China’s wealthiest and most prolific internet novelist sees room for ‘boundless imagination’ in digital fiction: Sixthtone.com
Zhang Wei has made his fortune from the internet. He’s not a viral live-streamer, a tech entrepreneur, or one of China’s new generation of e-commerce merchants, but an online fantasy writer who earned 110 million yuan (over $16 million) in royalties last year.
The staggering amount — more than “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin’s estimated annual income of $15 million — most recently earned the 35-year-old Beijinger the top spot in a ranking of China’s richest online writers for the fourth year running.
Publishing under the pen name Tang Jia San Shao, Zhang began to write online novels in 2004, a time when China’s online literature scene was still in its infancy. Twelve years and 150 titles later, he is now a member of the Communist Party-led China Writers Association and a professor of online fiction at the Shanghai Institute of Visual Art. A large number of his works have been made into movies, video games, and web series.
Zhang talked to Sixth Tone about the secret to his success, the state of China’s wider online fiction market, and why he thinks “Game of Thrones” would never work in China as an online novel. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.