Webfiction Statistics: Korea Combined

This is part of a series of posts sharing some of the research material I collected while researching my book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. There was a lot I found that I couldn’t fit into the book, so I thought I’d share it here.The categories listed are translations of the ones the sites use, not my own categories.

Since I had data from three different Korean webfiction sites of Joara, Naver and Munpia, it only seemed logical to combine them to see what was really popular. I used the percentages from each (since the actual numbers would have skewed things) and created a graph.

In the end, the combined chart isn’t much different than the regular charts, Romance wins by a hair over Fantasy, and everything else trails behind. I suppose if I added Martial Arts and Fusion to Fantasy, then Fantasy would win. However, not by much since then I’d have to add Romance Fantasy, Boys Love, and Girls Love to Romance.

GenreJoaraNaverMunpia
Fantasy25%14%30%
Parody20%
Fusion9%10%
Boys Love8%4%
Romance8%56%5%
Game6%4%
General Fiction (Unclassified)6%4%
Romance Fantasy4%7%
Literary Works4%
Light Novels3%1%3%
Fanfiction3%
Martial Arts2%8%13%
History1%2%
Girls Love0%
Sports0%8%2%

Yes, the percentages don’t quite add up, this is because not all sites have the same genres and I used the Joara genres as the base. It still gives a pretty good sample, I think.

Webfiction Statistics: Naver

This is part of a series of posts sharing some of the research material I collected while researching my book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. There was a lot I found that I couldn’t fit into the book, so I thought I’d share it here.The categories listed are translations of the ones the sites use, not my own categories.

Naver.com is the South Korean equivalent to Yahoo.com- a giant portal to the internet which offers news, shopping, entertainment, and everything a user could ask for. They also offer webfiction and webtoons, and have begun to bring these to an English market as well.

As far as fiction goes, Naver is much more popular with women than men, as is evidenced by the stories by category listed on their site:

As you can see, Naver doesn’t offer a wide variety of genres, but focus on a few profitable ones they know will be popular with audiences. There is a male-oriented component, which would be the Fantasy, Martial Arts, and Sports categories, but women’s fiction is around 67% of the site, so it’s not even a competition.

In Korea, webfiction has a broader audience, and is read and written by older writers as well as young ones. Naver seems to be a popular site with Korean housewives who want to make a little extra money writing romance in their spare time. Did you know that 51% of webfiction writers in Korea make money from their writing? That provides a pretty good incentive to write!

The numbers for these stats are curated and accepted stories which have been approved by the site, which is why they’re so low.

GenreNumber
Romance2260356%
Fantasy561914%
Marital Arts32718%
Sports32138%
Romantic Fantasy29687%
Boys Love15654%
Mystery7182%
Light Novels5241%
40481

How Koreans get their Web Novels

Yesterday I had a long and fascinating chat with a recently arrived Korean international student about Korean webnovels. Webnovels (books written specifically for the web) are extremely popular in Japan, China, and of course South Korea, and have become a gateway for new and rising authors in those countries. Recently, I’ve found myself reading some (fan translated) Chinese Webnovels (more on this in another post) and so I was curious as to what Korea’s market was like.

The student told me a few interesting things:

  • Her primary reading site of choice is NAVER, which is a popular Korean webportal similar to YAHOO, but which offers Webtoons (comics) and Webnovels as part of its lineup. In 2014 alone, Korean NAVER Webnovels had 3.6 Billion views (that’s BILLION, and remember there are only 50 Million people in Korea!).
  • The comics are more popular than the novels, but the Novels still have a large audience which she said is mostly female.
  • Anyone can write a novel on NAVER, but it sounds like there are three tiers- the stuff that anyone can post, the “Challenge League” and the “Best League”. The latter two being high quality amateurs and professionals who get promotion and profit-sharing with NAVER. (More info here.)
  • Works in the Leagues come out in serialized (chapter by chapter) format, with between 1 and 3 chapters released a week.
  • For the first four days of release, you have to pay for the chapter (using NAVER Coins) but after four days it becomes free for fans to read. (To me, this is brilliant, because human nature says most fans will pay to read early, as apparently the student does all the time. However, the old chapters are still there to help readers catch up and interest people.)
  • Advance chapters cost more or less depending on how popular that story is. So if a story isn’t popular an advance chapter might just be 1 or 2 cents, whereas a super-popular book’s chapter might be upwards of 20 cents.
  • Once a book is finished, after a certain time it is archived, which means the first couple chapters will still be free and access to the rest can be rented (for 1 day/1 week/1 month periods) at a cheaper price than reading chapter by chapter.
  • The Webnovels themselves are mostly written in the Young Adult oriented Light Novel format, which means they’re mostly dialogue driven with lots of spacing and simpler language.
  • The Best League novels not only have covers, but each week there is a piece of art that goes with them showing some scene from that chapter in a slightly iconic style.
  • The Best League novels also have an odd quirk I’ve rarely seen before, when major characters have lines of dialogue without any added exposition they just put a tiny portrait picture of the character. So instead of:
    • Sun-yi said, “I don’t know who I love, Byung-Gin.”
      • it will be…
    • [Tiny picture of Sun-yi] “I don’t know who I love, Byung-Gin.”
      • Which I imagine increases the reading speed a bit, and gets rid of some dialogue tags.
  • They’ve solved the Micropayments hurdles by using NAVER Coins, which is real money converted into NAVER credits. Sometimes it’s a 1:1 ratio, but at certain times of year NAVER will offer better ratios to get people to buy more credits. Users can also win credits through contests, loyalty rewards, and other activities that they can then use for buying digital content on the site.

That was pretty much it, but I thought it was quite interesting. As I said, I especially love the part about offering content early for people willing to chip in a few cents, since most people will do exactly that if they want to read the next chapter badly enough. The student says she spends about (the equivalent of) a $1 a week on buying Webnovel chapters, which doesn’t sound like much, but can add up pretty quickly.

It’s sad that nobody in the English speaking world has made the effort to produce such a scheme, because I think it could be a great platform for authors. Right now your options for getting English Ebooks out is pretty much either give it away for free in some form on a site like Wattpad or sell it as a complete volume on Amazon or Apple iBooks. In theory, you could use Patreon to get readers to support you, and let the Patreon subscribers have chapters a week earlier, but the problem is that Patreon doesn’t work in cents, but in dollars, and it’s pretty clumsy.

What’s needed is a system like this- where vetted authors can make money in a profit-sharing system with the website and not-yet-vetted authors can practice their craft in a place where they get a wide potential audience. (Possibly also having the option of making some money as they write as well, depending on how it was set up.)

In any case, I thought it was an interesting system, and worth sharing. If you’re interested in reading some Korean novel translations, you can find some links here in an older Reddit thread. (There aren’t a lot of them out there, but a few.)