By HAN SU-YING and DARREN FOONG
HE BOASTS that he's 'Singapore's most prolific novelist', with an impressive sales record to match - 25,000 copies so far, and counting.
He has published six books so far. They are mostly romance books, with teenage protagonists. To help him rake in $12,000 a month he claims to have made since November 2008, fiction writer Low Kay Hwa has an army of sales representatives to push his books in various secondary schools and tertiary institutions.
He even has a catchy name for these students - School Sales Representatives, who number 88 and earn $2 or more for each book they sell.
According to him, they are 'viruses' 'planted in each school' to help grow his readership. But when approached by The New Paper, Mr Low, 23, admitted that these students are selling books without their schools' knowledge.
The national serviceman said candidly: 'I don't really think they will allow it.
'However if they (the students) want to sell it's their own business. Some sell on their blogs, and to those outside their schools.'
On Mr Low's website, he also makes the claim: 'We have an official School Sales Rep in certain schools in Singapore. All you have to do is to contact them, and both of you can meet up in school to complete the sale!
'You need not even move an inch out of your school! '
But what makes him think he is Singapore's most prolific writer?
He has a strange reasoning: When he checked the National Library Board (NLB) website on the status of his five books which they carry, most of the 88 copies were out on loan. This was much more than the number of books people were borrowing from popular Singaporean author Catherine Lim, he claimed.
He went on add: 'I didn't really check, because I couldn't find any other Singaporean novelists other than Catherine Lim.
'I think 'popular' might be a better word, but I don't dare to use 'popular'.'
However, the schools The New Paper contacted were not pleased by the way he is using students to peddle his books. Ms Soh Lai Leng, principal of Holy Innocents' High School, said: 'On visiting the website, we found our students' handphone numbers there. We are concerned about their safety and have asked for them to be removed.
'We want our students to think about the ethics of selling, so we asked them, 'Do you know what you are selling? Will it benefit your friend?' We want to use this as a teaching moment for our students. We will continue to monitor the students' activities in school.'
Teachers have also voiced concerns over the quality of language and values imparted in Mr Low's books.
Ms M Nur, 24, a primary school teacher, read two of Mr Low's titles. She said the books had 'amateurish language', and compared the writing to 'that of a Secondary 1 student'.
On his website, Mr Low, whose O-level English score was C5, recommends that his books be used for silent reading and reviews.
To this, Ms Nur said: 'If the students are going to use them for silent reading, it is not going to help them in their composition writing or English language.'
Another concern is the content.
Ms Nur noted that 'the choice of language is not suitable for schools, and there are expletives in the books'.
It is not just the teachers who are upset. The books cost $15.90 each, and some parents feel that the quality isn't there.
Ms Audrey Goh, an executive secretary in her early 40s, whose daughter is 14, said that the poor language has put her off. She said 'would be mad' if her child bought such books, as 'it is a waste of money'.
But Mr Low, who publishes his books through his company Goody Books, is not perturbed.
He said: 'I know my grammar is not good. Many of my readers e-mail me about the grammatical errors. So I have recently hired an editing company to edit the published books for reprints.'
Asked if he's concerned his books may affect the students' standard of English, he said: 'Frankly, I don't feel responsible if they pick up such language.'
He also does not feel a good novelist has to speak and write well. 'Language is not so important, I'm trying to tell a story,' said the Singapore Polytechnic graduate, who has a diploma in Facilities and Property.
'I write to be read. I don't do it to impress others.'
The NLB said it has included Mr Low's books as part of its bid to promote local writing. One book, Destiny's Cries, has been put in the Adult Fiction section, as 'the story touches on suicides and suicidal thoughts of the protagonists', said an NLB spokesman.
BLOOPERS IN HIS BOOKS
'By then, O levels was cornering.'
'She might not have the prettiest face in the world, but her figure tumbled over everything.'
'What happened yesterday's morning refreshed in my mind instantly.'
'I forwarded circumspectly.'
'Her breathings were so deep that her chest was shuddering up and down with every breath.'
This article was first published in The New Paper.