Saturday, June 9, 2012

Finding Zen and Book Contracts in Beijing

It’s a Sunday afternoon and Beijing’s biggest bookstore is preparing for a major event: the launch of a new book by a bestselling American author, who will be on hand for the occasion. Six-foot banners on the sidewalk out front announce the talk, along with posters in the windows and a big display of books in the foyer of the 170,000-square-foot store. Up on the sixth floor, a conference room filled with sixty people quietly awaits….Bill Porter.
Few people in the West have heard of Porter, a translator of Chinese poetry and religious works whose books in print—many of them published by a small non-profit, Copper Canyon Press—rarely sell more than a thousand copies each year. For most of the past decade, he says, his annual income has hovered around $15,000. Several of his books humorously thank the US Department of Agriculture—for providing food stamps that have kept him and his family going....

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