At the end of day three at TIBE (Taipei International Book Fair), many overseas exhibitors are preparing to head home, armed with new contacts and a better understanding of the Asian market.
“TIBE has a good mix of educational and trade publishers unlike other fairs which tend to focus on one segment or the other. And since this is a public fair, it allows for direct interaction with teachers and parents while supporting our distributors through our on-site presence,” says v-p of education and trade Linda Warfel at Scholastic Asia, who has invited Jacquie Bloese, publisher of Scholastic Readers series, to the fair to obtain local viewpoints that will help in the company’s content customization efforts. For Warfel, the goodwill from the fair—the first book event of 2011-- "certainly kick-starts our year with much optimism and new ideas.”
On the other side of the U.S. Pavilion, regional manager Bob Chau of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is happy to be back with his own booth. “We haven’t been exhibiting at TIBE for a while, and we want to let visiting teachers and parents know that we are right here for them.” With 13 boxes of titles, mostly of language learning, on display, HMH is busy capitalizing on 15 years of experience (and reputation) in Taiwan to further promote its brand and products. “Language learning is a big market in Taiwan and other parts of Asia but schools are mostly using traditional materials. Now that there is a push towards more innovative programs, we are perfectly placed to service that demand.”
For Anna Stein of New York-based Aitken Alexander Associates, an invitation to speak at the copyright workshop has resulted in her first TIBE visit. “The biggest barrier to exports is the lack of good translators. That I think is one of the reasons why many Chinese originals published by American companies have not been as successful as hoped. Personally, I would rather not have any translated sample chapters than having to read through badly translated pages—that would surely ‘kill’ the book for me,” says Stein, who went through 10 different sample translations of Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X before making her decision. “The Chinese language market is huge, and it is difficult to identify the ‘stars’ simply because there are so many authors out there. This obvious lack of big books and blockbuster authors means that literary scouts and good translators are key for successful exports.”
Over at the New Zealand booth, both Anne de Lautour (director of the country’s Publishers Association) and Sarah Ropata (senior international adviser of Creative NZ) are also attending TIBE for the first time. Two publishing houses, Gecko and Huia, and award-winning illustrator Gavin Bishop (Friends: Snake and Lizard and Cowshed Christmas) make up the rest of the Kiwi delegation. “Asia is a key market in our international strategy, and this is basically a research tour to determine viable markets,” says Ropata, whose organization has teamed up with the Publishers Association to offer translation grants of up to NZ$5000. “Our first impression is of a friendly and welcoming fair. The task now is to establish new relationships, work out the kinks and get things started,” adds de Lautour.
Two aisles away, contracts and rights manager Peg McColl of Penguin Group (Australia) arrived at TIBE armed with 24 appointments and lots of optimism (having inked 14 deals since the last event). “The venue may be different, but when it comes to fiction, publishers simply want their next bestseller. As for nonfiction, I’m seeing more requests for parenting titles and children’s picture books. The same goes for YA titles.” Accompanying McColl on this trip is writer Morris Gleitzman of Doubting Thomas, Two Weeks with the Queen fame who is involved in book-signing and reading events. “I’m also promoting YA author Sonya Hartnett, winner of the 2008 Astrid Lindgren award, whose works have been published in Taiwan recently. Overall, I’m amazed by the amount of translations in this market, and is nicely surprised by their interest in quirky illustrated gift books such as Meredith Gaston’s Tucked In.”
For Paris-based Didier Jeunesse, twice is the charm. “I have sold 10 titles since my first TIBE last year,” says foreign rights manager Anne Risaliti, emphasizing that “Taiwan publishers are very easy to work with since they know what they are looking for—specific age, storyline, type of illustration and so on—and they don’t waste time.” She has sold Monsieur Satie, a picture book with CD, and is convinced that such product would work in Taiwan. “Publishers here do not want co-editions, preferring instead to obtain the rights and do the production themselves.” And one of her biggest sellers in Asia is no other than Eric Battut (The Secret and Three Eggs).
Also from Paris is ABC Melody, established four years ago by Stephane Husar, a French language teacher who is also a musician. Its 30-title catalogue is full of unique and eye-catching titles such as Funny Trips, Where is My Cat and Hello Kids “through which we introduce world culture to young language learners. The accompanying audio CDs and Web links further provide authenticity and ambience to the places mentioned in each book,” says Husar who, having sold 11 titles to Korea recently, is keen to leverage on Taiwan’s fascination with anything French. “I didn’t know there are so many publishers in Taiwan prior to my arrival. And now that I’m here, I’m thoroughly impressed by the quality of books produced here, the avid interest in children’s books and by this well-organized fair. My return to TIBE is a sure thing.”