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Stephen King set to net $1m from online experiment

He's gonna write chapter 3

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Stephen King looks set to make at least $1 million from his latest online book experiment.

The King today confirmed his fans' response to The Plant has been strong enough to warrant him writing the third instalment, despite sales threatening to wilt just after the July 24 launch.

In the first week of the first chapter going online there were around 152,000 downloads - with a 76 per cent payment rate. Around 93,000 readers paid up front, while a further 23,000 promised to pay later, according to King's site.

King reckons that his costs so far have amounted to $124,000 to advertise the book, plus the cost of maintaining the servers through which the chapters are downloaded.

The second instalment will be up on the site from August 21, and the third from September 25. If all goes to plan, and a minimum of 75 per cent of punters pay to download, a total of 10 or 11 instalments should see the book through to next year. And if those who have downloaded part one continue to the bitter end, that would make a total of 1,673,452 downloads.

After King's costs and allowing for a quarter of fans not paying, that's a cool $1 million for King at $1 a download - and nothing for the publishers.

Hodder & Headline, King's publishers in the UK, claimed to be "delighted" with the Internet move that cut them out of the $1 million horror story.

"It's a great way of introducing Stephen King to people who weren't aware of him," said Jamie Hodder-Williams, the company's marketing director.

Hodder-Williams said he was sure that other authors would follow King's lead, but didn't see it as the beginning of the end for publishers. "It's a lot easier to do something like this if you are Stephen King than if you are an unknown writer," he said, adding that Hodder & Headline had a four book deal with King over the next three years, and would publish his memoirs in October.

But King seems happy with the what he's achieved so far. "If we've proved nothing else, we've proved that the guy who shops for entertainment on the Net can be as honest as the one in a retail bricks-and-mortar store," said King.

And his fans seem more honest than most. According to the site, many have been pressing the author to let them pay extra "to help cover the costs of the dishonest people who will download The Plant and not pay".

And King, who made $450,000 from his first e-book, and countless millions from paper fiction, has agreed to let them. ®

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