Horror novelist puts down his pen for the sake of the environment

Zhou Dedong and his Intrepid Babe

Zhou Dedong is currently one of the most popular horror writers in China. Li Shaohong's movie The Door, released at the beginning of this year, was based on one of his stories, and he has ranked at or near the top in several national polls of horror readers, including one that sought to name "China's Stephen King."

In a market where online genre writers gain legitimacy by winning contracts with traditional publishers, Zhou is moving in the opposite direction. Last week, he posted a notice on his blog in which he announced that he was saying farewell to the world of print:

No More Books

As everyone knows, an authors is a person who writes books. If an author announces that he will no longer put out books, what will you as readers think?

I am that author :)

The past few days I have been in talks with Sina's VIP Book Channel. We will sign a contract on 11 November so that henceforth I will no longer put out books in print. I will write exclusively online, giving my readers material on Sina VIP. Qimen Dunjia will be my last print novel.

Many readers may be asking themselves: why?

The reason is very simple: environmental protection. Since I began writing horror novels in 1999 I have published 14 books [list of titles omitted]. How much paper was used to market these books across the country? How many forests were chopped down? The unlimited space online wastes neither paper nor ink—it doesn't consume resources. Sina's VIP Books has opened up a new model for reading: authors get income, the environment is preserved, and the audience can read things easily and cheaply. At the same time it is a blow to piracy—it accomplishes several things at one stroke.

My exclusive contract with Sina will definitely affect my income in the short term; I estimate that the ratio of proceeds from VIP Book traffic to royalties from publishers will be around 1:100, However, I am fully confident in the future. First, my horror fiction is quite popular online; in 2007 I was judged as the "most popular Chinese e-book author." Second, as the top portal in the country, Sina has enormous influence. Third, Stephen King, the world master of horror, wrote pay-to-read works for the net and his income was as high as always.

At the same time as my contract with Sina, I am launching a "Zhou Dedong Fright Tour." Over the course of one year, I will travel all over the country looking into weird stories. I will personally investigate and write up my personal experiences into "documentary-style horror stories" to present to my innumerable readers. Currently, enthusiastic readers across the country are participating in a competition to select a "intrepid babe" to accompany me on my adventures.

This series of stories will be run in their entirety exclusively on Sina's VIP Books, and at the same time they will be published every month in Night Stories magazine. The publisher had originally wanted a print run of 300,000 for Night Stories, but to spur readers to read them online, I suggested changing that figure to 30,000 copies. Readers will be able to read a complete report of the "Zhou Dedong Fright Tour" on Sina, including a record of my adventures, clips of activities, and digital shorts.

I've always wanted to do new things, so you shouldn't be surprised at this decision not to put out new books. This action will give readers an awareness of social responsibility, and that's even better :)

Zhou's probably right that his income will take a hit; a recent Wired article on China's online fiction market noted that author compensation is rising, but even at a royalty rate of just 10% per print volume, Zhou would receive far more on a 150,000 copy print run than he can expect to make on a pay-per-word basis online.

On the other hand, if we don't take his "environmental protection" justification at face value, it's not hard to imagine that Sina has made him a more generous offer as part of their campaign to dominate the "eyeball economy."

The question of piracy is a little more cut-and-dry. Sure, publishing exclusively online will make bootleg print copies easier to identify, but that hasn't stopped the pirates from downloading and printing omnibus volumes of popular online novelists. Zhou is unlikely to be an exception.

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There are currently 3 Comments for Horror novelist puts down his pen for the sake of the environment.

Comments on Horror novelist puts down his pen for the sake of the environment

The unlimited space online wastes neither paper nor ink—it doesn't consume resources.

Can someone remind me how China generates its electricity?

He wants to save the forests to offset the carbon emissions from his travels around China?

I found this story on Lu Jinbo's blog, where he wrote that he was quite pleased to learn of this news, particularly because he had just purchased the rights to Zhou's collected works - 10 volumes that ought to sell like hotcakes now that fans know there will be no more books forthcoming.

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