MEDIA: Media Watch - Media piqued by King’s stand on direct distribution

A week after this column hits the newsstands, the second installment of Stephen King’s latest work, a serial novella entitled The Plant, will be available exclusively on his Web site, www.stephenking.com. The prolific horror writer has made headlines in recent weeks for the groundbreaking nature of his latest project.

A week after this column hits the newsstands, the second installment of Stephen King’s latest work, a serial novella entitled The Plant, will be available exclusively on his Web site, www.stephenking.com. The prolific horror writer has made headlines in recent weeks for the groundbreaking nature of his latest project.

A week after this column hits the newsstands, the second

installment of Stephen King’s latest work, a serial novella entitled The

Plant, will be available exclusively on his Web site,

www.stephenking.com. The prolific horror writer has made headlines in

recent weeks for the groundbreaking nature of his latest project.



Media coverage analyzed by CARMA focused on a few rather unique aspects

of King’s latest writing endeavor. King’s statements that he would walk

away from the unfinished novel if 75% of those who downloaded the

chapter did not pay him $1 captured the most attention. The media also

focused on King’s leaving readers to the honor system: they can pay by

credit card, by mail or not at all before downloading the chapter.



The media referred to the experiment as a novelty but said it was being

closely watched. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (July 30) described it as a

’gimmick,’ while The New York Times (July 27) referred to King’s idea as

’the ransom model.’ US News & World Report (August 7) noted, ’What sets

King apart from his contemporaries ... is his willingness to make the

most fundamental obligation to a reader, to finish a story that is

begun, contingent upon the behavior of other readers.’



The fact that King cuts out the middle man, namely the publishing

industry, by having readers directly download the novel from his Web

site did not escape the media. Reports addressed implications of e-books

for the publishing industry. Carolyn Reidy, president of Simon &

Schuster, which publishes King’s hardcopy works, recognized the

implications of King’s experiment: ’It writes in the largest possible

letters that publishers must prove their value in finding an author his

or her audience and doing it better than the author can do by him or

herself’ (Rocky Mountain News, July 30).



Coverage in the media judged the operation successful. King reported 76%

of those who downloaded chapter one voluntarily paid the $1 fee. The Los

Angeles Times (August 1) quoted an analyst as saying, ’I’m blown away by

the conversion rate.’



The media also speculated that King’s experiment might pave the way for

artists in other fields to use the honor system and may be a solution to

the music industry’s concerns about online piracy. On ABC’s Good Morning

America (July 24), King explained, ’We have a generation of computer

jockeys that we’ve raised on Napster and MP3 ... who have gotten the

mistaken idea that everything in the store is free. I’d like to see if

we can’t ... reeducate these people to the idea that the fruits of

talent cost money.’



A handful of reports suggested self-publishing could work only for

big- name authors such as King, Tom Clancy and John Grishman, while less

well-known authors would still need promotion and distribution from

publishers.



These articles cautioned that King’s case was not a good example for

other writers.



For now, readers aren’t disappointing the author, and monthly

installments of The Plant will continue to be written. King says he

hopes his experiment will open up new avenues for less commercially

successful writers, but being deprived of profits from big name authors’

future books could cause nightmares for the publishing industry.





- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA.Media Watch can be found at

www.carma.com.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in