A new book by Nobel laureate Mo Yan hit the Chinese market on Wednesday amid "Mo Mania", which has swept the country since the writer was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature on Oct 11.
Only 100 copies of Our Jing Ke, a collection of three plays, were on sale at the Genuine and Profound bookstore for a launch organized by the Beijing Genuine and Profound Culture Development Company.
"There was an initial print run of 200,000 copies," said Tang Juan, vice-director of the company's marketing department. "But we only got the first batch last night, and the others are still at the printer."
She said the new book, which is expected to be sold in other parts of the country after Friday, is being pre-ordered at leading online bookstores.
Around 5,000 copies have been ordered at Dangdang.com and 360buy.com.
The cover of the new book features the golden Nobel Prize logo and the words "by China's first Nobel Literature Prize winner Mo Yan".
The book consists of three plays: Our Jing Ke, Farewell to My Concubine and Wife of the Boiler Worker.
Two of them are based on tales of Chinese history, and the third is about an ill-fated zhiqing, urban youths who were sent to the countryside for "re-education" by peasants during China's "cultural revolution" (1966-76).
The anthology of plays comes 34 years after Mo wrote Divorce, his first play, which magazines declined to publish.
Chen Wangzhi, marketing director of the culture company, said the new book will be a best-seller. "We will print more, altogether 300,000 to 500,000 copies, at least," he said.
Chen said film companies had been contacting him to discuss the adaptation of Mo's works, including Big Breasts and Wide Hips and Frog, into films.
The company, the only authorized publishing firm of the book on the Chinese mainland, also holds the rights to adapt some of Mo Yan's works into films.
The new book has been released less than a week after Mo won the Nobel Prize.
"Due to Mo Yan's success, we decided to publish the book ahead of schedule," said Hong Xue, editor of the book.
Our Jing Ke re-tells a story about Jing Ke, an assassin famous for his failed attempt to kill a king who went on to become China's first emperor more than 2,000 years ago.
But the Chinese household story is told from a new perspective in the book, where Jing's assassination attempt is reinterpreted as the result of his desire for instant fame, rather than the result of chivalry and altruism.
Farewell to My Concubine is about the melancholy love story between Xiang Yu, a Chinese warlord during the second century, and his concubine, who killed herself.
Wife of the Boiler Worker tells the story of a female pianist who was re-educated in the countryside and married a boiler worker.
In the preface to his new book, Mo said that although the anthology of plays consists of "simple contents", he treasured the book.
"It is easy to reveal society's dark side, but really hard to reveal the dark side of oneself. I need to dissect myself in the future in a heavy-handed way, to write with a focus on myself," he said. "It is an important part when 'writing with a focus on people.'"
In the preface, which Mo wrote last year after being awarded the Mao Dun Literature Prize, China's most prestigious award for novels, he said: "I will try my best to forget the award in 10 minutes ... to curb my growing vanity."
The author, who admits to being obsessed with plays, also said in the preface that his next work is going to be a play.
The writer, whose pen name "Mo Yan" literally means "Do not speak", was not at the launch.
The prolific 57-year-old has published 11 novels, 20-plus novellas and more than 80 stories since 1982.
Since Mo's success, Chinese readers have been hunting for his books. Many had heard of Mo but did not know what he had written, except for Red Sorghum, which was adapted into an international award-winning movie.
Bookstores in Chinese cities have been left with empty shelves.
"One of my friends in Wuhan (a city in Central China) asked me to buy some copies for him," said Xiong Kui, a Beijing resident who was standing in the chilly wind outside the Genuine and Profound bookstore, waiting to buy the book.
"Books written by Mo Yan did not sell well until last week," said a manager surnamed Wang with the Xinhua Book Store in Zibo, of Shandong province, where Mo's hometown, Gaomi, is located.
"We have ordered more of his books, especially the best-selling Frog," he said, referring to Mo's latest novel that tells of China's family planning policy.
The Beijing Genuine and Profound Culture Development Company previously announced that a new anthology of Mo's works, a combination of novels and essays, will be published at the end of the month.