There is no need to introduce Hugh Howey. This article aims to shed some light on how he is perceived in the Chinese world.
At the recent Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE 2014, February 5-10), Howey launched the Traditional Chinese edition of Dust, the conclusion of his Wool Trilogy. The Traditional Chinese edition of the first book in the trilogy, Wool, was published in Taiwan in June 2013 and has since sold approximately 50,000 copies.
Specifically, at the launch on February 5, Dust sold 800 copies on the spot. Passionate Taiwanese readers also purchased 400 copies of Wool. The Traditional Chinese edition of the remaining book in the trilogy, Shift, is scheduled to be published later this year.
In the media frenzy surrounding the event, Howey was portrayed as an author who “countered America’s six biggest publishers all on his own and has completely changed the country’s publishing ecology”. His Taiwanese publisher Nautilus Press promotes him as a “legend” and “bestselling miracle”, having “destroyed the publishing industry and created a brand new world”.
There is no doubt that Howey’s success has informed Taiwanese readers – as well as publishers and authors – of the possibility of prosperity in self-publishing and digital publishing. However, as the great majority of readers in Taiwan are yet to embrace ebooks, Howey’s popularity there is still based on sales of print books, as detailed in his own blog article “Happy Chinese New Year!”
Howey wrote, “Eric Chen, who founded Nautilus Press, translated the book himself. He’s a phenomenal writer, and I can only imagine his text improves upon my own.” A quick comparison between the Chinese and English editions of Wool shows Chen indeed has created a fluent and graceful Chinese translation, although it is often long-winded, so that Howey’s crisp writing style is lost. Also missing in the Chinese edition is the third paragraph of the first chapter of the English edition.
As of the writing of this article, the Traditional Chinese edition of Wool is sold in Taiwan at NT$315 (down from NT$399), i.e. approximately US$10.16 (down from US$12.86). The ebook is sold at NT$249 (down from NT$299), i.e. approximately US$8.03 (down from US$9.64). A simple calculation shows that the ebook price is about 75%-80% of the print book price. Meanwhile, the Traditional Chinese edition of Dust is also sold at NT$315 (down from NT$399), i.e. approximately US$10.16 (down from US$12.86).
Since Howey’s visit to Taiwan, the English editions of the Wool Trilogy have been selling well, perhaps because these limited editions come with his autograph and/or a special card addressed to the local readers. The three books are sold as a set at NT$799 (down from NT$1155), i.e. approximately US$25.76 (down from US$37.24).
In China, the Simplified Chinese edition of Wool was published in September 2013. The publisher, Insight Media, adopted the Traditional Chinese edition and modified it here and there to better suit the literary taste of Chinese readers. According to its editor, Ms Zhu Yihong, it is highly likely that Wool would be embraced by Chinese readers. “This is a popular science fiction novel that faces toward the crowds. It has a relatively low threshold -- it became popular in America mainly as a result of word-of-mouth recommendations. Also, the story itself reads well, with no obvious problem such as cultural difference or inexperienced translation that makes it difficult to understand. Furthermore, the author constructs his plots nicely. He successfully creases a sense of suspense, prompting readers to keep reading, with no reason to stop.”
As of the writing of this article, the Simplified Chinese edition of Wool is sold in China in two volumes. The set is listed on Amazon.cn at ¥35.80 (down from ¥58), i.e. approximately US$5.82 (down from US$9.42). The ebook is sold at ¥27.00 per volume, i.e. approximately US$4.39, making the price for the whole ebook the same as that of the pre-sales print book. The English edition is also available at ¥68.60 (down from ¥106.79), i.e. US$11.15 (down from US$17.35).