Stephen King becomes a publisher's nightmare

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The Independent Culture

Stephen King is back, and this time it's business. The best-selling horror novelist's new book will start appearing next week, and one group of people is already quaking in its shoes: publishers.

Stephen King is back, and this time it's business. The best-selling horror novelist's new book will start appearing next week, and one group of people is already quaking in its shoes: publishers.

The Plant will be published by King himself on the internet next week, with no intermediaries, no bookshops, no cocktail parties at the Groucho and no smart-suited young men and women taking their cut of the proceeds. Just send Mr King a dollar a chapter, and it's yours.

"Buck an episode," he says on his website. "When Installment One appears, send me the payment - we'll give you all the how-tos then. My friends, we have a chance to become Big Publishing's worst nightmare." That nightmare is direct publishing. Just as music and film companies fear the online systems such as Napster which circumvent their sales and copyright systems, so publishers worry that books may now move beyond their control.

The book is "sort of funny and at the same time pretty gruesome," says King. A "vampire vine" takes over a paperback publishing company. And grants financial success - but in exchange for human sacrifice. No prizes for guessing Mr King's view of publishers.

King's last novel was also sold over the Net, but that was a regular business transaction through certain authorised websites only. This time, anyone can get the thing, as long as they stick by the honour system and send off a dollar. Part one will be posted on 24 July and part two on 21 August. As long as at least three-quarters of readers pay up, part three will be there in September.

"I'm counting on two things," he said. "The first is plain old honesty. Take what you want and pay for it, as the old saying goes.

"The second is that you'll like the story enough to want to read more. If you do want more, you have to pay. Pay and the story rolls, steal and the story folds. No stealing from the blind newsboy!"

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