As recounted in this week’s edition of the Southern Metropolis Daily book review, Murong Xuecun posted an “Open Letter to Shanda Literature” on his blog complaining that he had received no royalties whatsoever during the three years he granted the netlit giant exclusive digital rights to his book Dancing Through Red Dust (原谅我红尘颠倒 , 2008).
Shanda was supposed to share revenue with the author at a 7:3 split (in the author’s favor), to paid out quarterly. In his open letter, Murong declared his intention to terminate the agreement if his revenue was truly zero. He retracted the open letter when Shanda representatives called him and gave him a full royalty statement, which if anything was more of an insult: the company explained that it only issued royalty statements in amounts greater than 500 RMB, and Murong’s novel had only accumulated 300 RMB in royalties over three years.
That sum represents his share of income from 5.5 million clicks, serializations rights in Singapore, and an e-book.
Murong Xuecun shot to fame with Leave Me Alone, Chengdu (成都，今夜请将我遗忘, 2002), which was posted to the Tianya BBS before making the jump to print. His recent novels have appeared in print first, which may account for their poor performance in the online marketplace.
However, the Shanghai Morning Post adds a wrinkle that suggests there’s more to this than simple reading habits:
Murong Xuecun said, “I asked once in 2009 and they said then that my share was more than 1,400 RMB. More than a year later, that’s become a bit more than 300 RMB. I don’t know how the books are being kept.”
Regardless of how the royalties ended up so low, Murong’s experience will likely lead other print-based authors to think twice about signing e-publishing contracts. Shanghai-based author Chen Cun concludes:
Murong Xuecun’s Red Dust is market-tested and sold quite well. On Shanda Literature it made 100 smackers a year. Who wants partner up with a 100-a-year company?