“Interesting”, “exciting” and “productive” are just some of the adjectives used by exhibitors to describe 2011 Taipei International Book Fair (TIBE). The mood is relaxed although substantial wheeling and dealing has been taking place in Hall 1 where the overseas publishers are located. Scholastic Asia is holding firm to its mission to help young children in the region to learn English. “Globally, we have launched a literacy campaign called Read Every Day, Lead a Better Life in conjunction with our company’s 90th anniversary, and it is about getting children, parents and teachers to understand the importance of reading. In many parts of Asia, reading for leisure is not common, and so we have strived to produce titles that are both imaginative and innovative" such as The 39 Clues, ” says president Frank Wong, pointing out that the multicultural nature of Scholastic books makes it easier to penetrate Asian markets. For v-p of education and trade Linda Warfel, “TIBE affords us the opportunity to showcase our strength as an educational publisher and introduce our best publications to the local market.”
A few aisles, away, at FILI (Finnish Literature Exchange), this second outing has seen its pavilion double in size (to four booths) and more than 20 on-site meetings scheduled way before the fair started. “TIBE is definitely the gateway to Asia especially with publishers coming here from Korea, Japan and other parts of the region,” says project manager Tiina Lehtoranta, who is focused on finding locally based Finnish-speaking translators. “Taiwan universities do not offer Finnish language classes, and this lack of language professionals is proving to be a barrier to increased exports.” Still, works from 18 Finnish authors—Tove Jansson and Markus Majaluma among them—are now available in Chinese, mostly published by mainland Chinese presses. And if Lehtoranta has her way, more titles will be translated, including those displayed in the booth such as Lasten Keskus’s The Flying Machine (the first Finnish children’s book with a mobile app), a storybook in Sami (an endangered language spoken by 20,000 people) as well as picture books and teen fiction on serious topics such as divorce and suicide in the family.
Being “present and be seen” at TIBE has been both crucial and productive to rights manager Nerrilee Weir of Random House Australia. “This is my fifth visit, and it gets better all the time. I definitely understand more about the market and its changes the more time I spend here. There are lots of gaps—and therefore opportunities—in Taiwan’s book market. Five years ago, I witnessed the demand for self-help and business titles. Now, it’s about teen readers, young adult market, and historical and paranormal romance and chick-lit,” adds Weir, who sells more children than adult titles to local publishers, and is busily promoting John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice, a series for 12-year-olds and up (that has been published by Penguin for North American market), and Bindi’s Wild Adventure series.
With 25 titles already sold, it is no wonder that rights consultant Phi-Anh Nguyen of Paris-based Editions Sarbacane finds Taiwan (along with Korea) one of the easiest markets around. “I first came here in 2001, and the changes have been positive. Just by looking at the displays at this fair, you can tell that local publishers are very selective and very good at picking the best books for their readers.” This time, Nguyen is promoting Vert Secret by Max Ducos (who attended and spoke at the previous TIBE) and I Can’t Wait by Serge Bloch (which has sold more than 150,000 copies worldwide).
The ability to speak Chinese (having studied in Beijing) has paid off for international sales manager Caroline Lauder of Dorling Kindersley. “It is a DK practice to deploy executives who understand the local language and market so as to help create titles that would cater to specific audience. And by attending TIBE, we get to see what’s going on in the marketplace while at the same time connecting with local publishers and the target audience.” The months since 2010 TIBE has seen Lauder and new colleague, Linda Pevere, ink more than 20 new deals. Titles for the preschool market such as encyclopedic series on human history, says Pevere, sells well. “Photography books such as Tom Ang’s The Complete Photographer and his other titles have also found favor with readers here.”
Though this is her first TIBE, rights manager Carole Boutin of Montreal-based Groupe Librex has already sold some titles to Taiwanese publishers including Harold Gagné’s Aftermath. Next on her export list are Kim Thuy’s Ru (winner of the 2010 Governor General’s Literary Award of Canada), Steve Proulx’s Le Cratere (a 8-volume series for kids 10-year-old and up), and Michel Perreault’s Thinking and Acting like A Business… There’s A Cure. “The whole idea of attending TIBE is to meet local publishers as well as those from the region who do not attend Frankfurt Fair. I’m most impressed by the people who are very welcoming. They are interested in our titles and are very curious about our company and what we do. I will definitely be back next year.”