Mo Yan, winner of the Nobel prize in literature, took second place in the 2012 Chinese Writers Rich List that was released on Thursday, having earned 21.5 million yuan ($3.45 million) in royalties this year.
Zheng Yuanjie,a fairy tale writer.[File photo]
It is the first time Mo has made the annual list since 2006, when he was ranked 20th.
The Chinese writer who made the most money in 2012 is Zheng Yuanjie, whose Pipilu fairy tale series brought in 26 million yuan in royalties.
Yang Hongying, who is also a well-known children's author, placed third, with 20 million yuan.
The annual list ranks the 30 richest Chinese writers by royalties earned within the year.
The 2012 list was largely dominated by authors of books for teenagers. Movie star Chen Kun ranked 30th for his book on journeys to the Tibet autonomous region. Chen is the first person from the entertainment industry to make the list.
"This year's list shows that the bulk of the Chinese reading population is still children and teenagers," the list's producer, Wu Huaiyao, said on Thursday. As a literature researcher in Shanghai and former reporter of Beijing-based Business Time, Wu hopes the list offers clues to the publishing and reading trends in the country.
Mo's reappearance on the list reflects the renewed interest in his works since his Nobel win.
Wu said he knows of one online bookseller that previously sold 100 copies of Mo's books a month, but now sells more than 8,000 every day.
"Following Mo Yan's Nobel win, it seems that the so-called serious and traditional writing, despite being challenged by online writing and popular reading material, still wins the hearts of many," Wu said.
Also notable on this year's list is the popularity of ongoing series, and the influence of online sales, Wu said.
Topping the list is veteran Zheng, who has been writing for 35 years. Wu believes Zheng's success is because of his large number of loyal fans and Zheng establishing his own online bookshop.
"I keep producing quality works, so my readers keep reading, even when they grow up and become parents," Zheng told the West China City Daily. He also said an increasing proportion of his income comes from online sales.
Wu started compiling this year's list in June with a team of 10 people. The team interviewed 200 professionals in the publishing industry around the country, and compiled the list according to the books' prices, the number of copies released, and the ratio of writers' copyright gains.
The Writers Rich List was first compiled by Wu in 2006 to promote the idea that being a writer is respectable and profitable. When Wu first released the list, doubts were raised about whether he should be connecting money with literary creation, especially in a country where writers are reluctant to talk about wealth.
"At that time, writing was not among the mainstream professions, and writers could barely support themselves. I just wanted to change all those stereotypes and in the meantime, promote reading," Wu said.
For that reason, a Writers Gala was held in Chengdu, Sichuan province, in conjunction with the release of the list. Chinese writers, including Zheng, Guo Jingming, who was fourth on the list, and Di An, who was 11th, appeared together on the red carpet. Awards were also presented at the gala.
"Chinese writers are, and should be, stars, because they have value," said Chen Liming, Mo Yan's agent and general manager of Beijing Genuine and Profound Culture Development Corp.
Guo's publisher, Li Bo, with Changjiang Literature and Arts Press, said the list challenges old Chinese ideas.
To writer Zhi An, the list shows the commercialization of the Chinese book market. "But the wealth the writers gained doesn't equal their literary value. There are still excellent books that don't sell well," Zhi said.
Two other lists were also released, revealing the 15 top-earning manga creators, and the top earning foreign writers in China. Another list showed the 20 richest online writers in the past five years.
J.K. Rowling, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Walter Isaacson are the top three foreign writers who earned the most royalties in the Chinese market in 2012.