Who is Publishing What in Taiwan
Sally Taylor -- 7/1/98
And, Taipei Gets a Great Book Store, at last
You will find most of the major players in book publishing in Taiwan today at the annual Taipei International Book Fair. Next year it runs 7-12 February, 1999 at the Taipei World Trade Center and features two days, February 7 and 8 for the trade only.
For more details contact:
Haifa Lu, Exhibitors' Services, B2
465 Chung-Shiao E. Rd, Section 6
Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.
Here are a few of the PW interviewed at the 1998 event, asking them not only about their blossoming Taiwan market, but what they hope to be their future in China.
Wang Jung-wen, Chairman and Publisher of Yuan-Liou Publishing Company and Meta Media International Company, has a broad reach into Chinese markets worldwide through their various contacts and now through the internet. The YLib Group, Taiwan's largest private publisher, keeps an informational and purchasing website in Chinese and in English.
"Through the net," says Wang. "Ylib serves Chinese all over the world.
Jennifer Wang has been recently promoted to Rights Manager with Deborah Chen (Shu-Ling) handling Psychology titles and Children's Books. Wang gives some details:
"We publish the Chinese version of the Eyewitness Travel Guides from DK," says Wang. "We represent Disney and Dr. Seuss exclusively in Taiwan, and we also translate the books of some of the most well-known tycoons in the US, such as Bill Gates's The Road Ahead and Robert Hagstrom's The Warren Buffett Way (Wiley) and Andy Grove's High Output Management. We also have Andrew Weil's Spontaneous Healing (Knopf)."
"For English language learning, our International Business Series has ten very popular titles to date and many are out in book and audio and CD-ROM versions through our Meta Media International Company Ltd. The simplified character version is under negotiation now. "
In China, Yuan-Liou's business series and general psychology series (especially these on marriage and parenting) are particularly popular, Wang reports.
"We only have two options now to open up the market in China: subsidiary rights sales . and distribution offices. It is impossible for us to be licensed as publishers in China yet, but we can penetrate the China market by establishing distribution offices which are not regulated. After deregulation, we can easily integrate the role of publisher and distributor and start doing business," she says hopefully.
"We are especially looking for titles in business (especially stories and management of top business companies, masterpieces of business concepts), self-help, inspiration, art and film, as well as books for the information age. We welcome any publisher to come to us and march towards China together."
China Times' International Rights Director is the energetic Joyce Yen, who recently purchased The Last Governor by Jonathan Dimbleby from UK Little Brown and made a coop negotiating for Patten's autobiography in Chinese before HarperCollins rejected it in international headlines.
"We have retained Franklin Segal as our scout since 1992," says Yen. "And our mix of quality fiction and nonfiction for adults has made us number one in sales and profits now." Yen credits her boss, President Amy Chao-ping Mo, for turning the company around in the last two years. Yen calls Mo, "the ultimate powerhouse woman in Taiwanese publishing."
Former editor-in-chief of the China Times Book Review, Mo is publicity-shy but her driving Rights Director makes up for that. Their current best seller is Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson came through Big Apple. Before that it was Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, which, with some 570,000 copies in print, holds their all-time selling record in the Taiwan market, according to Yen.
"EQ , is it is called here, is a textbook example of synergy," says Yen. "The newspapers and magazines owned by the China Times Group published so many articles about it that some people jokingly rename our flagship newspaper' China EQ Times.' And our Sunday paper went so far as to rename its food & cuisine page 'EQ Kitchen.' No wonder the book just kept flying off the shelves. But those sarcastic people forgot that almost all the negative criticisms on the book were also published in China Times Daily. Can't help it, all these biting comments just made the book sell even better. " (The book was heavily pirated in China.)
China Times also did Stone Diaries from Carol Shields, The Alchemist by Paulo C hlo from HarperSF, the works of Murakami Haruki from Bungeishinju in Japan, Let the Sea Make a Noise: The History of the North Pacific from Magellan to Macarthur from Basic Books, through Bardon, The Courage to Stand Alone by Wei Ching-jun from Viking, for which Yen bought world Chinese language rights for the author's original manuscript, Cigarettes are Sublime by Richard Kline from Duke University Press, and Talking to Heaven.
To Yen, the greatest publishing mystery in the Taiwan market is the utter failure of Anglo-American genre fiction. "Authors like Sidney Sheldon and Frederick Forsythe and the Harlequin books take the markets of Japan and Europe by storm," she says. "But not Taiwan. If I can figure out a solution to the mystery, I will quit my job at China Times and set up my own house. I am joking, of course. But Taiwan as a market is already saturated through and through except for this big gap of genre fiction, unfilled for years. It presents a tremendous opportunity." The other Taiwan mystery Yen notes is the inconsistency of movies helping books.
