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Stephen King’s E-Book Experiment

Stephen King made history last month with his release of THE PLANT, PART 1, direct from his website (www.stephenking.com.) to readers in e-book form. This eclipsed  his earlier release of RIDING THE BULLET because it bypasses the publisher and permits downloads on the honor system. For just $1.

How did this work out? As of 7/31/00 Stephen lists 152,132 downloads with 116,200 paid. Of these, 93,200 paid “up front” with credit cards.

Visit the website for his very open explanation of plans, advertising cost, etc. It is a fascinating and worthwhile endeavor, done, by the way, with the permission of his publishers. Kudos to them, and especially to Stephen King, for trying this out.

Unfortunately, most writers lack the name that Stephen King has earned, and lack his access to publicity. However, King has amply demonstrated that the e-book works. This should give all writers encouragement to try it out for themselves.





Jonathan Tropper’s E-Book Promotion

Jonathan Tropper wanted his e-book PLAN B to sell, and he was little known, so he used a personally developed e-mail list to promote his own e-book. At the same time, he listed the book on Amazon.com. This bolstered the LIMITED publicity his own publisher (St. Martin’s Press) could provide. And sales increased markedly.

Unfortunately, Jonathan hired a marketing company which unleashed a “torrent of e-mail promoting ‘Plan B’ to influential people and chat groups,” according to the Wall Street Journal. This backfired, as many people protested the receipt of unsolicited ads, and sales fell immediately. (Source:  Matthew Rose, “Author Learns E-Mail Can Sell or Sink a Book,” Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2000.)

There’s an important lesson here for all of us. Publishing has a generally higher ethic than other media, and something that may work in a Napster environment may violate the rules that govern publishing houses. Try to avoid these pitfalls. Honor copyrights and the rules of business etiquette. And, as with Jonathan’s case, don’t forget “netiquette.”

Publishers are now going forward with e-books in a serious manner, fitting the new 60-100 page formats and going to market with a series of offerings. Predictably, they show little concern for the writing community’s dream that they might go beyond their tried and true stable of writers. This is a real shame, for their risk is so minimal.

Head in the sand, Ramdom House is now moving forward with 20 original e-books. Likewise, several “big names” from iPublish, will  be followed by releases from Simon & Schuster and others. (Source: Steven M. Zeitchik, “Random House Takes the Plunge,” The Industry Standard, August 14, 2000.)

Publishing New Writers, July, 2000 (no.101)

Editor Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.  Fax (847) 428-8974.

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