One of the year’s noisiest publishing squabbles — Stephen King asking $17 million for his new novel, Bag of Bones — has come to a surprising end. After some very public negotiations, King, 50, will get only $2 million, but he’s come out looking like a winner. Nice twist.
The story began last month when King’s longtime publisher, Viking — burned by high returns on his last two hardcovers — refused to meet his price. Though other houses wanted him, including Farrar, Straus & Giroux (which faced an insurrection from its literary authors after offering him $10 million), King began to wonder: ”Why am I taking an advance at all? It was more about who had bigger balls and not about the book.” So he signed a three-book, $6 million, 50 percent profit-sharing deal with Simon & Schuster imprint Scribner.
King isn’t risking his wallet: He may well end up ”with a paycheck equal to what his advance would have been,” says an S&S president, Jack Romanos. King, for his part, believes the industry’s current woes should not be blamed on ”greedy brand-name” authors. ”How many of us are there anyway?” he asks. Big authors willing to take only a $2 million advance? Not many.