Article about the web novel industry

Eduardo Letavia

Troubadour
I think you'll find interesting the article I link right below that talks about the web novel industry.
A few takeaways I've got from this article are.
  • Pulp fiction never died, just changed its format.
  • Stories don't have to (rather, they must not) be limited by the old book formats (novel, short fiction, novelette, etc). Instead, they have to be though more as continuous streams of content.
  • Quality or derivativeness doesn't matter as long as you write catchy/engaging enough stories.
  • There's web publishing life beyond Amazon.
  • Toxic romantic relationships (still) sell a lot.
Looking forward your thoughts about this!
 

Mad Swede

Inkling
I think you'll find interesting the article I link right below that talks about the web novel industry.
A few takeaways I've got from this article are.
  • Pulp fiction never died, just changed its format.
  • Stories don't have to (rather, they must not) be limited by the old book formats (novel, short fiction, novelette, etc). Instead, they have to be though more as continuous streams of content.
  • Quality or derivativeness doesn't matter as long as you write catchy/engaging enough stories.
  • There's web publishing life beyond Amazon.
  • Toxic romantic relationships (still) sell a lot.
Looking forward your thoughts about this!
Stories have never been limited by book formats. The Sherlock Holmes stories appeared in the Strand magazine, and both Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler had their stories serialised in several US magazines, notably Black Mask. What has changed is the medium and the readers expectations of how fast the next installment will appear. And that can add to the pressure on writers.

Quality does matter, at least if you want a long term career which doesn't involve typing several thousand words a day. Your ideas may not be original, but well-developed characters and an interesting take on a plot idea do make for a good book. Sure, you can get away with derivative dross and even make a living from it, and many self-published writers do, but you'll be writing very quickly under great pressure and you'll never be seen as a good writer.

Yes, there is web-publishing beyond Amazon. But not all those web publishers have the writers interests at heart. Its worth looking up Writer Beware on the SFWA website for a list of those to avoid, paying special attention to the sorts of contractual terms and conditions some of them impose.

I don't know about toxic relationships, but well-developed and complex relationships always make for interesting characters.
 

Eduardo Letavia

Troubadour
Stories have never been limited by book formats. The Sherlock Holmes stories appeared in the Strand magazine, and both Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler had their stories serialised in several US magazines, notably Black Mask. What has changed is the medium and the readers expectations of how fast the next installment will appear. And that can add to the pressure on writers.
Yes, web publishing is just an evolution of that serialization process, with the advantage of not being limited by the physical formats. I was trying to say that thinking in terms as "book", "novel" and such don't really fit fictions (or any other content in fact) written in digital format. On the other hand, "chapters" are still a useful way of organizing stories, even in digital or web format.

Quality does matter, at least if you want a long term career which doesn't involve typing several thousand words a day. Your ideas may not be original, but well-developed characters and an interesting take on a plot idea do make for a good book. Sure, you can get away with derivative dross and even make a living from it, and many self-published writers do, but you'll be writing very quickly under great pressure and you'll never be seen as a good writer.
To be clear, I aim for quality in my writing, but I'm aware that many readers don't really pay for that. They want to be emotionally hooked to the story, and if you achieve that for thousands of readers with "derivative dross" and you even make a living out of it, I'd say that makes you a "good writer". Of course, as you point out, writing in such way comes with it's own share of problems, but those were also present in the days of pulp fiction (write fast and loose so you can publish and get paid more) and nowadays this have been exacerbated by technology and binge consumption.

Yes, there is web-publishing beyond Amazon. But not all those web publishers have the writers interests at heart. Its worth looking up Writer Beware on the SFWA website for a list of those to avoid, paying special attention to the sorts of contractual terms and conditions some of them impose.
Nice reminder there about Writer Beware. On the other hand, I wonder how many publishers really care about a writer's interest nowadays, except for the big or already well stablished authors.

