The second morning of this year's Beijing International Book Fair starts with conversation and speculation over the sudden closure of the exhibition hall (from 2.30pm to 4.30pm) on the previous day. Accounts of canine teams, visiting dignitaries and attendees barred from entering the exhibition center spark interest and gripes in equal amounts.
For chief representative Jackie Huang of Andrew Nurnberg Associates, the new venue is a source of much frustration. Her clients (and team) are unhappy about travelling to the fair and several appointments have had to be rescheduled due to delays caused by the long commute and traffic jams. But business-wise, it is positive and most encouraging. “Children’s books are very strong, especially picture books and literary titles. This is largely due to the government’s push to get kids to read for leisure and general knowledge,” Huang said. Recent bestsellers handled by Huang include Peter Buffet’s Life Is What You Make It (“teaching Chinese kids to find their own path and meaning in life”) and Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife (“proving that literary titles remain strong here”). Next on her project list is Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles.
Sales to China has picked up in recent years for Albert Whitman & Company, especially since its first BIBF outing in 2009. “The bilingual rights of The Boxcar Children Mysteries series have been sold to Hubei Children’s Press, and they are working on the first 50 titles right now. We also sold Miss Fox series—containing four picture books—to 21st Century Publishing,” said president John Quattrocchi, who is busy promoting Boxcar graphic novels (“a natural progression after the main series”) and the five-volume The Buddy Files. “We mostly rely on China Publishing Marketing to sell our original editions, and Bardon-Chinese Media Agency, our exclusive rights agency for more than 10 years, to help us find the right partner in China. This arrangement has been working very well for us, and we are happy to continue with it.”
Back for another year (and with its own booth) in order to expand existing relationships and identify new opportunities is Baker & Taylor. “The vitality of the Chinese market is without question. It has a brisk library business -- with more than 5,700 academic, school and public libraries -- and lots of research projects requiring new content and reference materials,” says v-p for digital printing and academic/educational merchandising David Hetherington. “This is my fourth visit, and every time I come away more fascinated than before by this country and its people. Without a doubt, it is a nation dedicated to self-improvement, and with a staggering amount of demand for products on language, science and technology.”
It is also about relationship building and face-to-face meeting for first-time BIBF participant Annie Oswald of FranklinCovey. “I am also here to find ways to promote digital products and identifying new partners.” But Covey books need little introduction in the Chinese market. Millions of copies have already been sold while Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens was recently billed as one of the best books for college students. Its seminars (conducted through licensee Right Management) have also played a major role in strengthening the Covey brand throughout China. “But we are not resting on our laurels. We want to try out new ways of reaching our target audience.”
The Art Museum, a gorgeous 992-page book containing 3,000 illustrations and weighing 8-kilogram, is the special advance copy hand-carried by sales manager Amy Hordes all the way from Phaidon’s London office. Retailing at around $200, it will be available worldwide from the middle of next month. As for what is selling in China, Hordes said, “Cookbooks are hot right now. Ferran Adria’s titles, A Day at El Bulli and The Family Meal, have been selling very well in its original edition. Seven years ago, such sales would have been impossible. It seems like the fascination with architecture and interior design titles has spilled over to include beautifully illustrated cookbooks.” As a first-time BIBF exhibitor, Phaidon has been doing rights sales directly. “We would rather watch and learn the market from the ground up rather than focusing on getting the most deals in the shortest time.”
Over at library supplier Casalini Libri, China is now one of its top 10 markets. “Seven years ago, this market did not even exist for us,” said senior account development manager Colleen Campbell. “There have been tremendous interests in titles from the territories that we cover, namely Italy, France and Portugal. But things have slowed down a bit this year, primarily because libraries in Asia do not purchase titles on a regular basis as they tend to have sporadic focus on certain country or topic.” For now, Campbell is busy promoting casalinitorrossa, a full-text online platform containing books and journals from more than 100 Italian and Spanish publishers. “Academic libraries are moving into the digital platform, and this is a new way for Chinese clients to access content from my part of the world.”
For Seoul-based e-Future, going beyond Korean is its mission, and the company has been expanding to Japan, Vietnam, China and Latin America. “We have been selling English language teaching materials to Spain, Mexico, Egypt and even the U.S.,” says v-p/CFO Kyle Lee, whose titles are displayed prominently under the CNPIEC (China National Publication Import & Export Corporation) pavilion. “China is our biggest potential market especially because our products are tailor-made for non-native English language learners based on the experiences of non-native speakers -- unlike those from US or UK multinational publishers that are authored by native speakers.” A public-listed company, e-Future is working with a major Korean telecommunications company (with possible link-up in China in the near future) and selling its original editions through local Chinese distributor Longingsun.