A sure-fire plan to lure pirates to my books

By Raymond Zhou Updated: 2007-08-03 14:39:58

A funny thing happened to me yesterday. A friend of mine MSNed me, mentioning that a book I wrote two years ago was available for download on a certain website.

It took me by surprise. I had licensed the digital version of two earlier reference books to a database, which should not appear in book format. I clicked to the offending site and found several of my essay collections hyped for free downloading.

My friend, intrepid investigative reporter that he is, waded through the convoluted process and spotted a scam. But to do that, he had to present his cellphone number, and minutes later, a small chunk of kuai disappeared from his account.

He made a lot of calls and inquiries, and in the end, he failed to access anything except a brief introduction to my volumes. The unscrupulous operator was just using my books as a bait, he concluded. I was at once relieved and dismayed. How can I be upgraded to the status of a plagiarism-worthy author? For me, it would be like winning the Nobel Prize - almost, but with more street cachet.

"They should have stuck with Han Han. He could get them more suckers in a day than I can in a year," I grumbled, suggesting the photogenic, establishment-busting best-selling author-cum-race car driver.

I've published a dozen books, but they sold like cold cakes on a freezing day. I've always wondered how to increase sales short of threatening to jump off a skyscraper and creating media awareness.

Actually, I know how to write a profitable book. I can put out pamphlets to impart my boundless knowledge of learning English, including how to get a full score of TOEFL by cheating, of which I had been accused - groundlessly, I should add. Those titles take one week to finish and can sell to an endless stream of new buyers as each generation is given the fresh headache of linguistic globalization in an artificially agonizing pedagogy.

I can accept translation work. I tend to reject all such gigs. That has upset the few who admire my bilingual writing. I have my reason: I can't help embellishing with such abandon that it amounts to rewriting. After I put my usual touch of genius on a piece of literature, the original author was so flattered that he would consider offering me the byline.

Or I can write scripts for movies and television drama. For that, I need to dumb myself down and get into a kitschy mode, which I picked up in San Francisco. Instead of writing "I'm happy", I'll dramatize it to "I'm so happy I'm fainting and I cannot get up." Chicks fall for this stuff. All I need is to wax sentimental every five minutes and dictate that actors emote profusely.

Or I can go for the adolescent market and churn out sexual fantasies. China's testosterone-surging netizens will turn me into an instant star. All I need is the Letter page of Playboy and I'll never run out of details. Yes, I should give up column writing and get into creative writing. I bet my books will be pirated hot off the press.

(China Daily 08/03/2007 page20)

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