Plus, McSweeney's storms the paperback table

By Matthew Flamm
Updated March 08, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
Stephen King: Mark Shenley/Camera Press/Retna

The Plant

  • Book

KING’S RANSOM Stephen King has given his final answer to all the naysayers who called his recent venture into online publishing a failure: According to, the six installments of his unfinished novel, ”The Plant,” which readers downloaded on the honor system at $1 to $2 a pop, brought in $721,448.61. Minus expenses — including $140,766.75 for advertising, and $102,849.59 for Web hosting and maintenance — the author netted a grand total of $463,832.27.

”When he put ‘The Plant’ on hold, there were headlines that it was because it was a financial failure,” says King’s assistant, Marsha DeFilippo, about his decision to give out numbers. ”There were also some misconceptions [among readers] that it costs absolutely nothing to put the story up.”

Yet, many in the book world remain skeptical about the project. As one publishing insider points out, King gives no numbers for such old fashioned things as editing and overhead. And forget about an unknown author trying this. ”You want to admire King, because here’s a guy who’s very successful and he’s putting himself out there,” the source adds. ”But this is not a model that the rest of the world can use.”

SOLE SEARCHERS McSweeney’s magazine contributor Neal Pollack, whose satirical collection, ”The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature,” launched Dave Eggers’ McSweeney’s Books publishing experiment last fall, can give up his guinea pig status: HarperCollins has just paid five figures for trade paperback rights to the book.

In keeping with the McSweeney’s spirit, the edition will parody mass market paperbacks with the author’s name on the cover in raised gold letters. It will also include a family tree, a study guide, and six to eight pages of review quotes up front. Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that a McSweeney’s store, based in Brooklyn, where Eggers lives, will open soon to sell books and magazines — and possibly offer shoe repairs and used refrigerators. Calls to the publisher were not returned.

Episode Recaps

The Plant

  • Book
  • Stephen King