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Star power publishing
Publication Date : 23-07-2014
When celebrities dip their toes in the world of publishing, they can harness thousands of fans into an energetic promotional force
When singer-actor Jimmy Lin from Taiwan attended a promotional event for his autobiography Have Patience for Time, in June, thousands of people crammed into the bookstore to meet their idol and buy his book. When news broke late last year that the star, widely known as Lin Zhiying on the Chinese mainland, was writing a book about his life, including his 22 years in the entertainment industry, the country's social media went wild with speculation. Fans snapped up 200,000 copies of the book within a week of its release.
Publishers have noticed the power of fans in promoting books by celebrities and are making good use of this to sell the books.
Late last year, when Le Jia, 39, a man who rose to fame as a commentator on a popular TV dating show, was about to launch his new book, his publisher decided to hold a public signing event in Beijing, raising funds for the event through a crowd funding website. The stunt worked to promote Le's book.
People who ordered and paid through the crowd funding website for more than two copies, paying 76 yuan ($12), got a ticket for the signing. The publisher predicted it would take a month to raise 50,000 yuan to run the event - it took less than 20 days.
To the publisher's surprise, the book, "Ben Se", or True Color, sold 500,000 copies in a few months, and now is already down nearly 700,000 copies.
"It is a miracle, even though we were always confident in the book's popularity," says Lin Moyan, a marketing executive with Beijing MediaTime Books that published the book.
"Fans are an important buying force for celebrity books, but what they are capable of is far beyond that," Lin says, adding that the book's popularity is partly because it is worth reading - the author spent eight years writing it - but also because Le has many fans.
Le has nearly 41 million followers on micro blog Sina Weibo, each time he posts, he receives thousands of comments, forwards and likes.
When Le posted about his new book, he prompted a huge reaction online.
Luo Zhenyu, host of the online social-issues talk show, Luoji Siwei (Logical Thinking), did not bother holding a media conference to promote his new book, instead he simply reached out to the talk show's more than 1 million WeChat followers.
Ahead of the publication of his new book in October last year, Luo announced the news through WeChat, a popular mobile messaging platform. When the book was on the market, he launched a series of online promotional events using social media, including Sina Weibo and WeChat, asking his followers to show others and comment on his book.
His followers were so supportive that one of the events made the top 10 topics on Sina Weibo, reaching an even wider audience.
It is common for fans to help publishers and publicity firms to organize promotional events for celebrities' books, both online and off it. Many fans promote the books through word of mouth, technically called viral marketing.
When Lin told the media that he would publish an autobiography, his fans suggested he used more photographs taken in his youth, and some fans e-mailed him soft copies of photos they have kept all these years. The photos taken by fans are an even more complete record of Lin's career than his own collection, according to a Beijing Youth Daily report.
Liu Jiehui, vice-president of Beijing MediaTime Books, also one of the largest private publishing companies in China, says that since social media brings celebrities and fans much closer than traditional communication channels, it is easier for publishers to rely on celebrities' influence on fans to promote books, yet the quality of the books also matters if they are to be successfully sold on the market.