SMS Bestseller

Posted on January 21, 2008 
Filed Under Journalism

Meet Rin. 21. Best-selling author. She wrote If You over a six-month stretch thumbing out passages on her cellphone and uploading them to a popular site for would-be authors.

After readers ranked her No. 1, the tragic love story between two childhood friends was turned into a 142-page hardcover book which sold 400,000 copies and became the No. 5 best-selling novel of 2007.

“My mother didn’t even know that I was writing a novel,” said Rin.

According to this NYT article, the cellphone novel in Japan was born in 2000 after a home-page-making site, Maho no i-rando, realized that many users were writing novels on their blogs.

It tinkered with its software to allow users to upload works in progress and readers to comment, creating the serialized cellphone novel. But the number of users uploading novels began booming only two to three years ago, and the number of novels listed on the site reached one million last month, according to Maho no i-rando.

Written in the first person, many cellphone novels read like diaries. Almost all the authors are young women delving into affairs of the heart, spiritual descendants, perhaps, of Shikibu Murasaki, the 11th-century royal lady-in-waiting who wrote “The Tale of Genji.”

“Love Sky,” a debut novel by a young woman named Mika, was read by 20 million people on cellphones or on computers, according to Maho no i-rando, where it was first uploaded. A tear-jerker featuring adolescent sex, rape, pregnancy and a fatal disease — the genre’s sine qua non — the novel nevertheless captured the young generation’s attitude, its verbal tics and the cellphone’s omnipresence. Republished in book form, it became the No. 1 selling novel last year and was made into a movie.

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