Self-publishing: it’s exploding in popularity, we all know that, with self-published authors selling millions via Amazon’s Kindle, pushing traditionally published authors out of the top spots on new ebook charts, etc etc. But did you know that self-publishing websites are attracting more than 40% of all China’s internet users every month? I didn’t, and I am reeling, a little, from the statistic.
These aren’t Authonomy-esque, publish-and-be-encouraged-by-fellow-writers sorts of sites, though, or even collections of self-published novels. The websites host what is being dubbed “freemium” publishing. Publishing Perspectives has more details: a growing number of self-publishing websites host thousands of free-to-read web serials – anything from historical epics to sci-fi – posted by their authors. As a serial gathers critical mass, the author is invited to become a “VIP”, and readers have to pay for the new instalments – only a few yuan, but these micropayments from readers can number in the millions: China Daily reports that one author, the 26-year-old Huang Wei, makes more than more than Y1m a year (£100,000).
“It’s pure entertainment, written, downloaded, read and deleted all at top speed,” says Beijing-based literary translator and publishing consultant Eric Abrahamsen, who also writes for the Chinese publishing industry newsletter Paper Republic. “Basically all of this writing is genre fiction. It is produced by young writers and aimed at young readers.”