Day three of the fair was no different from the first two days, with exhibitors and their publishing partners busy jumping from one meeting to the next. Almost everybody reported increased sales to China, and no one had failed to note (and welcome) the changes within the Chinese reading and publishing community.
The emergence of online platform and independent bookstores, said head of sales Azia Cheng of Penguin China, has certainly increased the public’s accessibility to English-language books. “The idea of reading and learning in English has taken off in China, mostly due to the importance placed on education and English language learning,” said Cheng, who put Penguin China’s growth in the past eight years at a conservative 50%. “Our bestsellers continue to be the classics and children’s titles. Cookbooks are getting popular as China becomes a more affluent society interested in learning different cultures and cuisines. Customized publishing with local partners has also gained momentum in recent months.” Big Penguin titles for this show include Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals, a biography on tennis player Li Na, Paul French’s Midnight in Peking (with its Chinese edition fresh off the press), and two translated works from novelist Lao She (Cat Country and Mr Ma and Son).
For Capstone/Raintree, its presence at the past six BIBFs had helped to introduce its titles to local publishers. At least 50 series, with each ranging between four and ten titles, have been sold to partners such as Dolphin Media (Wuhan), Beijing Hanwen and Shanghai Scientific & Technological Publishing Press. “Illustrated science titles and those on character education sell well. Our 16-title Hello Genius and 12-title Little Boost series are bestsellers here with the original Hello Genius contract signed for a 8,000-copy first printing,” said rights manager Regina Irwin, who is promoting two new series, Mark Weakland’s Wacky Comparisons and Isabel Thomas’ Dealing with Feeling from the the Picture Window Books imprint. For Irwin, who is on her 10th BIBF visit, “it is obvious that Chinese publishers are getting more selective and more commercially aware of the potential of each title picked. With private publishing houses coming into the picture, there is an emphasis on design and illustration quality whereas before, it was all about academic titles. Now they still want information on the pages but packaged in more appealing ways.”
Over at the Canadian Pavilion, Livres Canada Books hosted seven publishers, of which four—De Marque, Dominique et compagnie, Editions Hurtubise/Editions XYZ and Sara Jordan—are first-time exhibitors. For Dominique et compagnie, sales kicked off before the start of the fair with a 20-title illustrated children’s series Galette going to Liaoning Juvenile & Children Publishing House. Asked how things have changed since Livres Canada Books participated in the 2005 BIBF, programs manager Christy Doucet said, “In the past, a lot of time went into relationship-building. That is something that North Americans generally find challenging as we like to sign on the dotted lines right away. But now the process is much shorter especially when parties can meet again at the Frankfurt fair.” In total, sales of Canadian titles (finished products and rights) to China since 2004 have reached C$9.3 million. Rights sales in 2012 alone exceed C$1.0 million, with DC Canada Education Publishing (with its One Story A Day bestselling series) and Lingo Learning the biggest sellers.
The immense interest in its 2008 BIBF catalogue was all the impetus CEO Claudia Mazzucco of Atlantyca needed to set up an office in Beijing. Since then, 500 contracts (out of a worldwide total of 4,000) were signed with Chinese publishers, with 21st Century Publishing House emerging as its biggest partner. “And soon after we added Italian art and design titles to our list, Beijing Phoenix Power bought the 31-volume Grandi Musei series. In fact, 50% of our appointments at this fair are for art and design titles,” said Mazzucco, pointing out that “children’s education and books, and art and design go together.” On the other hand, the success of Geronimo Stilton (through licensee Scholastic) has given her a lot of insights into the wider Asian region. “It is astonishing to see the talking mouse series selling over 85 million copies globally and being turned into a television stories. That shows to me the immense possibilities and market opportunities out there.”
Archi-Doodle: An Architect’s Activity Book, out next month, is one hot title at Laurence King, with about nine publishers wanting to translate it. Also hot is This Is… series on artists such as Warhol, Pollock and Dali, which will have six of the planned 30 titles out next year. At the end of the third day at BIBF, senior rights manager Janet Pilch concluded that “books on sustainability are not for China. Fashion titles continue to do well but those on textile, much as we consider the subject an extension to fashion, are tough sell.” In total, Pilch sold around 25 titles since the last BIBF. “Two factors behind this slowdown: Most of our backlist has already been sold while pressure from our Hong Kong partners has resulted in an 18-month gap—up from the previous 12—between the launch of the Hong Kong/Traditional Chinese edition and the China/Simplified Chinese edition to avoid sales cannibalization. However, this means that I have to turn away Chinese publishers who are interested in translating the newest and most recent titles.”
Over at Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 150 titles (predominantly on Chinese medicine and martial arts) have been published under its Singing Dragon imprint. “The interest from the rest of the world on qigong has been growing but finding experts to write about such subject is difficult,” said publisher Jessica Kingsley, who has bought five qigong titles from Foreign Languages Press. “Singing Dragon is a great fodder for conversation and it sometimes creates an almost barter-like copyright situation. For instance, I sold Painful Bladder Syndrome to Hunan Science & Technology Press yesterday and, in turn, I bought one of their herbal medicine titles. Collaboration does not come closer than this.” Kingsley also noted that “Chinese publishers are well prepared coming into meetings, have a much better understanding of contracts and are in touch with their markets. They are decisive in their title selection. I think the change within the past year is nothing short of transformative.”
The next BIBF, featuring Turkey as the guest country, is set for Beijing from August 27 to 31, 2014.