All of a sudden, Lala has become a household word in mainland cities. It is the name of the heroine in a best-selling novel, a movie adaptation, an upcoming TV series and a stage play, and it has become a term for women in the rising middle class. The success of the book A Story of Lala's Promotion and the business it has spawned is unprecedented. and shows China's culture industry has risen to the level of its Western peers in the commercialisation of a novel. The story of an ordinary woman who survives in a Fortune 500 company originally appeared in part on an internet forum. It soon became a novel, selling nearly four million copies in the past three years. Then came the movie, and now the TV series and play, and Lala is soon to become a brand of footwear. All told, Lala has generated about 300 million yuan (HK$343.5 million) in commercial value, according to Beijing Booky Publishing, the book's publisher and agent of author Li Ke. Wang Yong, Booky's executive vice-general manager, was completely absorbed by the story when he read the first two chapters online. 'Lala worked in a private company briefly before she joined a US-invested company,' Wang said, describing the story. 'During her three months' stay in the private company, she was sexually harassed by her boss, a farmer-turned-entrepreneur. The boss touched her foot under the table at a meeting. Lala felt like a fat rat was moving on her foot. The depiction was impressive. I contacted the writer immediately.' Lala's work experience is common to urban white-collar workers. She graduated from a mainland university. Pretty but not beautiful, she worked hard but was not fully recognised. In her dealings with colleagues and clients every day, she tries to get things done and soon gains insight into people and the internal politics of a corporation. From a sales assistant earning 4,000 yuan a month, Lala rises over the course of eight years to become a human resources director earning about 25,000 yuan a month. 'The novel is about the growth of Lala from a na?ve graduate to a mature professional,' Wang said. 'It is the first of its kind on the mainland.' The first mainlanders joined foreign companies in 1980s, when China was opening up to the world. They were the first professionals to do things according to international practices and comply with a foreign corporate culture. Thirty years later, their lives have become a novel. Veteran workers found the story familiar, Wang said. Novices learn the rules of survival and success as they discover that life in a foreign company can be far different than a career in a state-owned enterprise. 'Compared with previously popular novels on civil servants and businessmen, Lala is a much brighter and cleaner figure,' he said. 'She works hard and depends on herself to succeed, providing a healthy and positive value.' The publisher focused its promotion campaigns on online bookstores, reading societies and financial website chat rooms, targeting young internet users. 'The internet has changed the writing and reading habits of the Chinese,' Wang said. 'I read literature websites every day to find interesting stories. Depending on the visits each story gets, a successful writer can earn one million yuan a year by publishing their stories on some literature websites. We search the websites to find candidates to be published as books.' The results were impressive. Lala topped the list of best-selling novels on online bookstore Dangdang.com for 88 weeks and on Joyo Amazon's online store for 87 weeks between 2007, when the first book of the trilogy was published, and this year. Copyrights were sold for other media. The drama was staged last year in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing and other cities, and a second tour will kick off in the second half of this year. The movie was shown in April this year, with ticket revenue exceeding 100 million yuan in two weeks. The TV series will be broadcast starting next month. Wang said a footwear company had bought the right to use the name for a brand of shoes. And the publisher is in talks with a US company to develop an internet game with scenarios similar to the Lala story. Lala is also generating revenue through product placements. These subtle advertisements for cars, bank cards, beverages and holiday resorts are everywhere in the movie. 'Revenue from plug-in ads is about 20 million yuan for the Lala movie and 18 million yuan for the TV series,' Wang said. 'We can also include such ads in our books. Many job-hunter companies have already expressed interest.'