Athletes win over book market

Source:Global Times Published: 2012-8-9 20:10:03

Lin Dan's book. Photo: Courtesy of Motie 
Lin Dan's book. Photo: Courtesy of Motie

Lin Dan, lovingly nicknamed Super Dan, overpowered Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei last Sunday to win the gold medal in men's singles at the London Olympic badminton tournament. The same day, his new autobiography Until the End of the World was released in China.

"That night, 10,000 copies were sold on 360buy, Amazon and Dangdang," Lü Yangyang, marketing manager for Motie, the book's publishing company, told Global Times.

Until the End of the World

Until the End of the World, the title of the book, matches the tattoo Lin Dan sports on his right arm. The phrase is meant to convey that his love for badminton will last until the end of time.

In his autobiography, Lin Dan documents his journey in becoming the world's top badminton player. Gaining a reputation for both his quick temper and unrivaled skills, Lin Dan has quickly branded himself as China's bad boy of badminton. Pictures in the book highlight Lin's experience throughout the years. 

"Until the End of the World focuses on his struggle behind the arena," said Lü.

"The idea for the book was planted last year. Lin Dan participated in designing the book's structure. He recorded what he wanted to say and gave it to editors. After the editors went through it, Lin Dan revised and rewrote parts where necessary."

Active athletes

Many athletes release autobiographies during the peak of their careers, and it's no coincidence that such books have been published around the time of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Duzi Shangchang (Alone on Stage) was released last month by Li Na, a Chinese professional tennis player, and Dare to be a Champion was published in January by Lee Chong Wei, a Malaysian badminton player.

In the past, other athletes have also seized the right moment to maximize the impact of their autobiographies.

I Am Liu Xiang by Liu Xiang, China's 110-meter hurdler who had the nation in his hands following his fall a few days ago and Yao: A Life in Two Worlds by Yao Ming, famed basketball player, were both published in 2004.

"Popular Olympic athletes are coveted by publishers," senior publisher Kong Ning told West China City Daily.

"In the short term, autobiographies by popular athletes will see good sales. But whether the sales will continue is hard to say, since Olympic fever is ephemeral. The autobiographies with consistent sales are about people who are relevant in both culture and history."

Chinese tennis player Li Na might be facing a different story, as she lost her first match in the Olympic Games.  The release date for her autobiography has been pushed forward.

When asked about what they anticipate from sales, Ma Ying, editor of CITIC Press Corporation and the publisher of Li Na's book said, "We will not change our plan because of Li's performance in Olympic Games. She has proved herself many times, and we cannot judge people only on their success. It is content that matters for a book."

Commercially driven ?

Liu Xuan said that autobiographies help readers gain an understanding of the lives of athletes, to see them as more than just idols.

"These athletes have something worth learning from. Their autobiographies benefit people," Liu said.

But some question the commercialization of athletes who suddenly turn from the racket to the pen.

"Honestly speaking, I wouldn't buy Lin Dan's book. The publishing is so commercialized. It has become a trend for professional athletes to immerse themselves in commercial things," said Ding Zhihui, an avid reader from Hefei, Anhui Province.

"The trend for popular athletes to publish an autobiography is commercially driven. Athletes get both financial reward and fame through this. But there is little significance in the actual content of the books. Athletes should just focus in their competitions," Zhao Yan, a cultural critic, told Global Times.

Because athletes are not professional writers, ghost writers are often responsible for the majority of their autobiography. Li Na disclosed that some parts of her biography were written by others.

"Many athletes do not have a [formal] education. So ghostwriting is inevitable. But this is dishonest," said Zhao. "Olympic champions who are not famous and are living off the radar should be given more attention. Their autobiography might offer readers a [different perspective.]"

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