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King's ransom

Depending on your interpretation, Stephen King has either pulled off a coup or he's cut a deal that's saved him face. Having reportedly been looking for about $16m for his next novel, Bag of Bones - a figure that Viking/Penguin, his American publishers of 20 years' standing, refused to stump up - he has now entered into what is described as a "partnership" deal with Simon & Schuster. The arrangement covers three books - the novel, a collection of short stories and a book on the art of writing fiction - but as to the cost, who knows? As yet, no one has leaked.

Jack Romanos, the slick president of Simon & Schuster, described the deal as "unprecedented", with publisher and author "sharing risks and rewards". King, for his part, has denied that he was looking for "the richest deal on offer" but rather one which would increase his readership. Simon & Schuster will publish the hardback on their Scribner list, so bringing him to the attention of a more literary readership.

Other publishers will be watching carefully to see who comes off best. Certainly, for the publisher it offers a way out of paying the sort of mega-advance that they would be unlikely ever to earn back.

On the other hand, in transferring some of the risk to the author, the publisher stands to lose out if the book really does do well, because the more copies a book sells, the greater the publisher's profits.

Of course, agents would argue that a publisher with only a modest amount of money on the line is unlikely to put himself out in terms of sales and promotion since there's obviously less incentive. We'll see.

It's not an entirely new idea: some years back, Jeffrey Archer noisily announced the sale of one of his novels to his then publisher Hodder & Stoughton for just pounds 1. Some might say it's more than he's worth, but that would be churlish. Meanwhile, it is Hodder which now has to structure a UK deal for King, who is famously afraid of flying and has never been to Britain. No prospect of a world tour, then, for his band, The Rock Bottom Remainders, which features Amy Tan on lead vocals.

Di, the paper doll

There is no sign of a let-up in the Diana industry. Just out in time for Christmas comes Caring Princess, which comprises extracts from her many speeches and whose cover features the madonna and child photograph from her Pakistan tour which was said to be her favourite.

Less reverent but deadly serious (in fact it had gone into production before her death) is Diana, Princess of Wales Paper Doll, part of a series from Dover which already includes similar titles on both of the Waleses, as well as the Windsors - the latter also includes a cut-out by Christies and contains notes on each one. The books are principally available through museum giftshops.

Di's genuine revelations

Early next year, however, a genuinely investigative title will be added to the already groaning shelves. Thomas Sancton and Scott MacLeod, two Paris-based Time bureau chiefs who have written a number of thoughtful pieces on the events of 31 August, are at work on Death of a Princess: An Investigation. Based on extensive interviews, they are examining all the questions relating to the accident - including the time it took to get the dying Princess to hospital - as well as examining her brief relationship with Dodi Al Fayed.

MacLeod is Time's Middle East specialist and he will be trawling through the Fayed archives in an effort to pin down the true history of this highly controversial family. The manuscript is due to be delivered by Christmas and publishers, including Orion in Britain, are promising "genuine revelations".

Charlie Spicer, the book's American editor at St Martin's Press, reports the authors "know precisely what bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones told investigators before returning to England". A series of lucrative international deals has been lined up by the infamous Andrew Wylie, the agent to Rushdie and Amis known throughout the industry as The Jackal.

Crime of the year

Daggers are drawn at the Crime Writers Association; once again, a publisher has been caught out.

Oriel, part of the Orion Group, had entered its "first-time" author Liz Evans for the John Creasey Memorial Dagger Award, which recognises the year's best first crime novel.

Evans' novel Who Killed Marilyn Monroe? had actually made the shortlist when someone realised that the same author had previously published two historical romance novels with Headline under the name Patricia Gray.