"So far, the best example in our market is still Bridges Of Madison County." When China Times published the Chinese edition, it was already a fixture in American, Japanese and European charts. Rex How was our publisher then and he simply adored the book. He pushed our sales and marketing people really hard. He even made the price really cheap. Yet the book simply failed to make a splash. However, when the film finally came out, the book shot up the charts immediately.
"But others, like Jurassic Park, did not push the book, though the movie was a huge hit. I am hoping Message in a Bottle will do well for us when the Kevin Costner film comes out."
Yen credits Rex How, now running the Commercial Press, for setting the direction of China Times.
"Our reputation for hugely popular translations of foreign works was developed by Rex How," says Yen. "He is our biggest competitor now."
How not only runs the Commercial Press in Taiwan but also his own small publishing company, Locus, formed in November 1996. They have done well with world rights for The Bible Code outside of the PRC, where it also did well with another publisher, and Only the Paranoid Survive by Andrew S. Grove, a best seller in Taiwan, though not in the USA.
"We are looking for commercial fiction," says How. "And we are launching a website where readers can buy our books by credit card."
Locus is also going to be the exclusive publisher of the "Dummies" series from IDG in Taiwan. "We want to be a publishing company focusing on the future and Net oriented topics in the future," says How.
Linden T.C. Lin, Editorial Director of Linking Publishing told PW, "Our most successful translated title to date has been the autobiography of the Dalai Lama from the UK. The 1996 Windows on the World Complete Wine Course from Sterling sold 30,000 copies and Food -- Your Miracle Medicine from HarperCollins was another hit. We also bought 8 Weeks to Optimum Health by Andrew Weil and Strong Women Stay Young."
"We expect to increase the number of translations in our mix from the current 30 out of 130, and give better book design and manufacturing. There are many talented young people in publishing now, which surprises me, because the pay is much less compared to other enterprises."
One good example is a bunch of bright young journalists who started Cite in January of 1997 and Hung-Tze Jan, Publisher and CEO, told PW around 50% of their titles are translations.
"We are attracting bright young people to publishing now," Jan says, formerly with Yuan Liou. "Ten years ago we didn't have this level of freedom of speech. One of our problems is keeping in contact with these young people, giving them what they want. You need young editors for that."
The company has a number of imprints, each specialized: Marco Polo is travel, Faces is mystery, Ryefield is literary and military history, Owl is reference and Business Weekly is business.
"Fifty percent is probably a typical share of the foreign authors in publishing houses here. People know and read local authors more, really. We had three titles last year that sold over 200,000 copies, all of them by local authors.
"Of course we look in every category, but our strength will come from business and computer titles from abroad in the future. The computer category has had double digit growth for five straight years. There were 2000 titles on computers published in Taiwan last year, and 60% of them were translated, mostly from the USA. We think that trend will continue.
"We did the Collier Encyclopedia of Knowledge with DK's help and with Friendship Publishing Company in Beijing.
Another of the young generation of new publishers in Taiwan is Doris Wang, Editor-in-chief of Living Psychology Publishers. Emerging from a youth counseling center founded in 1960, the publishing arm started with Living Psychology Monthly and then went independent. Wang, a professional counselor and former editor of the magazine, now runs the book division with a staff of 40.
The company specializes in self-help titles, including a bilingual "Elf Help" mini gift book series based on the Abbey Press series and Pooh's Little Instruction Book based on the Dutton series. The company has also translated The Hite Report: Women and Love, A World Waiting To Be Born, Iron John, Listening to Prozac and The Moral Animals.
Sixty percent of the titles are translations. One recent best seller has been the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, which came through Bardon and has sold 230,000 copies.
"We also sold 460,000 copies of Brian Weiss' Many Lives, Many Masters, which we bought in 1992 through Big Apple. We prefer to work directly with other publishers, but we are so small, we have to use the agents to reach the bigger companies.
"We have tried selling some of our titles in the Mainland, but we are not so familiar with the publishing market there, and we have had some difficulties as a result. But things are improving very quickly and I think Taiwan is a natural bridge for publishers going into China."
It became old hat to find young faces at the more established publishing houses in Taiwan this year and Commonwealth Publishing was no exception. Established in 1982 as a book division for two of Taiwan's most influential magazines, CommonWealth and Global Views Monthly, the book division strives to satisfy changing market demand.
