butts off making great books and are rejected time and time again, and yet this man has the gall to plagiarize and S&S have the gall to give him a contract. But the Big 5 seem about money anymore. What a shame.

    1. I can’t imagine what Simon & Schuster was thinking. It doesn’t make traditional publishing look good to waste resources on such an undeserving author.

      1. It truly does.
        What brought about the upset/angry/whatever the fact I have read his work for years after meeting him at a talk on neuroscience over a decade ago.
        so disgusted.

  4. You’re not the only one. I don’t know why they’d give him another platform. Ugh.

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