The International Hall remains busy on day three of the fair. Most participants have now come to accept the logistical issues that accompany the new middle-of-nowhere venue, and are focused on their main goal of making new deals and partners.
For rights executive Emily Gerbner of Bloomsbury Publishing, this first visit to Beijing has been busy and most productive. The company’s extensive list means that there is always something for someone. Its visual arts titles and commercial fiction are doing well here. Berg Publishers list, for instance, are popular with universities with art, design and fashion courses. “I am also pleasantly surprised that two re-issued publications -- The Wombles, which is very English, and Gerald Rose’s The Tiger-Skin Rug -- have found favor with Chinese publishers. It proves that this market is not cut-and-dried, and you never really know what would work here.”
A few booths away, publisher Jessica Kingsley sees more demand for titles on parenting, children-specific issues and special needs. “Issues such as dealing with anger, as depicted in our picture book, The Red Beast, and titles on music therapy are garnering attention.” Her imprint, Singing Dragon, has already published eight titles with content bought from China. “We have one visitor -- whom we later found out to be a reputable author -- dropping by our booth with an almost-complete manuscript in English yesterday. It seems like our reputation in publishing authentic Chinese material without injecting Western viewpoints is growing.”
Over at De Agostini, international sales manager for cartography, travel and multimedia Cinzia Seccamani has sold more than 30 titles to China. “Few publishers want to do map products here because they do not want to go through tedious government approval process prior to publication,” said Seccamani, but Astronomic Maps, a series of wall maps on the sky, moon and solar system, have sold 5,000 to 7,000 copies of each title. One fully illustrated title The Great Explorations was billed the best educational title for children in China last year while another title, My First Atlas, launched in June, has already sold more than 2,000 copies.
Group sales director Gillian Laskier of Egmont UK, observed that "Chinese publishers remain keen on long series and continue to miss out on beautiful high-quality single titles. So I have made it my mission to promote single titles at this fair.” Egmont and its Chinese joint-venture partner, Children’s Fun, have just launched two originals -- Shixi Shen’s Jackal and Wolf, and Meizhen Wu’s An Unusual Princess -- in eight Egmont territories. Meanwhile, the Chinese edition of The World of Happy series has just been made available. “This is our third-biggest market in Asia, and the potential is staggering.”
Last month, Berlin-based humanities and social sciences publisher de Gruyter set up a new office in Beijing. For area sales manager Michael Annecke, this growing presence is indicative of China’s importance to the company. “Sales from China increase by about 20% per year, and we will soon see China taking over from Korea as our #2 market in Asia.” This year Annecke is busy promoting e-books to libraries while making contacts with Chinese academic societies and publishing associations. He finds the close business and political relations between China and Germany favorable to the company.
Over at Ireland Literature Exchange, around 24 originals are now available in Chinese edition through its translation grants. The list includes works by contemporary authors such as Sebastian Barry, Claire Keegan and Colin Torbin. “Children’s titles are, of course, very popular, and authors like Eoin Colfer need no further introduction. Fiction-wise, Chinese readers love emotional roller-coasters, happy endings and hopeful love stories,” says information office Aoife Walsh, who acknowledges that Irish literature is often bittersweet with dark humor and not straightforward.
For Wendy King of Big Apple Agency, contract renewal is big this year. “There are also more demand for biographies and inspiration titles. I also see a shift toward materials for teacher education and teaching methodology.” Her team recently handled George Beahm’s I, Steve, Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age, and Gretchen Morgenson’s Reckless Endangerment; biographies on Henry Kissinger, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and J.D. Salinger; and works by authors Ian McEwan, Colm Toibin and Alyson Noel. Big Apple is also the exclusive agent for Barron’s, which is very popular in China, and “most of their titles are doing well except for Flash Cards. So, I am doing my best to promote this product range.”
Also in Beijing is Claudia Kaiser, v-p of business development at Frankfurter Buchmesse. “There has been a lot of focus on digital publishing but this new platform is evoking quite a bit of fear among publishers. And while the Chinese public wants digital content, they do not want to pay for it. So this is going to a big challenge for the publishers.” Fair-wise, she finds the domestic halls organized more professionally this year (perhaps due to a much larger exhibit space), and the international hall buzzing with activities especially on the second day of the fair.
One first-time visitor who has confirmed her participation in the next BIBF (running from August 29 to September 2, 2012) is Triena Ong, president of the Singapore Book Publishers Association. “We will be back with a Singapore Pavilion through the support of our government agency Media Development Authority. We definitely need to broaden the presence of Singapore publishers in China.” For Ong, who is also the head of ISEAS Publishing, being here on the ground has helped her “to validate assessment made of the Chinese market, and it has certainly opened up new opportunities that I would not otherwise be able to explore.”