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Tencent’s China Literature wants to woo 100,000 American and Canadian writers

China Literature, the country’s biggest web novel publisher, plans to boost its North American business with English works
Online fiction has proven to be a profitable business in China


“We aim to grow the number of North American writers to 100,000 this year,” said Chen, who leads Webnovel, the overseas business unit of China Literature and the name of its English-language website.

Webnovel’s renewed push comes as the number of overseas readers of Chinese web fiction is forecast to grow from 32 million in 2019 to 49 million this year, according to business consultancy iResearch.

Launched in 2017, Webnovel currently has around 100,000 writers – a tiny fraction of the 9 million registered on China Literature’s bevy of platforms. Fewer than half of Webnovel’s authors come from North America, Chen said.
Last year, the platform hosted 200,000 novels, according to financial results posted by the Hong Kong-listed China Literature last week. In comparison, China Literature had 13.9 million literary works across all its platforms.

Just like their Chinese counterparts, authors registered with Webnovel earn money from royalties, as well as revenue share from clicks and tips from readers. The more popular their works are, the more money they receive.
To entice more talented writers to join Webnovel, the platform promises a minimum copyright income and weekly writing workshops, Chen said. It also takes care of promotions.

The best writers get additional benefits. My Vampire System, a fantasy story by British author Jack Sherwin writing under the nom de plume JKSManga, is one of the hottest novels on the platform, boasting 24 million reads. Last year, it won the top prize at Webnovel’s Spirity Awards, taking home US$10,000.

While Chen declined to name the top earners, she said some writers can make over US$10,000 a month.







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It's a growing trend (web/app novel) are find more paying readers.

Webnovel, Tapas, Radish and Wattpad are the major players in this space (English language wise).

I wouldn't be surprised to see hundreds of full-time web/app authors in the very near future.

It has some advantages over self-publishing

1) Fast feedback. Many authors write 1 chapter (about 1000-2000 words) or more each day. They got instant review from readers

2) Tipping from paying readers.

3) Don't worry about the costly editing that a full novel has to go through. Readers are more tolerant in my opinion. They know the author just wrote the chapter hours before it was posted.
 
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I can't remember the details but I seem to recall that Radish has recently changed their payout structure a bit, moving to a subscription model similar to KU.
 

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I'm very skeptical about these types of sites. Always felt more like exploitation. Especially after I inquired (this was with moboreader, but I'm guessing the rates are standard) a few months ago about the rates for translating stuff for them (from English to French). After some math, I saw that I'd have to churn out 10k words a day to make barely $1500 in a month. Granted, that's for translating, but I doubt writers get paid much better.

I suspect part of the problem is cost of life. $1500 a month might well be a lot of money for Chinese writers? I don't know, but it certainly would explain why those sites are so successful in China. But if they want to gain traction outside of China, they're gonna need to adapt.
 

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Yes, this project has been around for quite a while. One thing that stops me is that China is notorious for their plagiarism in everything, from literature to rocket science. They'll steal and reverse-engineer anything provided it shows promise. I'm more than sure that their best English-speaking authors are being stripped of their best ideas even as we speak, which are then adapted for the Chinese market. Oh no, I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole.
 

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Yes, this project has been around for quite a while. One thing that stops me is that China is notorious for their plagiarism in everything, from literature to rocket science. They'll steal and reverse-engineer anything provided it shows promise. I'm more than sure that their best English-speaking authors are being stripped of their best ideas even as we speak, which are then adapted for the Chinese market. Oh no, I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole.
Then again, one might argue (playing Devil's advocate here) that they could still steal your ideas even if you weren't signed up with them... if you do sign up, at least you get something out of it. LOL.

I do wonder though if they phrase their contracts in such a way to make such "borrowing" sound more acceptable. It'd be interesting to look at their terms.
 

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I've actually been reading webnovels for years now, I don't know what they do about quality control but the stories are popular even though writers are basically using the same tropes and spinning them differently. Because of this a lot of the stories end up looking very similar, but I loved it back when I initially got into it. I wouldn't think of writing for webnovel though, because it takes time to build an audience and you don't get paid much before then from what I've read in other forums. Webnovels tend to be long with short chapters posted regularly, anything under 100-150 chapters is considered short to those readers, so it's a lot of commitment for something that might not pay back.
If I did it, I'd do it for fun and to get some feedback on a story that I would then take down and edit then publish, just to build an audience. And while there isn't a heavy emphasis on editing because you're coming up with the book as you go along, but writers are still expected to proofread or edit for themselves. Some good webnovel writers do have their own beta readers/editors, so the story quality, at least for those at the top, isn't bad.
 

