On November 16, 2020, the first International Network Literature Week opened in Shanghai. At this event, China Literature Group and other Chinese web novel platforms jointly released the “2020 White Paper on the Overseas Development of Web Novels“.

According to the white paper, by the end of 2019, more than 10,000 online novels from China had been published in foreign languages. In 2019 alone, 3000 novels were added. Of these, 72% of the novels are translated by existing Chinese web novels, 15.5% are written directly in foreign languages without a Chinese version, and 5.6% have made a lot of rewriting for overseas readers.

The White Paper also points out that the overseas market size of Chinese web novels has exceeded 100 million yuan(about $15 million), and the number of overseas readers of Chinese online novels is in the tens of millions.

Chinese online fiction companies are also trying to attract overseas writers to write directly in their own language. On China Literature Group’s sub-brand Webnovel, there have been more than 100,000 foreign writers and more than 160,000 web novels. These overseas authors are mainly from Southeast Asia and North America, with slightly more female authors than male authors, and most of them are under the age of 25.

In the theme of the novel, fantasy, romance, and magical realism are the three categories with the largest number of works.

Earning money from writing web novels is driving a change in the lives of authors around the world. For example, Philippine writer theBlips’s masterpiece “The Villain’s Wife” won first place in the spring competition held by WebNovel in the Philippines. After her work was welcomed by many readers at WebNovel, she became the breadwinner of her family by virtue of her creative income.

In terms of readers’ reading preferences, the White Paper divides overseas readers into three categories:

One is “hardcore fantasy lovers”, who have a strong interest in Chinese fairy fantasy types. They are also loyal readers of the top works of Chinese web novels, like “True Martial World” and other works, from which they can feel the charm of oriental culture and empathize with the growth of the protagonists.

One is the “fresh element chaser”, who enters the world of web novels through popular works such as “Full Marks Hidden Marriage“. They like the new elements of various new types of novels, such as different character settings, time backgrounds, and storylines, and collate books with different elements and characteristics to share with book friends.

There is also a group of people who are “lovers of Western elements” and like western fantasy elements such as magic. They like “Lord of the Mysteries“, which combines western cultural background with oriental literary thinking. 

In addition, the value of adapting online novels into movies and TV dramas is also on the rise. Chinese TV dramas, such as “Legend of Fuyao”, “The Rise of Phoenixes“, “Full Marks Hidden Marriage” and “Ever Night“, which have gained a lot of ratings outside China, all come from the adaptation of online novels of the same name.

As stated in the white paper, the web novel culture, which was born in China, seems to be bringing the whole world into it through the “everyone can create” model.

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