Will the Freemium Fiction Publishing Model Work in the West?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

Will freemium fiction be able to attract a large enough audience among Western readers, where cheap e-books are readily available?

By Edward Nawotka

book price

Serial publishing is not new, but digital technology has reintroduced it to a new generation of readers and writers. What is new is its application in promoting self-published writers. As discussed in today’s feature story about “freemium” fiction publishing models in China, these freemium self-publishing websites attract an astonishing 40% of China’s Internet users each month.

There are several reasons for the success of this business model, not the least of which is that the practice of publishing novels is not nearly as institutionalized in China as it is in the West (the same goes for the Middle East), as well as the fact that traditional publishing venues are strongly controlled by the state and its arbiters.

Could the freemium model work in the West? We think so. After all, the model is straightforward and largely entails putting up a pay wall for readers once a writer reaches a critical mass.

Shanda Literature/Cloudary — a company whose success we’ve covered extensively in the past — agrees and has announced tentative plans to open a subsidiary in the United States. In addition, there are several companies currently in “stealth mode” launching shortly in the US that will employ a similar strategy (we’ll have more information when the time is right).

The real question is whether freemium books will be able to attract a large enough audience among Western readers already inundated with super cheap self-published books. And if it does work, will it undermine existing publishing models by driving the price — at least initially — down to free?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.