Making Online Literature Pay Big in China


Zhang Wei, China’s top-earning online novelist, is not modest about his success. “I love writing, and I’m gifted,” Mr. Zhang, 35, said in a recent interview.

The numbers back him up. In 2015, Mr. Zhang, better known by his pen name, Tang Jia San Shao, earned 110 million renminbi, about $16.8 million at the time, according to China Daily. Much of his fortune was made from selling his so-called IPs, a buzzword in China referring to intellectual properties or original content that is often adapted into movies, television shows and games. It’s a strategy that in recent years has become a major source of revenue for China’s online literature websites and writers. Mr. Zhang’s earnings would put him on par with best-selling authors like Stephen King and George R. R. Martin.

Mr. Zhang’s works typically fall within the fantasy genre. “Douluo Dalu,” one of his most popular works, is the story of a martial artist who tumbles into an eerie new world called Duoluo Dalu. The story is being turned into a movie, a television show and a video game. In the interview, Mr. Zhang talked about the difference between online literature and traditional publishing, the advantage of an established fan base for lucrative spinoffs and his dream of creating a Disney-style empire. Read more