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Literary agents fingered for pulp fiction
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"The year 2008 may be the starting point for literary agents for Chinese writers," said an insider at a book industry forum recently.

Literary agents in Europe and America make ninety percent of the fictions, but no real professional agents are engaged in China's domestic book trade. "But some publishers and copyright agents do act as agents in China," commented a publishing designer named Yang Wenxuan.

A real literary agent should focus on his writers. He receives commissions from royalties rather than sales. So agents and writers have common interests and literary agents will strive to get maximum benefits for them. In contrast, the more publishing houses earn, the less the writers accrue.

"I think well-known writers do not need agents. As an agent, if you spend great efforts on selecting topics, designs and packaging for unknown writers, how many of them will hit a circulation of 200,000? Then where can you get your profits?" said Shen Haobo, a book designer who believed that writers' agents would not have a bright future.

Literary agents will certainly seek best interests and high circulation, which may weaken literary value and also lead to convergent and shallow public reading. "There is a lot of rubbish in Chinese literature, it is better to read nothing instead of this trash," said the famous critic Zhu Dake.

But Yang Wenxuan argued that the era of classifying reading has arrived. "Readers have their preferences and they will make their own choices. Agents dabble in publication, which is quite different from traditional publishing ideologies. Their style will cater to the various tastes of the general public," he said.

(China.org.cn by Yang Xi, December 14, 2007)

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