Sunday, October 26, 2014

"Stephen King", and questionable publishing ethics

A Good Marriage

I noticed this Stephen King novella available on Amazon today, "A Good Marriage" with the bonus story, "1922"

The combination was actually panned by quite a few readers. Why? Both stories/novellas were previously released as a parts of Full Dark, No Stars, from a few years ago. Some selected reader comments include:

"As others stated, pretty annoyed that this is being marketed as a "new" book when it's part of a collection I already own. My fault for not recalling the name of every short story I've read in every collection released, I suppose, but still...feeling ripped off. That said, the stories are good. Just don't bother with this if you've already got or want to read Full Dark No Stars."

I'm disappointed that this was advertised as a "new book," with the publication date of September 30, 2014, when I received the pre-order alert. IT IS NOT a new story; it's a short story from Full Dark, No Stars (published in November 2010). I feel like I was charged far too much for a story that I've already read.
What the publishers essentially did, then, was rerelease approximately 50% of a book published in 2010 as a "new" book for 2014. 

This, in itself, is nothing horrible. Record companies have long sold artists' songs as singles, then as components of albums, and later as components of greatest hits/live albums. (I should also note, by way of full disclosure, that about a third of the stories in my Hay Moon short story collection are available as shorts on Amazon for $0.99 each.) Finally, there is a context to the rerelease of "A Good Marriage": The literary rerelease is a tie-in to the recent film.

Nevertheless, readers who have already read Full Dark, No Stars, will be understandably somewhat miffed. The publisher could have avoided the backlash and still made money by simply rereleasing the entire book with a movie tie-in cover. That would have alleviated all misunderstandings, and ill will among readers who'd already purchased Full Dark, No Stars, while still allowing the publisher to get a "boost" of new sales from the movie.

A "fake" Stephen King?:

I also noticed this book from an author who goes by the name "Stephen King"--but he clearly isn't the well-known Stephen King. 

I read through the first few pages of his book, and noticed several glaring typos. The book also has some suspicious-looking 5-star reviews. (The entire thing is suspicious.)

Here again we have a gray area--legally speaking, at least. I imagine that an attorney could file a successful "cease and desist order" if the author's birth name is not really "Stephen King". I did a Google search: The author of the "Crossroads" book doesn't seem to have any sort of a web presence. So this isn't even a case of him trying to use a name similarity to brand himself. Rather, this seems like someone's attempt to make a fast buck under false pretenses.

Is this a trademark violation? I really can't say. But it is definitely less than honest.

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