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Yeah, The whole China bit would concern me. Same for India too. Both are notorious for not respecting intellectual property/copyrights etc... Plus if you have a dispute...good luck.
 

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Webnovels themselves sound cool. It almost sounds like writing TV. The novel is a show, and the chapters are episodes, and if it's really long, there's probably seasons/arcs like anime.

I'm wary about having a dispute with a foreign company, but now that I'm thinking about it, that's probably just because I'm in the US. This is probably how people who don't live in the states feel about dealing with Amazon and the rest.

The contract disputes mentioned in the article were vague. What if things go sour, is it like Wattpad, can you take all your work off or do they own it?
 

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Webnovels themselves sound cool. It almost sounds like writing TV. The novel is a show, and the chapters are episodes, and if it's really long, there's probably seasons/arcs like anime.
I'm working on something like that right now, except I'm self-publishing it.

This way at least I keep full control and don't have to worry about what some guys in China might or might not do with my stuff ;)
 

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I'm working on something like that right now, except I'm self-publishing it.

This way at least I keep full control and don't have to worry about what some guys in China might or might not do with my stuff ;)
Are you publishing a chapter at a time? Sort of like Dickens writing for papers.
 

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Webnovels themselves sound cool. It almost sounds like writing TV. The novel is a show, and the chapters are episodes, and if it's really long, there's probably seasons/arcs like anime.

I'm wary about having a dispute with a foreign company, but now that I'm thinking about it, that's probably just because I'm in the US. This is probably how people who don't live in the states feel about dealing with Amazon and the rest.

The contract disputes mentioned in the article were vague. What if things go sour, is it like Wattpad, can you take all your work off or do they own it?
I looked a little at the contract and it appeared they not only own it, they can do what they want with it, like movies, TV, etc., and they owe the author nothing. Due to their authors' revolt on this rights grab, they issued a statement that they are "working" on the issue, but as far as I could find, nothing concrete.
 

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Are you publishing a chapter at a time? Sort of like Dickens writing for papers.
Yep, one at a time. But each chapter is designed more like a TV episode, in the sense that they have their own standalone stories. But there are also, of course, (multiple) overarching plots. There are also seasons, which are equivalent to books--so once I have the first 'season' completed, I can put all of those together and re-release as a book.

I've avoided using any TV related language on the covers or blurbs though. That could put off readers. So it's just a structure I'm using behind the scenes. For the readers, there are just novellas/installments and (multiple) series.

I just realized that I even have a pilot episode! Though that was not done on design LOL. It's just that I needed a reader magnet to build my newsletter and so I wrote a short story prequel. And now I realize that's essentially the same thing as a pilot haha. Fun.

I looked a little at the contract and it appeared they not only own it, they can do what they want with it, like movies, TV, etc., and they owe the author nothing. Due to their authors' revolt on this rights grab, they issued a statement that they are "working" on the issue, but as far as I could find, nothing concrete.
Definitely staying away from them, then LOL.

Can't say that I'm too surprised though. And honestly, I doubt they'll make any changes. Or if they do, it'll be in such a way that they still somehow manage to screw over the writers :eek:
 

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Yep, one at a time. But each chapter is designed more like a TV episode, in the sense that they have their own standalone stories. But there are also, of course, (multiple) overarching plots. There are also seasons, which are equivalent to books--so once I have the first 'season' completed, I can put all of those together and re-release as a book.

I've avoided using any TV related language on the covers or blurbs though. That could put off readers. So it's just a structure I'm using behind the scenes. For the readers, there are just novellas/installments and (multiple) series.

I just realized that I even have a pilot episode! Though that was not done on design LOL. It's just that I needed a reader magnet to build my newsletter and so I wrote a short story prequel. And now I realize that's essentially the same thing as a pilot haha. Fun.


Definitely staying away from them, then LOL.

Can't say that I'm too surprised though. And honestly, I doubt they'll make any changes. Or if they do, it'll be in such a way that they still somehow manage to screw over the writers :eek:
Any insights on how that differs from simply writing a series and then creating bundles (seasons) from it? It sounds like your episodes will much shorter than a book, so if I understand correctly, the only difference is that you write write a series of interconnected short stories (chapters) that wind up as a book-length story.

Do you sell each "episode" for 99 cents?


I mean that is pretty much the advice I hear from people who are successfully writing series, and then some series, like Expanse, are spun from novels.
 

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Any insights on how that differs from simply writing a series and then creating bundles (seasons) from it? It sounds like your episodes will much shorter than a book, so if I understand correctly, the only difference is that you write write a series of interconnected short stories (chapters) that wind up as a book-length story.

Do you sell each "episode" for 99 cents?


