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Turning a new page: Writers of online fiction taste fame and fortune

By Song Jingyi | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-01-04 10:33

Turning a new page: Writers of online fiction taste fame and fortune

Passengers on a Line 2 subway train in Beijing turn to their smartphones to read books, magazines, or simply play games, to break up their journeys. [Photo provided to China Daily]

It has been eight years since Tang Xintian, a post-80s woman in Beijing, started working as a freelance writer.

Tang majored in economics and began working as analyst in Shanghai after graduation. However, it was her passion for writing that made her quit her job and started to write novels online.

In 2009, Tang started by posting her stories on Hongxiu Tianxiang website, China's largest community of fiction lovers online. Luckily, her first novel was weel accepted and ranked in the top three on the website. Later, it even got published.

Tang was greatly inspired by this success, and has been working as an online writer since then. In 2011, she became more popular across the country when the TV series Naked Wedding, based on her novel, became a hit.

Despite her popularity, Tang continues to post her works online, because she has found internet "a very good place to let people know your work, especially publishers and readers."

"Not many people who are fond of writing actually end up getting their work published, whether as books, or in magazines or newspapers. But the digital platform offers a way for writing enthusiasts to share their work," said You Ting, the vice-president of iReader, China's leading brand for digital reading, at a cultural event in Beijing on Dec 30, 2016.

Turning a new page: Writers of online fiction taste fame and fortune

You Ting, the vice-president of iReader, China's leading brand for digital reading, gives a speech at a cultural event in Beijing on Dec 30, 2016. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

"To share their writing with online readers on iReader would-be authors just need to register with one of the literature websites, " You added.

The iReader was created eight years ago and has 600 million users, 20 million of whom use it every day, according to a report published at the 2016 World Internet Conference by Zhang Lingyun, founder of iReader.

New technology has accelerated books' migration to digital arena. In 2015, about 64 percent of adults read digitally, up 5.9 percent compared with 2014, while 58.4 percent read paper books, only 0.4 percent increase, according to an annual survey conducted by Chinese Academy of Press and Publication.

"It [internet] has changed the way we read, we write and sell books in profound ways. It makes it easier for us to buy books, but at the same time make it easier to stop reading them. It has brought the universe of books to our fingertips, and transformed the solitary act of reading into something far more social," said You Ting

Online literature has created a whole industrial chain, including books, movies, TV plays, and games. The 2016 TV drama Medical Examiner Dr. Qin created a huge fan following across the nation. Adapted from doctor-turned-writer Qin Ming's online literature The 11th Finger, the drama follows Dr. Qin, his assistant Da Bao, and police officer Lin Tao as they solve various bizarre cases.

According to Mao Minfeng, the deputy editor-in-chief of CS-Booky, the co-producer of the Dr. Qin drama, the novel, one of the top favorites online for a long time, is a mature and complete story. The lack of good scripts has been a major obstacle for the domestic drama industry, but online novels have brought a good platform for them to choose scripts. Dr Qin is a good beginning for the company's attempts at adapting online literature into dramas.

During the cultural event, Tang Xintian recalled the sea change with the online writers around her.

"Digital reading era has changed the mind of friends around me. Previously, they focused on how to make a decent living from writing online. However, they now have realized that there is great promise and opportunity during the literacy creation and started considering it as their life-time career. They began to reflect on how their writing will influence readers and how to preserve it for history."

You Ting has seen the evolution of digital-books in China. "A growing trend in the publishing business is for online novels to be used as the basis for printed books, movies and even computer games. Popular online novels that have accumulated a large audience and recognition are seen as a guarantee of market success."

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