But the conservative groups are becoming more organized and better funded, Elizabeth said. They have sophisticated operations in place on the state and local levels and show no sign of slowing their efforts.
“It’s happening all over the place, and it’s very alarming for publishers and the larger book world,” she told me.
Publishers are also facing opposition from within their own ranks. Employees have been restless and angry on the topics of both wages and diversity in a business that has historically doled out low pay to its editors, publicists, marketers and other workers, while requiring them to live in the astronomically expensive New York City area.
A younger generation of employees is challenging the industry’s longstanding assumption that newcomers will work long hours for lower wages. They have begun demanding that executives build a more diverse work force, and raise its pay. A unionized group of HarperCollins employees went on strike in November, arguing that the minimum starting salary should be raised to $50,000, from $45,000.
More than one month later, the strike hasn’t stopped HarperCollins from publishing books. But the action has gained support. Padma Lakshmi, the author and chef, hosted the National Book Awards last month with a union button on her dress that striking employees had given her outside the gala.
Back in 2013, I was covering the publishing industry during the merger of Penguin and Random House, a jaw-dropping move that created the most dominant book publisher in the world. A charming Random House executive, Markus Dohle, was tapped to lead the newly merged company as its C.E.O., and his rise in the industry seemed unstoppable.
Much has changed since then. Dohle fought for the acquisition of Simon & Schuster, another major publisher. The Justice Department sued to stop the merger, arguing that it would have stifled competition and hurt authors. After a trial in August, a judge ruled in the government’s favor to block the deal, a blow to Dohle. He resigned this month as chief executive.