Changing world of publishing offers new possibilities for success, Yang Yang reports in Beijing.
Eight years have passed since Zuo Lei arrived in Beijing after graduating from a college in Shandong province. Working as a director at a TV station in late 2012, the 31-year-old made a difficult decision. He quit his job and became a full-time writer on a professional online literature platform that specializes in voluminous novels updated daily.
"Writing stories has been my dream since I was very young. Although, as a TV director, I could also tell stories, there were too many restrictions," he said. "I have a very strong desire to share my stories with other people, and online literature platforms offer me the chance to do so while guaranteeing a regular income.
Zuo, who writes around 6,000 words a day, can earn about 4,000 yuan ($650) a month, a little less than in his previous job. However, he pointed out that he is just starting out and as his story develops and he writes more, he will gain more readers and better income.
Some popular Chinese online writers can make more than 30 million yuan in a five-year period, not only from readers' online payments, but also from the royalties paid by publishers of books and comics, video game developers and film and TV rights.
The British writer E.L. James, author of the Fifty Shades Trilogy, which sold more than 70 million copies in eight months, topped the list of the world's best-paid authors in 2013, earning an estimated $95 million, according to Forbes. James originally published the story episodically on websites under the pen name of Snowqueens Icedragon. A film adaptation is scheduled to hit the big screen in August.
One of Zuo Lei's models in China is Yang Hao, who writes online under the name Sanjiedashi. After five years of diligent writing, Sanjiedashi, which means Master of Three Commandments, now earns an annual six-digit income and his three completed online novels have been published as conventional books.
Yang said that despite the explosion in online literature during the past 10 years and the tremendous market potential that has attracted more writers and funding, the format is unable to enter the mainstream literary world, which is still dominated by traditional publishing houses. The main reason for this is the generally low quality of work on offer.
Spurred by their falling market share and revenues, traditional publishers are seeking to cooperate with online platforms. The Internet offers quicker and wider access to a growing number of readers, but to obtain recognition from mainstream readers, online novels also need a traditional print run.