Stephen King complained about his local paper’s cutbacks. They responded with a challenge.

"Don’t sign a petition. Buy a subscription."

FILE - In this May 22, 2018 file photo, PEN literary service award recipient Stephen King attends the 2018 PEN Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.  A Maine newspaper that horrified author Stephen King by dropping its local book review coverage is using his complaint to boost digital subscriptions. King on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019,  complained about the Portland Press Herald’s decision to stop publishing freelance-written reviews of books about Maine or written by Maine authors and urged his 5.1 million Twitter followers to retweet his message.(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Stephen King at a New York gala in May 2018. –Evan Agostini / Invision/AP

These are not the easiest times for the print news industry.

Across the county, newspapers are grappling to deal with drastic declines in circulation and revenue. The Portland Press Herald is no exception.

“Unfortunately,  the economic forces are not in our favor, revenue is down and we need to make expense cuts,” executive editor Cliff Schechtman told Boston.com

The Press Herald recently decided to trim back reviews of local authors in the Books page of its Sunday edition, the Maine Sunday Telegram. Schechtman noted that the entire Sunday Books page was not getting cut — only paid freelance reviews.

Still, the decision did not go over well with many readers, including one Stephen King. The prolific author and Bangor native took to Twitter Friday afternoon asking his more than 5 million followers to retweet in  protest of the cuts.

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King said argued the local reviews were vital to give lesser-known Maine writers a “boost.”

“Many of them depend on those reviews to buy bread and milk,” he wrote in a follow-up tweet.

However, as they watched King’s post garner thousands of retweets, the Press Herald figured they could use his influence for more meaningful action. In a reply to the author, the paper offered to reinstate the local reviews “immediately” — if he could get 100 people to buy digital subscriptions with the promo code “KING.”

“Stephen King sent me!” reads the special subscription page.

Schechtman says the 100 new digital subscriptions (which starts at $15 for three months) would cover the expenses of bringing back the freelance reviews.

King did not immediately respond, but his followers quickly jumped on the deal.

From current and former Maine residents to New York Times reporters, a stream of followers responded on Twitter that they were subscribing. According to Schechtman, about three dozen new readers had signed up for subscriptions within a few hours.

Several local journalists pointed out that purchasing a subscription would have a far bigger impact on the nature of Press Herald’s coverage than simply protesting the cuts online.

“Don’t sign a petition. Buy a subscription,” wrote one Press Herald reporter.

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By early Saturday morning, they had reached more than 70.

And by 11 a.m., the paper hit their 100-subscription goal, which they announced in tweet thanking readers (and, in characteristic Press Herald Twitter account fashion, including a GIF). Schechtman says the local reviews will return next Sunday.

“Book reviews will return,” the paper wrote in its tweet Saturday. “We love you Maine. We love you journalists. We love you newspapers.”