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UPDATE ON THE PLANT
I promised visitors at this site—not to mention interested media types—an update on how we're doing as of 7/31. This is that update. I have been as honest and specific as I can be, believing that's the best way to spike rumors.
How many downloads so far?
How many have paid?
116,200, or 76.38 per cent. 93,200 have paid up front with credit cards, using Amazon.com's service. 23,000 have promised to pay later, and these payments are showing up already (one guy sent me a silver dollar). The pay-through rate has been higher than I dared hope.
Costs to you, as of Part 1?
$124,150 for print ads in Publisher's Weekly and USA Today, Load test for the Web Servers, Project Management Fees, Server setup fees and Compositor's fees to Mr. Michael Alpert, who has done his usual great job of making the Philtrum product look smart—ladies and gentlemen, give him a hand. There's also the cost of maintaining the servers through which my story is downloaded. Marsha may have an idea of what these fees amount to, but so far I don't. Not added to these costs are my services as writer and Marsha's as all-around whirling dervish.
A lot fewer downloads than "Riding the Bullet." Disappointed?
Not yet. You need to remember that "Bullet" was a magnificent one-shot, available from a lot more sources and in many cases given away for free. If THE PLANT gets done, people are going to be downloading well into 2001, even with longer segments on offer. If those who have downloaded Part 1 so far download the following ten or eleven installments, the total downloads would be 1,673,452. Do the math. It's pretty good math, if people keep coming back.
Do you expect more downloads of Part 1?
Sure. It'll be up by itself until August 21st, remember, and then up in tandem with Part 2 until September 25th. I think we'll get a bump on Part 1 when Part 2 goes on sale. How big is anybody's guess.
Are you go for Part 3 in September?
Are you working on THE PLANT again?
Will people continue to come back?
That's anybody's guess. Some readers have been disappointed in the epistolary format ("Why should I pay for a bunch of office memos?" one Constant Reader asked). It's certainly too late to change that now, and what was good enough for Bram Stoker (DRACULA) is good enough for me. And the tale becomes more narrative—although from different points of view—as it goes along. In ANY case, I have to get enough downloads to feel the experiment is working. That was, after all, the point.
And if the downloads don't stay up?
I pull the plug, say thank you very much, and go back to work. On THE PLANT if I'm having fun (so far I am), on something else if I'm not. There's certainly no problem with the pay-through. 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.
If I have other questions?
Save 'em. We're busy. And to all of you who downloaded and then said "Right on, keep it coming," THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
Here's the truth: When I made a decision to post the first two installments of The Plant, my hopes of success weren't very high. Publicly, I have always expressed a great deal of confidence in human nature, but in private I have wondered if anybody would ever pay for anything on the Net. It now looks as though people will, and I am faced with the real possibility of finishing The Plant. I don't think anyone wants to buy 5,000 word installments over a period of over 20 months, and my experience with The Green Mile makes me think that interest would fade, anyway. Therefore, what I propose doing is this: Episode 2, 6-7,000 words; Episode 3, 10-12,000 words. Download price in both cases would remain $1. Installments 4 through 7 or 8 would be much longer-perhaps as long as 25,000 words-and the download price would go up to $2.50. What do you think about this? Will it work?
Dear Constant Reader,
Thanks for your response to The Plant! It's been great! These numbers aren't equal to Riding the Bullet-at least not yet-but our publicity campaign was almost non-existent. New travels fast on the web, however; it's the 21st century version of the jungle telegraph, and the number of downloads seems to be staying hot. Better still, the confirmed rate of payment by credit card is very strong-75% at least. When the dust settles, Marsha and I are hoping-quite reasonably, we think-for a pay-through rate of 85-90%. 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. We have been deluged with questions from the press about how we are doing. The short answer is that we are doing fine. We are going to give trend figures on July 31st, after this project has been running for a week. We don't anticipate talking to the press again until that time. The reason for this is simple: the people who drive this and are paying their dollars are the people who visit this web site, not the people who necessarily read The New York Times or watch CNN. Good or bad, you deserve the news first, you deserve to read it here, and that's the way it is going to play out. For the time being, just let me reiterate that this experiment seems to be working. I am delighted. Thank you. Tell your friends.
I am aware that a lot of people have been concerned about press reports that I am either not writing or not able to write. Most of these reports are the result of material taken out of context in the Dateline interview Tabby and I did. What I said—and I believe the actual interview makes this clear—is that I found it extremely difficult to find my way back into writing after the accident. That battle was fought in July however, and I feel that I won a conditional victory. Since the accident I have finished my book on writing, I have written a novelette called "Riding the Bullet," and have begun work on an original miniseries for TV. This is called Rose Red and is an expansion of a screenplay I wrote some years ago. I have also begun talking with Peter Straub about finally writing a sequel to The Talisman—we jokingly called this project T2, although I doubt if there will be a part for Arnold Schwarzenegger. My endurance is much less than it was, and my output has been cut in half, but I am working. I hope that this sets some fears to rest, and believe me when I say that I am very touched by the expressed concern. I am touched, in fact, that anyone cares at all, one way or the other. Now get out there and do something nice for someone else.