I don't know about toxic relationships, but well-developed and complex relationships always make for interesting characters.
I was referring to dynamics that are usually presented as desirable in romantic relationships, although what they really are anything but healthy. I don't pretend to judge stories I haven't read, but the titles, covers and blurbs I've seen in the platforms indicated in the article seem to promise romantic drama based on those toxic behaviours.
 

pmmg

Istar
I am sure all of this is true, but I don't see myself writing in this manner. I have more important stuff to say than werewolf romances and erotica... Least professionally ;)

I am encouraged that my many typos might get by though.
 

Mad Swede

Inkling
Yes, web publishing is just an evolution of that serialization process, with the advantage of not being limited by the physical formats. I was trying to say that thinking in terms as "book", "novel" and such don't really fit fictions (or any other content in fact) written in digital format. On the other hand, "chapters" are still a useful way of organizing stories, even in digital or web format.
I'm not sure I agree. A novel isn't a format so much as it is a description of what a written work is trying to convey. Or so my litterature teachers always claimed. There's no reason why you can't write a novel in a digital format, nor is there any reason why a series of chapters in a story can't make a digital book.
To be clear, I aim for quality in my writing, but I'm aware that many readers don't really pay for that. They want to be emotionally hooked to the story, and if you achieve that for thousands of readers with "derivative dross" and you even make a living out of it, I'd say that makes you a "good writer". Of course, as you point out, writing in such way comes with it's own share of problems, but those were also present in the days of pulp fiction (write fast and loose so you can publish and get paid more) and nowadays this have been exacerbated by technology and binge consumption.
I think I'd describe a writer who published a series of stories which sold to many readers (irrespective of medium) as a popular writer rather than a good writer. A prime example would be the British author Edgar Wallace, who's book writing was so prolific that newspapers of the time referred to his latest book (whatever it was) as the "noonday Wallace" - and they were only half joking. But who remembers him now, or claims that he wrote good books?
Nice reminder there about Writer Beware. On the other hand, I wonder how many publishers really care about a writer's interest nowadays, except for the big or already well stablished authors.
A good publisher will always take the authors wishes into account. Mine certainly do. No publisher can risk seeing a new author become popular and then walk off to a competitor. Apart from anything else, the word about how a publisher treats its authors does spread and after a while competent agents stop sending bad publishers books and stories for consideration.
I was referring to dynamics that are usually presented as desirable in romantic relationships, although what they really are anything but healthy. I don't pretend to judge stories I haven't read, but the titles, covers and blurbs I've seen in the platforms indicated in the article seem to promise romantic drama based on those toxic behaviours.
Maybe you and I don't read the same books. The fact that some modern day pulp web publishers think that the sort of relationship portrayed in 50 Shades of Grey together with the quality of the prose is something to copy says more about them than it does about the potential inherent in a complex yet healthy relationship.
 

Eduardo Letavia

Troubadour
I'm not sure I agree. A novel isn't a format so much as it is a description of what a written work is trying to convey. Or so my litterature teachers always claimed. There's no reason why you can't write a novel in a digital format, nor is there any reason why a series of chapters in a story can't make a digital book.
After consulting the entry for "novel" in wikipedia, I'd say your teachers were right. My mistake was thinking just in the word count limits that have been used to classify different works of fiction by their length.

I think I'd describe a writer who published a series of stories which sold to many readers (irrespective of medium) as a popular writer rather than a good writer. A prime example would be the British author Edgar Wallace, who's book writing was so prolific that newspapers of the time referred to his latest book (whatever it was) as the "noonday Wallace" - and they were only half joking. But who remembers him now, or claims that he wrote good books?
I concur with you, but I also see kind of a paradox there: something becomes popular because is perceived as "good" by a significant number of people although, of course, it doesn't make it good by itself. An example of this could be beer or wine, both popular drinks that are inherently bad since their alcoholic content is a poison to the human body.

