The highest-paid authors in China, 2009 edition

Zheng Yuanjie, this year's highest-earning author

Professional list-maker Wu Huaiyao (吴怀尧) is back with the latest edition of China's top 25 authors as ranked by royalty income.

On Wu's list, which appears in the Changjiang Times this year, children's author Zheng Yuanjie seizes the top spot from YA writer and magazine publisher Guo Jingming.

Not much has changed on this year's list. Wu and his team tweaked their methodology this year, expanding their range to include business writers like Wu Xiaobo (#5) for the first time (see below).

As in years past, CCTV's Lecture Room program continues to make money for its lecturers. This year, Qian Wenzhong joins Yu Dan and Yi Zhongtian on the list.

The Rankings
With last year's rank, and change in income (in millions)

  1. (2) Zheng Yuanjie (郑渊洁) - children's fairy tales: 20 million (+9)
  2. (1) Guo Jingming (郭敬明) - YA books and magazines: 17 million yuan (+4)
  3. (3) Yang Hongying (杨红樱) - children's lit: 12 million (+2.2)
  4. (15) Dangnian Mingyue (当年明月) - popular history about the Ming Dynasty: 10 million (+7.7)
  5. (-) Wu Xiaobo (吴晓波) - chronicler of Chinese entrepreneurial history: 7.6 million
  6. (4) Sharon (饶雪漫) - YA books for girls: 6 million (-2)
  7. (-) Qian Wenzhong (钱文忠) - explicated the Three Character Classic for CCTV's Lecture Room: 5 million
  8. (18) Han Han (韩寒) - YA fiction and essays; the author has a high-profile blog: 3.8 million (+2.1)
  9. (-) Li Ke (李可) - The Story of Du Lala's Promotion and its TV, film, and stage adaptations: 3.5 million
  10. (9) Shi Kang (石康) - novelist and screenwriter: 3 million (-0.6)
  11. (12) Wang Xiaofang (王晓方) - Secretary to the Mayor and other novels of political corruption: 2.8 million (--)
  12. (23) Yi Zhongtian (易中天) - Lecture Room author: 2.7 million (+1.5)
  13. (13) Yu Qiuyu (余秋雨) - essays on culture and history: 2.4 million (-0.25)
  14. (16) Cai Jun (祭骏) - thrillers, the Mysterious Messages (天机) series, 19th Level of Hell, and Who Am I?: 2.15 million (+0.15)
  15. (5) Ma Weidu (马未都) - Collector and Lecture Room author: 2 million (-5.45)
  16. (-) Liu Zhenyun (刘震云) - popular novelist who moved 400,000 copies of his latest book, A Sentence Worth Ten Thousand Words (一句顶一万句): 1.8 million
  17. (-) Cui Manli (崔曼莉) - Ups and Downs (浮沉), the "hidden rules for surviving life in a foreign enterprise": 1.75 million
  18. (-) An Yiru (安意如) - poetry, fiction, and most recently an appreciation of kunqu: 1.6 million
  19. (-) Wang Meng (王蒙) - the venerable novelist has a new book out on Laozi: 1.5 million
  20. (-) Yan Lianke (阎连科) - Elegy and Academe, a satire about higher education: 1.35 million
  21. (-) Alai (阿来) - stories about Tibetan culture, most recently a Chinese-language adaptation of the epic of King Gesar: 1.3 million
  22. (17) Mai Jia (麦家) - literary spy thrillers with sales driven by a popular TV adaptation and now the ultra-violent movie The Message (风声); Mao Dun Prize winner: 1.25 million (-5.5)
  23. (-) Ye Yonglie (叶永烈) - biographer and travel writer. This year he published a mammoth history of the Gang of Four: 1.2 million
  24. (-) Kong Ergou (孔二狗) - A popular series about the underworld in the northeast: 1.15 million
  25. (7) Yu Dan (于丹) - Lessons from Zhuangzi: 1 million (-4)

Because the list was only released today, there has not been much response from the writers themselves, but it's likely that it will draw the same complaints as in years past: it's imprecise, it ignores everything but royalties on top-selling books, it's based on crude estimations of sales numbers, and to top it off, the whole list is meaningless.

Changjiang Times
November 30, 2009

Wu and his associates are aware of this, as they point out in a disclaimer at the end of the report:

How the China Authors' Rich List was drawn up

1. First I would like to pay my respects in written Chinese to the rich authors. They are the defenders of the dignity and freedom of the Chinese language.

2. The surveys to collect data for this years list began at the end of August and covered areas at the forefront of the country's book market, including Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, and Xi'an. Authors, publishers, wholesalers, printers, and online booksellers offered their cooperation and assistance, and I would like to thank them for that.

3. The books covered were the authors' new works and additional printings of other major works in China (excluding Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan) between November 25, 2008 and November 25, 2009; less influential works were not incorporated because of statistical difficulties. A few authors who were not on the list last year but whose works sold in sufficient numbers are on this list this year.

4. Royalties are not uniform for famous and unknown authors. Our base royalty rate this year of 10% was adjusted on an individual basis according to the results of our investigation and reflects as well as possible the actual income of these authors. In addition, we incorporated the royalty income of mainland-based financial authors. We must make clear that while some authors had sufficient royalties to make the list, they are left for the time being off because they are not mainland residents.

5. For a number of reasons, we were unable to add up the total number of books in print for a given author. In addition, a number of authors made a profit from film and TV adaptations that dwarfed their income from manuscript royalties. But these are trade secrets after all, and because of the mysteries surrounding screenwriting fees, we only incorporated book royalties when preparing the list.

6. Author royalties were calculated taking the above points into account. We ask the various industries to be understanding of any discrepancies with reality.

The media may pick apart the income rankings, but Wu is not particularly concerned with the rich list itself. This year, he used the platform provided to him by Changjiang Times to write up a lengthy survey of Chinese poetry.

Today, the annual rankings of China's richest authors is released.

This year, we turn our attention to poets, who have been a controversial group in recent years.

Over the four years that the rankings have been drawn up, it has never seen anyone who was purely a poet. Poets and wealth seem to be entirely insulated from each other. Poetry is snubbed, and poets pursue an existence on the margins where they are forgotten or even looked on with disdain. This is an era in which poets have been "made lonely" (被寂寞) to adapt a current meme.

Through the course of our many interviews we found that in the mind of most people, poets are "destitute, divorced from reality, shabby, irresponsible, boring," and even "mentally disturbed." And they believe that there are only a few people writing poetry today. Is this truly the case? After our extensive investigation we wish to announce the truth: these days, poets are undercover right beside you!

Your boss, your colleague, your roommate, your friend, the stranger you pass on the street....these could very well be poets. They thrive in all areas and find success through the medium of poetry.

Our incomplete statistics reveal that in the past few years, the Internet alone is host to roughly 5 million people writing poetry, and whose lives are intimately connected to poems. The poets we interviewed included a rich businesspeople and successful politicians. Even more thought-provoking is that in spot-interviews across the country, we found that as many as 85% of people have dreamed of becoming a poet. In light of this fact, we dug up four poets "hiding" in various fields and had them tell the story of their encounters with poetry.

Links and Sources
There are currently 2 Comments for The highest-paid authors in China, 2009 edition.

Comments on The highest-paid authors in China, 2009 edition

Think I'll encourage my daughter to concentrate more on her Chinese writing than English! That's a big market out there...

I think while Zheng Yuanjie's stories are "fairytales" to an extent, much of his writing is more like social commentary in simplified versions. Most of his cartoons stopped adapting the stories because they become too serious for children.

China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
From 2008
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
Danwei Archives