| HELSINKI, March 15
HELSINKI, March 15 For novelists, the days
of sending manuscripts to dozens of publishers and anxiously
awaiting a reply may soon be over.
Thousands of writers who use online literature networks like
teen-friendly Movellas or Penguin's Book Country, are already
receiving instant feedback, altering texts on a whim and having
their work read by the public no matter what a publisher thinks.
The internet has torn down the walled gardens of a
previously closed industry as anyone can publish their texts
with a few clicks -- a change which is also creating demand for
"Publishers don't want the same to happen to them that
happened to the music industry," said Per Larsen, chief
executive of Danish online startup Movellas. "They know the
publishing business model has been broken."
The recording industry has seen an explosion in online
piracy take an enormous amount of money out of their pockets
with the widespread illegal downloading of music, which used to
be available only on CDs, tapes, records, etc...
At the same time, the music industry is also seeing some
bands recording their own music and putting it out directly over
the Internet, cutting out the big labels in the middle.
Movellas aims to stand out among rivals with its global
approach and focus on teenagers who are entering the world of
creative writing through its network.
"We want to be the Number One community in the world for
identifying new talent," Larsen said.
Already tens of thousands of texts are published monthly on
the site by young writers like Ebonie Mather, a 19-year old from
Hertfordshire in Britain, who has published mostly poems on the
"I'd love to be a writer," she said, adding that the
constructive feedback was helping her to develop.
Feedback is also a crucial part of self-publishing service
Book Country, which global publishing firm Penguin set up last
year to help it tap into the new talent online.
"This gives us the way to cast the net wider," said Molly
Barton, global digital director at Penguin.
In January The Berkley Publishing Group, part of Penguin,
signed a two book deal with Kerry Schafer, a mental health
specialist in the United States, after the editor read her texts
on the site.
Movellas used Asian success stories to build up the service
which is so far available in English and Danish, online and for
Its Chinese peer Cloudary Corp, online literature unit of
Internet firm Shanda Interactive, has filed with U.S.
regulators for an IPO of about $200 million.
Cloudary had 2011 revenues of $111 million from 70 million
monthly visitors and 5.8 million literary works in its archive.
"The Cloudary guys built their business on the Chinese
market: it's a big market, but still has its limits. This could
be much bigger," Movellas CEO Larsen said.
"Our plan is to find talent and commercialise this talent
like Cloudary... I actually think we are months away from
selecting the first author who will be offered to be published
in print," Larsen said.
"There is no rush from our side, we prefer to build a big
community first and do a great job in creating the best possible
site for them to enjoy what they do," he said.
Movellas has an interesting concept and an attractive market
niche, said analysts, but they raised questions over revenues --
which are missing so far.
"The big question is whether Movellas can find a business
model, or get enough users and writers to become interesting for
Amazon, Google or a big publisher to buy them," said John
Strand, founder of consultancy Strand Consult.
Charlotte Gundersen, who teaches 14-year olds at Hanssted
school in Copenhagen, said using Movellas has made writing
classes more interesting. She has used it for collaborative
writing and for pupils to share their work with each other.
"They are very keen on it. They really like the sharing part
of it," she said.
While finding a business model could be a challenge for
Movellas, CEO Larsen is not worried about youth focusing on
writing on Facebook instead of Movellas .
"On Facebook the content has a lifespan of minutes, at best
days, but a lot of stories will be great stories also in 30 or
40 years," he said.