A good publisher will always take the authors wishes into account. Mine certainly do. No publisher can risk seeing a new author become popular and then walk off to a competitor. Apart from anything else, the word about how a publisher treats its authors does spread and after a while competent agents stop sending bad publishers books and stories for consideration.
Yeah, that's the idea, but I was thinking more in big publishers that already have some control of the market (aka Amazon) and can impose their terms in such a way you cannot really escape them. And this is getting worse with all the consolidations that are happening, such as the one between Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster.

Maybe you and I don't read the same books. The fact that some modern day pulp web publishers think that the sort of relationship portrayed in 50 Shades of Grey together with the quality of the prose is something to copy says more about them than it does about the potential inherent in a complex yet healthy relationship.
Although I respect it as any other genre, I'm no consumer of romantic yarns. The issue with toxic romantic relationships is something I realized thanks to watching in youtube movie analysis. As you point out, the use and abuse of those tropes (and others) tell a lot about those publishers and their lazyness, although it's also a hint to the shortcomings of the societies consuming those contents.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
The part I find sad is that these authors, many or most of whom dwell outside the US, are compelled to write tales about paranormal romances in the US rather than stories set in their own countries - which many of them would prefer.
 

Eduardo Letavia

Troubadour
The part I find sad is that these authors, many or most of whom dwell outside the US, are compelled to write tales about paranormal romances in the US rather than stories set in their own countries - which many of them would prefer.
Eventually, some of those web publishers will realize that there's a market for stories set in any place and culture of the rest of our planet. Just have to see the success of korean or japanese contents (movies, music, comics) for instance.
 

Mad Swede

Inkling
The part I find sad is that these authors, many or most of whom dwell outside the US, are compelled to write tales about paranormal romances in the US rather than stories set in their own countries - which many of them would prefer.
Yes, but in many smaller countries you can't make a living as an author writing stories set in your own country. Sweden is an example. Very few Swedish authors sell enough books written in Swedish to be able to live on their writing. Only the really big best sellers get translated from English to Swedish, because the publishers can't recover their translation and editting costs on the Swedish language sales. So if you want to write full time you have to write what sells in the big markets, which usually means the English language markets. And that means writing stories in English set in places like the US.
 

Mad Swede

Inkling
After consulting the entry for "novel" in wikipedia, I'd say your teachers were right. My mistake was thinking just in the word count limits that have been used to classify different works of fiction by their length.
My personal view is that word counts are a very misleading way of classifiying stories. Most people would agree that Goerge Orwell's Animal Farm, Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men are novels - but these three books are each less than 30 000 words in length. And as for Franz Kafka, his novel The Metamorphisis is just over 20 000 words in length.
I concur with you, but I also see kind of a paradox there: something becomes popular because is perceived as "good" by a significant number of people although, of course, it doesn't make it good by itself. An example of this could be beer or wine, both popular drinks that are inherently bad since their alcoholic content is a poison to the human body.
Something becomes popular because people enjoy whatever it is. But being enjoyable is not the same as being good.
Yeah, that's the idea, but I was thinking more in big publishers that already have some control of the market (aka Amazon) and can impose their terms in such a way you cannot really escape them. And this is getting worse with all the consolidations that are happening, such as the one between Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster.
Most publishers have standard terms and conditions for their contracts, and those terms and conditions tend to be fairly similar. Authors groups like the SFWA often encourage this, because it gives predictability and stability for authors. And those terms and conditions have developed over many years and hold up in court for all parties involved. Sure, there are publishers out there with other terms and conditions, but those contracts can be very unfavourable to authors.
Although I respect it as any other genre, I'm no consumer of romantic yarns. The issue with toxic romantic relationships is something I realized thanks to watching in youtube movie analysis. As you point out, the use and abuse of those tropes (and others) tell a lot about those publishers and their lazyness, although it's also a hint to the shortcomings of the societies consuming those contents.
I haven't said anything about romantic yarns. A story doesn't need to be a romance to involve the complexities of a relationship between people. And those relationships needn't be romantic either.
 
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