Friday, November 25, 2005

"Hit Rate Novel"

Preetam shared this article with me on something called the "Hit Rate Novel" that's happening in China (original article in Mandarin here):
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.

Will this be the new publishing phenomenon? Ok, this is what's reported in the second-last para:
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."

Related article here.

I tried to verify the news by checking if there were other websites that report on "hit rate novels" but couldn't find any other. Maybe this is the only English translation.

Preetam says the news is reliable, and that in China there's a flourishing trade in "blog-to-book" deals. He visits China and has quite a few contacts there, so I'll certainly take his word.

I'm not surprised such a phenomenon is picking momentum in China. When Tony Ferguson spoke on ebooks in China, he gave insights on the success factors behind the ebook production and consumption in China.

Recently, I was told by a colleague that PDAs are now sold with Chinese software as a default (when in the past you had to buy and install the Chinese reader software separately).

I wonder how much of the rise of the "Hit Rate Novel" is due to the large domestic demand in China (1.3 billion -- how the heck does one visualise that kind of number?)

And if demand is a critical success factor, does this mean this model wouldn't work for a country like Singapore? Maybe it would, for Singaporean authors who write in Mandarin. A good story is a good story anywhere, isn't it?

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  1. i can imagine it working for certain genres. Detective Fiction and Sci-Fic comes to mind. For instance, i understand that the Sherlock Holmes series first appeared as serialized stories in The Strand and so was originally Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. But these were short stories. I can't quite imagine reading an entire novel online. The hit rate may thus suffer leading to a false impression that the book is not marketable. Anyway, I always had this romantic notion that publishers should bet the ranch on a book they truly believe in...haha.....guess not..

  2. I know the publisher for Robert Persig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" did... well not exactly bet the ranch but the publisher kept up his correspondence with Persig and took a chance with the book idea at a time when everyone else rejected Persig's proposal. I learnt this from Persig's own explanation in one of the edition of "ZAAMM".

  3. Well, if the popularity is based on the blog, and there's a high hit-rate, that might mean hits coming from overseas. Then the challenge becomes the distribution.. If it was a small publisher taking a chance on a blog2book, then they might not sell online or be able to meet the demand overseas at all. Even in the US, Megatokyo, for instance, had some problems with selling its books and gear outside the US for a while. (I think!)

    As for Isaac Asimov, I know the Union Club started out serialized. Did Black Widowers? But it points to certain possibilities in character-centric series of short stories. Different mysteries get solved every story so it doesn't drag, and maybe you can sell a compilation now and then. (Kind of like Wisely?)

    (Come to think of it, didn't some of Jin Yong's stories start out serialized in a newspaper? Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was also first serialized in radio I think. Like a podcast! I know at least one of the leading sci-fi writers released one of his short-stories as an mp3 file for free download.)

    Anyway, on the topic of book-writing, Ivan, I saw your book (indirectly tomorrowed!)! Is it your first? heh.. the cover looks good! I'm definitely going to buy one set for my niece. I think librarians writing books sounds good...


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