China’s biggest online publisher, China Literature, part-owned by e-commerce giant Tencent, is planning an English-language expansion.
To date, nearly 10 million original works have been created on its platforms by close to seven million writers. In China the content is largely read on smartphones, with more than 190 million readers having accessed its sample chapters for free. They can buy the (often serialised) works via online micropayments, at which point authors get a share of the revenue.
Despite acknowledging that US and European readers don’t currently have the same inclination as Chinese users to read longer works on smartphones, China Literature hopes to entice English- language readers interested in China’s culture via website and app WebNovel.com. The site has launched with 150 translated titles, 90% of which are offered free, with the rest priced at $0.01 per 100 words. While most of the authors writing on China Literature platforms are amateurs, some—like Tang Jia San Shao (pictured) and Mao Ni—have gone on to enjoy commercial success, with their work brought into print or, in some cases, adapted into comics, games and films.
China Literature hopes the same pattern of exploiting IP will happen in other markets.
International licensing director Aaron Huang said: “Popular online fiction offers a fast, data-supported way for production companies to develop film and TV plots, computer games and other forms of entertainment. Audiences know the characters and story—they’re already sold on it.”
The first step is to build the English-language readership. Sandra Chen, WebNovel product manager, told The Bookseller Daily that the business is looking to acquire local content and find English-language writers who want to write on the WebNovel platform.