Sales stall for winner

By Xing Yi ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-01-21 07:10:01


Sales stall for winner

Mo Yan, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, met fans at the 20th Beijing International Book Fair in August 2013. Zou Hong / China Daily

Bookstores across China returned thousands of copies of writer Mo Yan's novels to his publishers at the end of last year. Is literature facing a crisis? Xing Yi finds out.

Mo Yan's novels are not doing well.

According to Wen Hui Daily, a Shanghai-based newspaper with a tradition of reporting on culture, bookstores around China returned copies of the Nobel laureate's books - valued at 9.5 million yuan ($1.53 million) based on their prices - to his publishers at the end of 2014. They account for 10 percent of the total printed copies of his books.

The price of a Mo Yan book ranges from 30 to 40 yuan at local bookstores.

The sales figures of Mo Yan's books at Xinhua bookstore in Beijing's Wangfujing area partially supported the report. Ge Fei, the deputy general manager of the major bookstore, told China Daily that the sales of Mo's novels have been going down.

"We sold more than 18,000 copies in the last quarter of 2012 after Mo won the Nobel Prize in literature in October. The following year, we sold around 7,000 copies of his books. But we sold only 3,000 copies last year."

Online sales numbers reflect the same trend. The 60-year-old Mo's most recent novel, Frog, about the country's one-child policy, which occupied the second spot on the best-seller list on China's major online bookstore in 2012, slipped to 42nd place in 2014.

Although the sales of Mo's books have slowed down, most insiders in China's publishing industry say the volume of the returned books is still below the average returned rate for literature and art books, which stands at around 15 to 20 percent in general.

Some in the industry, however, interpret the slowing down of the sales of Mo's works as a sign of the marginalization of literature.

Jia Zongpei, editor-in-chief of Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing House, thinks that in the era of the Internet, people have been drawn to many other diversions, and literary works no longer command the attention they did.

"We had published some best-selling literature works, such as Brothers by Yu Hua, but that was before the prevalence of social media," adds Jia.

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