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Stephen King's online book sales wilt

But not a horror story yet

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Demand for Stephen King's online book seems to be wilting, with the horrormeister taking the step of banning the release of further reader figures until next week.

The Plant, which King is flogging at $1 per chapter, attracted just 41,000 customers at its cyber-debut on Monday. King said he would not be giving out any more figures until July 31, and has also put a gagging order on speaking to the press until that date.

According to reports, the author feels that constant media hype about readers (or the lack of them) could harm further chapter sales of the book.

However, one aspect of the venture does seem to be working. King's experimental technique for selling The Plant on an honesty basis - fans can read the chapter before they cough up their $1 - appears successful. King promised to carry on spewing out the chapters as long as a minimum of three quarters of readers paid. So far, surfers seem to be sticking to their end of the bargain.

According to King's site: "The confirmed rate of payment by credit card is very strong - 75 per cent at least.

"When the dust settles, Marsha and I are hoping - quite reasonably, we think - for a pay-through rate of 85-90 per cent. I should add that a good many non-payers appear to have been not readers but browsers...like people in a bookstore who read a couple of pages and then put the book back on the shelf."

Regarding sales, King admitted they weren't equal to the previous book he sold online, Riding The Bullet, but said that the publicity campaign for this second book had been smaller.

"For the time being, just let me reiterate that this experiment seems to be working. I am delighted. Thank you. Tell your friends," he said. ®

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