I mean that is pretty much the advice I hear from people who are successfully writing series, and then some series, like Expanse, are spun from novels.
It's essentially the same thing as a series, except I have different "levels" of series. So, for instance, the first series is 12 stories, though most of the next ones will be 8. Anyway, each group of stories is equivalent to a book, but three series = a trilogy. And then I have groups of trilogies, etc. It's a complex structure, but it allows to weave multiple plots more easily.

The "chapters" are novellas, so they're typically around 15-17k words each. I write (and publish) two a month, which allows time to work on other projects as well (I didn't want this to suck all of my time, as it's planned to run for a long time--assuming they sell well enough, of course, I just launched so still too early to tell).

I sell each novella at $2.99. I've seen enough sold at this price to feel confident it's not going to be a problem. From what I've read, unless you're doing a short story or a promotion, 99c can be perceived as "cheap" and thus in readers' mind equivalent to poor quality.

I've heard of several authors who noticed an increase in novellas sales when they upped their prices from 99c to $2.99, so I decided to go with that. We'll see how it works out in the long run.

BTW, the reason I decided to go with this serialized approach is because of the "20 books to 50k" philosophy. I figured OK, but writing 20 novels will take forever... 20 novellas, OTOH... ;) So I figured it was worth a shot.

The other advantage is that I can do rapid releases... but instead of one a month, or every other month, I have two titles released each month (every other Tuesday, to be specific).

I initially wanted to do one a week, to kind of flood the market LOL, but I had to change that plan when I started working on some long-term translations on the side. I still could have done the 4, but I wouldn't have had time to work on other projects.

So there you have it ;)
 

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It's essentially the same thing as a series, except I have different "levels" of series. So, for instance, the first series is 12 stories, though most of the next ones will be 8. Anyway, each group of stories is equivalent to a book, but three series = a trilogy. And then I have groups of trilogies, etc. It's a complex structure, but it allows to weave multiple plots more easily.

The "chapters" are novellas, so they're typically around 15-17k words each. I write (and publish) two a month, which allows time to work on other projects as well (I didn't want this to suck all of my time, as it's planned to run for a long time--assuming they sell well enough, of course, I just launched so still too early to tell).

I sell each novella at $2.99. I've seen enough sold at this price to feel confident it's not going to be a problem. From what I've read, unless you're doing a short story or a promotion, 99c can be perceived as "cheap" and thus in readers' mind equivalent to poor quality.

I've heard of several authors who noticed an increase in novellas sales when they upped their prices from 99c to $2.99, so I decided to go with that. We'll see how it works out in the long run.

BTW, the reason I decided to go with this serialized approach is because of the "20 books to 50k" philosophy. I figured OK, but writing 20 novels will take forever... 20 novellas, OTOH... ;) So I figured it was worth a shot.

The other advantage is that I can do rapid releases... but instead of one a month, or every other month, I have two titles released each month (every other Tuesday, to be specific).

I initially wanted to do one a week, to kind of flood the market LOL, but I had to change that plan when I started working on some long-term translations on the side. I still could have done the 4, but I wouldn't have had time to work on other projects.

So there you have it ;)
Sounds exciting and fits well with much of what I have learned about series and their readers. If you can sell the chapters at $2.99 that makes a lot of sense (financially). I hope you'll report back as you explore this approach.
 

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That's cool @ASG I poked around on the website and it's interesting. How would you describe what you write? Looking around it looks like anime-ish tropes and light novel-ish or adjacent.
 

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That's cool @ASG I poked around on the website and it's interesting. How would you describe what you write? Looking around it looks like anime-ish tropes and light novel-ish or adjacent.
Wrong website ;) The project I mentioned above is written under a pen name, so it's not listed on there. It's high fantasy that builds up into epic, with some darkness thrown in for good measure.

It's funny though that you got that anime vibe as I don't do anime at all haha. But in retrospect, I think I can see why you got that vibe.

"La chanson de Roland" is a space opera, though that one was written in French.
 

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Wrong website ;) The project I mentioned above is written under a pen name, so it's not listed on there. It's high fantasy that builds up into epic, with some darkness thrown in for good measure.

It's funny though that you got that anime vibe as I don't do anime at all haha. But in retrospect, I think I can see why you got that vibe.

"La chanson de Roland" is a space opera, though that one was written in French.
Sorry, I wasn't clear in my post. I checked out webnovel, and I saw a lot that looked manga, light novel, and anime-ish, and my question was more if you're writing in that lane, or if you're just taking the format and running with it.

I know some tropes cross over, like herem and reverse herem. There's actually a lot of similarities when you browse tv tropes, but at the same time a different feel. Your project just piqued my interest!
 
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