Web novels in China have gained so much popularity in recent years that they are making their authors millionaires and helping their publishers to list on the stock exchange.
China Reading Ltd, a company founded in 2015 through the integration of the e-publishing platforms of Tencent and Shanda groups, was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in November.
The Chinese Internet Literature Association has released its top 100 list of the most influential writers for the past three years. In 2017, 80 percent of the authors on the list were published and represented by China Reading.
"A large number of the Chinese population are shifting their everyday behavior to the internet," says Wu Wenhui, CEO of China Reading, "and in the process, I hope they will find web access for reading as well".
Wu was one of 15 winners at the Shanghai Publishers Awards issued by the municipal administration of press and publications on Feb 24.
"Wu Wenhui founded the leading online literature platform, Qidian, when the industry in China was still in its infancy," the announcement reads."He successfully created the commercial model and payment system for online literature, which has since become the industry standard."
The business model is quite straightforward. Writers of web novels typically post their stories in the form of a series, updating their work regularly and often. Avid readers then pay for the updates via the e-publishing platform, which then splits the profits with the author. This has helped to create quite a few big-name writers－who have made good money in the process.
Ye Feiye, an author with China Literature Ltd since 2009, says at the beginning she made around 10,000 yuan (,581) per month as an online writer, but within the space of a year her monthly income reached 200,000 yuan. Ye attributes the evolution of the industry to her success.
She witnessed the rapid development of internet literature in China. "Everything has become regulated. It is no longer that difficult to become a big-shot writer on the web.
"It all depends on the sales volume," she says.
When a novel becomes extremely popular online, the author will often be approached about potential TV and film adaptations. The copyright of Ye's book Bringing the Nation's Husband Home was sold to a TV production company for more than 1 million yuan.
Writers in China have been posting their stories on the internet since its early days. In the beginning, online literature was widely criticized for its poor quality and its sexual or sensational content. However, when good business models and industry regulations are established, "you will find that the majority of the consumers go for quality content", Wu says. "They may be attracted to the entertaining stuff, but they soon find that only the truly good stories are worth paying for."
China Reading now has more than 190 million registered users, with the majority of them paying for the material they read, although the company declined to reveal the specific number.
In 2017, China Reading started a partnership with wuxiaworld.com, the largest Chinese-to-English translation platform in the world. Founded in 2014 by passionate fans of Chinese martial arts fantasy tales in the United States, Wuxiaworld is now one of the top 2,000 websites in the U.S., and has millions of page views per day.