"Hit Rate" Novels:  A Change in Publishing Method?

(People's Daily via MediaChina)  "Hit Rate" Novels:  A Change in Publishing Method?  By Yang Wenwen (杨文雯).  November 17, 2005.

It is a new fashion for readers to get on the Internet to read various kinds of Internet novels.  These are different from the Internet novels that appeared some years ago in that the Internet writers, the websites and the publishing companies have experimented and discovered a new "triple-win" approach of doing publishing: an obscure writer publishes his/her work on the Internet, the readers flock to read it on the Internet and the book publisher watches what is happening.  If the Internet novel achieves a high hit rate, there is a good chance that the published book may become a bestseller.  Thus, a "hit rate novel" has just emerged.

If you walk into the Arts & Literature section of a Guangzhou shopping center, you will find "hit rate" novels such as "My heart is always soft 我总是心太软" and "An Angel Will Love You For Me 会有天使替我爱你" on the bestsellers' shelf, attracting many young browsers.  The reporter randomly flipped through several books.  These books are prettily packaged, and some of the book covers are clearly marked: the hottest Internet novel of 2005, a fairy-tale love story that must not be missed; a work about an astonishing medical breakthrough, a youth novel that is an Internet hit; the most popular eastern fantasy story on the Internet; and so on.

The hottest Internet novel of the year was "My heart is always soft" which was drawing 200,000 readers per day when it appeared in serialized form on the Internet, with more than 1 million people having read it.  The popularity and high hit rate drew the attention of the publisher.  The publisher designed a detailed marketing plan and then the novel made the transition from Internet to paper-form to satisfy the readers' need to read the novel smoothly and conveniently.

"Hit rate novels" represent a new publishing model different from ordinary Internet novels.  Many unknown writers have started to publish their works on the Internet in the hope of being accepted by publishers or distributors.  Many book publishers and distributors have specialist editors who keep an eye on the creative works of various Internet writers.  When they meet the publishers' requirements, there will be a formal discussion of doing a deal.  So just when the Internet novel is moving towards a crescendo with the highest hit rate ever, the website stops updating.  Do you want to know how the novel ends?  Please go to your nearest bookstore!

When a novel gets published on account of the high hit rate, the writer enjoys the financial rewards.  In order to get even higher hit rates, some professional writers will even write according the specifications of the publisher; the websites get more hits when the novels are popular; the publishers use the hit rate and popularity to judge the market, and get good sales results.

What will the "hit rate novels" change?  According to Guangdong Province Academy of Literature contract writer Sheng Kiyi said: "The development of the Internet provides a new space for literature lovers to write and publish.  When Internet literature show up in traditional paper copies, it is easier for reading and dissemination.  A high hit rate can expand the influence of the writer, but a high hit rate does not imply that this is a good work.  Internet writers emphasize more on the external appearance of the language, whereas traditional writers emphasize more on the inner content of the language.  'Hit rate novels' cannot make fundamental changes in people's methods of aesthetic judgment."

The reporter browsed through some websites and found that Internet-published novels are usually serialized.  The most popular types are "romance+martial arts," also mysteries and science fiction, which are lacking in deep thinking.  Jinan University Journalism and Communications Studies professor Dong Tiance said: "The major selling point of popular culture is its fashionable nature.  High hit rates lead to a market, but this is a kind of fashionable cultural consumption with a short lifespan.  It is not impossible to get some good quality works, but the overall quality of the novels would seem to be still quite infantile." 

Guangdong province Writers Association Vice-chairman Xie Wangxin said: "It is understandable that writers may want to change their method for survival.  But it is very difficult to become a real writer through this popular means.  It will be very rare for works coming by this method to be really accepted by the readers in a meaningful way."