By Shi Fang, Chen Yuanyuan, People's Daily
The revenue of the Chinese online literature market surged from 2.45 billion yuan ($356.7 million) in 2012 to 26.72 billion yuan in 2021, said a report released by the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association at the sixth China Online Literature + Conference recently held in Beijing.
According to the report, the number of online literary works expanded from around 8 million to over 32 million during the same period, and the number of registered authors from 4.19 million to 22.78 million.
IP licensing revenue of the Chinese online literature industry grew from less than 100 million yuan to more than 4 billion yuan, and the industry gained over 2.9 billion yuan from the overseas market in 2021, up from 400 million yuan in 2018.
Online literature is a literary form whose creation and communication are internet-based. Most authors of online literary works are young people.
When the industry just emerged, its subjects were mostly fantasy, mystery and xianxia, also known as spirit cultivation. It was later developed into more than 200 sub-categories under some 30 subjects, such as urban, history, sci-fi, industry, education and traditional culture. There are many online literary works that well depict the modern society and mirror the development of the times.
He Changzai is a member of the national committee of the Chinese Writers Association and vice chairman of Hebei Network Writers Association. A trip to Shenzhen, the forefront of China's reform and opening up, inspired him to portray the great journey of the economic reform of the country in the past four decades, and later he published the novel Haodang, which literally means magnificence in Chinese. The novel soon earned him awards and became a hot seller.
"The great time we live in must be recorded by someone. Only by living in a down-to-earth manner can we create fantastic contemporary works that keep the common touch," He said.
Online literary works enjoy huge development potential as they can be made into a number of peripheral products such as TV series, animations, reality shows, games, documentaries, stage shows, online performance, among others.
Miu Juan, who writes literary works online, said she enjoys the creation of online literature as she can get immediate feedback from her readers as she updates her works.
In 2021, over 32 million online literary works were published in China, and the number of registered online authors were five times more than that 10 years ago.
Insiders believe that online literature can be transformed into multiple business forms thanks to the diversity of authors and content.
Online literature is a mirror of people's mentality in today's world, which is an advantage enjoyed by online literary works when being transformed into other products.
"Interactivity is the biggest difference between online literature and traditional literature. Interaction with readers enriches authors' creation and makes authors more responsive in portraying the reality," said Huang Jie, deputy editor-in-chief of Tencent Video.
According to her, online literary works tell stories about workplace, youth and hot topics that are closer to people's life.
"I never thought that I'd be an author. It was under the advice from my husband that I started to write stories I wanted to read," said a Philippine woman who names herself TheBlips online and is a fan of Chinese online literature. Having been writing on the international site of a Chinese online literature platform for four years, she is of some renown among local readers.
There are hundreds of thousands of overseas writers like her writing on the international versions of Chinese online literature platforms. So far, overseas platforms operated by relevant Chinese enterprises have published more than 300,000 literary works and gained over 145 million readers. Over 200,000 foreign readers have started writing novels online of various subjects in multiple languages. A development path that exports Chinese literary works, copyrights, as well as production models and culture has been preliminarily taken shape.
Online literature is an important way for many foreign readers to understand China. In 2021, more than 300,000 Chinese online literary works were exported.
"I started to know China as a child watching TV dramas like The Legend of the Condor Heroes and Justice Pao," said the head of an online reading platform in Thailand. Now the online literature is a window for him to learn about China.
According to Xiao Jinghong, deputy head of the institute of internet literature of the China Writers Association, Chinese sci-fi, romance and comedy literature, dramas and movies were popular overseas, and online literature is bringing Chinese stories to more overseas readers.