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Stephen King to Embrace Piracy as a Promotion Tool

Stephen King is no stranger to experimentation, and depending on how you measure it he’s one of the early adopters of the idea. Back in 2000, long before the Kindle brought the market to life, Stephen King published one of his novels as a serial.

The Plant didn’t quite have the success desired (not enough paid downloads) but it did generate over half a million in revenues in a few short months. So it came as little surprise earlier this week that Mr. King is trying something new in order to promote his next book:


His next novel, Joyland, is set to come out in June 2013. The book is a murder mystery set in a Southern theme park in the 1970s. According to the publisher’s press release, it’s only going to be released in paper.

Stephen King commented, "I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts. That combo made Hard Case Crime the perfect venue for this book, which is one of my favorites. I also loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we’re going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being. Joyland will be coming out in paperback, and folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book."

JK Rowling inadvertently tried this method a decade ago, and it seems to have worked out well for her. But we do live in a different age now, and I have to say that I’m looking forward to this.

Consumers are used to being able to buy the content they want in the form they want when they want. What’s more, a growing percentage of readers have switched over to digital and have no plans to go back. Now we’re going to see what happens when you tell them no.

The book is due out in June, but I’m half expecting the pirated ebook to hit the torrents in May (if not earlier). Someone at the publisher will want the ebook so they’ll grab a copy from the source files. next they will likely share it with a friend or 2 and before you know it some helpful soul will release the ebook into the wild.

If and when the ebook leaks, let me know. I want to see if it comes out first.

image by Uncle Catherine

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Carolyn Jewel June 1, 2012 um 2:05 am

I had the same thought when I saw that. Be interesting to watch what happens.

Zimmy June 1, 2012 um 3:08 am

If he wants to fight piracy, he should make the publishers sell his books for less then $14.99.

Peter June 1, 2012 um 5:15 am

Canary in the coal mine for professional, digital publishing.

It absolutely makes sense-

The problem with ebooks is that you have good customers such as myself who would happily pay $40-50 for a really GOOD ebook. I don’t care how much it cost to make- that’s irrelevant and irrational for a consumer to think about. What matters is what I get out of it.

But then you also have all these whiners who insist everything MUST be priced at a buck or two, just cause they want to play armchair publisher. Instead of just not buying the book, these people actively heckle you and call you evil and one star your book and push self-published crapola to the top of the bestseller list and in general get in the way of me finding your book. But if you give in and charge $1 to them, you have to charge $1 to me, so you lose $49 even IF the whiners end up buying your book, which they won’t.

With paper, the whiners go away- maybe they pirate, I don’t care- and we can have an efficient market.

Format C: June 1, 2012 um 5:49 am

For the vast majority of human beings, Peter, those 50$ are more than a week salary. And for half of them is close to a month salary. So, yes, a couple of bucks can be the difference between between "I can afford it" and "I don’t". And everybody has the right to whine about the greed of authors, publishers and retailers.

If a lower price expand potential audience by several orders of magnitude, it may be against your idea of efficiency, but, in the bottom line, it increases sales.

ceuse June 2, 2012 um 6:02 pm

Just an small error in the text. it will be published in june 2013 not 2012 😉 because i was allready looking for the pirated version when i read that 😉

Nate Hoffelder June 2, 2012 um 7:17 pm


Edward H. Carpenter June 4, 2012 um 7:10 am

I think that King may be rowing against the current with this one.

The royalty-based system of payments to authors, musicians, and other artists has been kept in place since the 18th Century mainly due to the fact that traditional hard-copy media was difficult to cheaply reproduce and distribute.

That’s not true today, so it may be time to change how we think about authors getting paid. I’ve released 3 e-books to date through the Amazon model – but my next is going to be different.

Rather than rely on royalties, I’m going to run a Kickstarter project to crowd-source "patrons" (which was how artists were usually funded prior to the 18th Century) – get a sufficient number, and I’ll release the book for free electronically.

Curious to know what others think of this idea vs. King’s "I don’t like the new rules, so I just won’t come out to play" approach.


Xhara June 4, 2012 um 7:50 am

And even if there won’t be a leaked ebook-version … It won’t be long and somebody will scan a bought paperback … That mechanism worked for the last 20 years.

Stumbling Over Chaos :: In which there are links and such June 8, 2012 um 3:03 am

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John Sorensen May 17, 2018 um 8:47 am

I thought this going to end with like 1/2 the book in ebook then "to be continued…….in the paperback fools" thus forcing people to go buy the physical book to get the rest of the story.

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