Recently, youth literature writer Rao Xueman launched a magazine called M-Girls, posing a challenge to Guo Jingming's Top Novel. Sales of GirlneYa by Guo Ni peaked at 150,000 copies. Rao, Guo, and Guo Ni are among best-selling writers in the youth literature market. Does a star editor in chief really make a magazine successful?
Post-80s writer Chen Xiaohui said that in addition to having a popular editor, another important reason these magazines sell well is because they satisfy the needs of teenagers. These magazines coincide with young people's interest in fashion and beauty. Sales of Top Novel and M-Girls prove the editing and planning abilities of Guo and Rao, who both have a solid grasp of the literature market. Their practices could affect the future development of youth magazines.
Jin Bo, manager of rongshuxia.com, said that Chinese literature magazines fall into either the high-end market, such as Harvest and People's Literature magazines, or the low-end market, such as Story Selection periodical. Post-70s, 80s and 90s readers have their own spending habits; they like youth literature, mysteries, fantasy magazines. Therefore, when teen romance magazine Girlneya appeared in March 2007, a market between children's literature and youth literature developed.
Xiao Shi, editor in chief at Huohua Studio, believes the 500,000-plus circulation at Top Novel will not last long if it is based on the celebrity effect alone. Readers have the ability to distinguish good works, Xiao told City Economic Herald newspaper; "if the content is truly bad, they won't keep buying."
Fast food or competitive products?
In addition to star editors, one common feature that distinguishes youth magazines from traditional ones is they look more like books. Traditional magazines have large dimensions with thin pages, while youth magazines have small dimensions with thick pages. Other advantages are larger volume, richer content and lower price, which are described as "book quality, magazine price" by experts in the industry.
This magazine-book hybrid is called a mook. They are popular with teenagers and experts even say they represent the future of magazines. But does the essay in mook have its value?
According to amateur writer Zhao Yuxiang, media reports on these magazines offer little value or insight and are the result of media hype; mooks are a fad and lack positive guidance for society.
Chen thinks differently on this issue. He thinks youth literature consoles young people who are confused or unhappy. The heroes and heroines in mooks are young people who have not only eagerness but also sorrow and pain. Young readers see themselves in these characters and compare themselves with them.
Although youth mooks coincide with the minds of teenagers, they cannot teach them useful things and reading them for relaxation is a waste of time, post-70s writer Yang Zhou has said.
Youth magazines also differ from traditional magazines in terms of their operation pattern. The operation pattern of youth mooks is writer—magazine—new writer—publication of new writer's books, which means they train new writers, publish their works and thus solidify their readership. For instance, Top Novel and M-Girls use literature contests to find new writers.
According to Chen, writers with established reputations launch youth magazines to enhance their fame, then use that fame to promote new writers. Eventually they become "new type" writers who know about planning and operating. This excellent operation pattern can boost the magazine's reputation and provide a stable environment for its writers at the same time.
Writer Lin Hanyue shared his own view on this operation pattern. "Writers who are familiar with their audience should be encouraged to launch their own magazines, but the drawback is they don't always understand the market," he said. New writers benefit from the training they receive, but may rush to publish too much too fast. On the other hand, magazines have a wider audience and readers can read different essays. Moreover, the types and quantity of magazines are fewer than books; therefore they are easier to promote, while books have many different styles and their quality and content vary greatly. Readers tend to choose books by well-known writers and prestigious publishing houses.
Youth magazines like M-Girls are also savvy about using different media platforms. Through the magazine, M-Girls selects models to appear on the cover of Rao's books, which are then turned into music videos, television series and feature films.
"I think it is an excellent industrial pattern," Cheng said. "If a classical work can be made into a movie that reflects thoughts and personality of today's youth, it has great social meaning." In addition, literary works turned into television series may further promote the youth literature market and benefit its development.
(Source: City Economic Herald, translated by LIU CHUNYU)