It's a trend that quickly swept across Japan - reading and writing novels or stories through the mobile phone, via text message. In Japan, 5 of the top 10 best sellers from 2007 were cell phone novels, according to the website. Now the trend is taking a crack at the U.S. market, beginning with textnovel.com.
It works like this: register for an account, including creating your pen name, then choose your story genre, rating (G, PG, PG-13 or R) and get started writing. The subject line of your MMS message determines the title and chapter. When you're ready, you send the message to firstname.lastname@example.org and its published. You can choose to make your story either private or public. You can also add images or drawings to your story - there's even a graphic novel category.
Once your story is up on the site, other users can rate and subscribe. The number of subscriptions and the current rating determines if your story makes the front page of the website. You can choose to subscribe to any story, and whenever the author publishes a new chapter, you can be notified via email or MMS. You can, of course, also read and write the stories through the website at textnovel.com.
Currently textnovel is runing a contest with a top prize of $1,000. You must have 100 pages and 10 chapters by October 30, 2008 and 200 pages and 20 chapters by December 31, 2008 to qualify. The winner is partially determined by number of positive votes, but the final decision is made by the editorial staff, based on "the quality and appeal of your work." The winner gives up some publication rights to the story in exchange for the $1,000 prize. Textnovel is hoping to partner with some big publishers to run future contests with more prize money.
The service is free for now. We'll see how textnovel plans on making money. What might make this site even more appealing would be some kind of revenue share from advertising between textnovel and the authors.