For Japan’s cellphone novelists, proof of success is in the print
One teenager who wrote a three-volume novel on her phone has gone on to sell more than 110,000 paperback copies, grossing more than $611,000 in sales.
By Yuriko Nagano, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Tokyo
Photo: “Bunny,” a 15-year-old cellphone novelist, tapped out a three-volume bestseller. The teen, shown at a Tokyo train station, does not want even friends to know of her publishing success, with 110,000 paperback copies of her novel sold since it was published in May.
She likes Care Bears, doesn’t wear makeup yet, and took her nom de plume from a character in the Disney classic “Bambi.”
And last year, 15-year-old “Bunny” became one of Japan’s top authors of a genre called keitai — cellphone — novels.
After getting its start as a tale told on tiny cellular screens, her three-volume novel “Wolf Boy x Natural Girl” has gone on to sell more than 110,000 paperback copies since its release in May, according to Starts Publishing Co.
he “Wolf Boy” author, who took her alias from Thumper’s friend Miss Bunny, started writing when she was in the sixth grade, after her parents bought her a cellphone. “I was so excited,” she says with a shy smile.
Bunny was using her phone mainly to text friends until she saw a TV ad about a keitai novel website that allowed users to write novels on cellphones for free. Inspired by some of the novels she read, Bunny took a crack at one herself, simply following the word limit of 1,000 characters per page.
Keitai writers can choose to “publish” their online content immediately or keep it unlisted. Most writers upload the content as they finish so they get instant feedback from the readers, who access the stories on the website and click through the pages.
Authors respond to readers by correcting errors and, in some cases, altering story lines.
The prize for the occasional most-read story is getting your novel into print.
Over the course of several months, Bunny tapped away in her bedroom, in between homework assignments. “Wolf Boy” ended up as a high-school love story between shy, pretty Miku and tall, handsome Shun, who is generally a gentlemen except when Miku is around (thus the name “Wolf Boy”).
One scene, from Shun’s point of view, is typical of the style:
“I changed into a suit for the party. . . . When I stepped out of my room . . . Miku was there. Miku was in a pink one-piece dress, wearing white heels. She looks mature because her hair is lightly curled. She’s looking straight at me. It’s hard to keep my cool when she’s looking at me like that.”
“Wolf Boy” became one of the most popular novels on the No-ichigo website. Unaware of her daughter’s work, Bunny’s mother was floored when she first heard about a pending book offer.
“I had no idea,” her mother says.
“Wolf Boy” has grossed more than $611,000.
Continued: Los Angeles Times February 9, 2010