Last year, I came upon a newish trend in fiction and that was chat fiction. For those of you who aren’t hip to what teens are up to, chat fiction is basically storytelling presented as chat messages. Chat fiction has caught the attention of Wattpad, as well Amazon, who have invested in this new form of storytelling. In fact, some of these companies are actively looking to commission work in order to help populate their catalogs. I’ll get to that later, but first, let me answer the question why?
Why Are Teens Reading Books On Their Phones?
To understand this trend or evolution in storytelling, you have to understand why teens are reading these stories on their phones and not on a laptop, or an ereader like a Kindle. According to a 2013, Pew Research Center report 74% of teens aged 12 to 17, accessed the internet on phones and tablets. Many also reported that they often share a computer with a family member like a parent or sibling. This means that their phones are a personal item they own and don’t have to share. Also, most phones can access the home wi-fi network, so bills won’t be too high.
Whose Idea Was This Anyway?
Chat fiction is a spin-off of cellphone fiction that became popular in Japan during the early 2000’s. Called keitai shousetsu, meaning cellphone novel, this form of storytelling became a phenomenon among middle grade teens and commuters in Japan. Several Japanese authors became very popular by writing poetry, as well as short, serialized stories that people, mainly teens, read on their phones. The most popular cellphone stories were picked up by traditional publishers in Japan, or made into movies, and even anime.
Fast forward to 2012, a tech entrepreneur is on a sabbatical after selling her company, and as you can imagine, she’s writing a book. While writing her YA novel, she has serious doubts as to whether it would resonate with teens and questioned whether kids even read books anymore. So she and her husband did several experiments and learned that teens would read books but only if they were short and intense. We’re talking just a few minutes or less than 1,000 words. So this author had an idea to create stories that kids could read on their cellphones however, unlike keitai shousetsu, these stories would take the form of chat messages. The app she created was called, Hooked and became popular in both the iTunes and Google Play stores. This caught the attention of big companies like Wattpad, who created their own chat fiction app called, Tap and Amazon, not wanting to be left out of the party, created Amazon Rapids.
The most popular chat fiction apps include:
Good News: Hooked Will Actually Pay Authors
Hooked is currently looking for authors who can deliver an interactive experience for their readers. That means choose your own adventure type stories as well short, fast paced stories. However, this must all be written in a chat like format, so this will be a challenge for any author. But if you’re up to it, here are some tips when submitting:
- Must be familiar with smart phones particularly, chat features
- You need to be able to write short fiction, as in three minutes short or under 1,000 words.
- Though places like Hooked, accept multiple genres like sci-fi, they say horror and thrillers do best on their site.
- The compensation isn’t a change your life type of pay but better than the nothing that the rest of the other apps seem to offer.
Stats About Hooked’s Users
- 69% of users are between the ages of 18-24.
- More than half of their users are female.
- The majority of stories on Hooked are user generated but the most popular ones are from commissioned works.
Yarn is also considering paying writers somewhere down the road but as of this posting has yet to launch that project.
Is chat fiction a fad? Who knows, many people thought online fan fiction was a fad but that’s still going strong since 1998. Only time will tell if young people will continue reading on their phones. Although I doubt it, like with most technology, phones will continue to evolve and if you know anything about young people, you know things that are cool now, quickly become obscure. In the mean time, if you’re targeting middle graders or teens and aren’t having a lot of success reaching them, this might be a potential tool for you.