Best-selling author Stephen King is horrified by an upcoming merger of major book publishers.
The 75-year-old author of “Carrie,” “The Shining” and scores of other books, appeared in a Washington court on Tuesday to testify against the acquisition of his long-time publisher, Simon & Schuster, by Penguin Random House.
The “King of Horror” is the Justice Department’s star witness in its anti-trust case opposing the merger.
He introduced himself to the court by saying “My name is Stephen King. I’m a freelance writer,” prompting laughter.
“I came because I think that consolidation is bad for competition,” King said. “That’s my understanding of the book business. I have been around it for 50 years.”
Penguin Random House, which is owned by the German company Bertelsmann, is seeking to acquire Simon & Schuster in a deal valued at $2.2 billion.
The government is opposing the acquisition on the grounds it would stifle competition and result in authors being paid less.
“The merger would give Penguin Random House outsized influence over who and what is published, and how much authors are paid for their work,” the Justice Department said in its complaint filed in US District Court.
During nearly an hour on the stand, the tall, lanky King, who was dressed in a grey suit with a grey tie, traced his career as an author.
He said his first check as a writer was for $2,500 for “Carrie,” which became a runaway best-seller after it was made into a hit movie starring Sissy Spacek.
After enjoying major success with “The Shining,” King said a publisher laughed at him when he demanded $2 million for his next three books. He switched publishers.
“The more companies there are, the better it is,” he said.
“When I started there were literally hundreds of imprints,” King said. “One by one they have either been subsumed by other publishers or they went out of business.”
“It becomes tougher and tougher for writers to find enough money to live on.”
The trial is expected to last two more weeks.