"People have more time and are more serious about reading in Taiwan now," reports Vice-president Tien-lai Lin. "So the reading popular is growing. In recent years we can sell 10,000 copies of a book that a few years ago only sold 3000 copies. And the market is growing young, though older people are also reading more."
Famous for their translations of Being Digital, The Fifth Discipline, The Road Less Traveled and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the company thrives on translated works.
"In general, 70% of our titles are translations," says Senior Rights Representative Cynthia Chang. "Though it depends on the series. In management, self-help and science fiction it is 85 to 90% translations. In society and culture it is mostly local authors, and they match the foreign best sellers in sales.
"We go to book fairs and work with both local and foreign agents. One of our best selling translations right now is Real Moments by Barbara De Angilus, which we bought through Big Apple. Megatrends has 150,000 copies in print and Surely You are Joking Mr Feynman has 91,000. It came out from Norton in 1985 but wasn't translated here under contract until 1993.
"We also have a new literary series which include Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild and Paulo C hlo's By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept which has sold 2.5 million in the world and has 40,000 in print in Taiwan. Also, there is John Haynes, The Stars, The Snow, The Fire."
Four women met PW at Taiwan's hottest new personal finance publishing house, Money Culture Enterprise Company. Launched with a magazine on the subject in 1986, with a predominantly male audience, editor Karen Lee has a mostly female staff because, she says, "Men are good at big things, women are good at small things, and business is all small things."
The company has had success with their translations of Peter Lynch's One Up on Wall Street, Soros on Soros and Benjamin Graham on Value Investing.
"We are looking for more guidebooks to economics and new ideas in management, but the New York agents show little interest in Chinese language markets so we have to go to New York ourselves for first hand information. We also work closely with Big Apple."
Crown Culture Corporation, founded in 1954 by Ping Shin-tao, quickly expanded into a media group including books, audio books, film and television. They are famous for art exhibitions, theatre and dance performances as well, in the elegant multistory building in downtown Taipei.
Among many Chinese literary successes of the firm are the prolific teenage romances of Chiung Yao, known throughout the Chinese speaking world. Her books have spawned movies and popular TV series and she was nominated in 1998 as one of CommonWealth magazine's 100 most influential people in Taiwan.
While she is still producing new titles, her husband, Crown's publisher Ping Shin-tao, has given over the reins to his son, Ping Yun, now Vice President, who gives more of a focus on the younger generation of readers.
When Crown Culture publishes translations, they tackle the likes of Milan Kundera and Umberto Eco, Peter Mayle and Laura Esquivel. Among their biggest successes in translation so far: The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, Forrest Gump by Winston Groom, all the works of James Herriot, Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher and James Carmeron's Titanic.
"We want long term sales with these," reasons rights director Emily Chuang. "We also do movie tie-ins: Contact, Face/Off, Air Force One, Conspiracy Theory. The race is to get them properly translated and published in time for the movie's release date, which is now usually simultaneous with the USA." Ping Yun has also launched a new company and imprint, Ping's Publications Ltd.
"We are looking for how-to, science fiction and self-help for Ping's," says Managing Editor Lu Chun-Hsu. Themes include personal improvement, relations between the sexes, fashion and women's issues.
In 1994 Crown launched a biannual "Crown Popular Fiction Prize," worth NT$2.1 million, the largest literary prize in Chinese literature, limited to unpublished fiction. The winner is then published by Crown with half the prize money being an advance against royalties.
Also involved in art books is Taiwan Mac Educational Co Ltd. Not a computer publisher, as you would expect, Taiwan Mac started selling books door-to-door in 1983. They expanded into retail sales in 1995 and have doubled their staff since then to 400, growing 20% each year in sales.
Their best sellers are series of art and music titles. A 12-volume series on the Metropolitan Museum of Art has sold 30,000 sets in five years. A 30-volume work of the Grand Masters from Studio in the UK (now part of Random House), the 10-volume Oxford Dictionary of Music and others from Abbeyville and the Musee d'Orsay have made them important players in the rights market in Taiwan.
But General Manager Thomas Huang admits, "You can't sell these sets in book stores. So we have things like the DK Young Person's Guide to Music for NT600.
"We engineer the deals directly with the publishers, where possible, buying film and all Chinese language rights, though that has become more difficult in recent years, with the agents recommending publishers split rights. We print in Japan and are famous in Hong Kong and China for these high quality art titles.
"We used to sell books in the PRC through our company there to libraries and organizations, even though they are in traditional characters. But the PRC changes policy regularly and we had to close our office there. Now we cooperate instead with the PRC publishers through our representative.
"We recently did a series of 12 Shakespeare stories and sold them in China to Children's Publishing House, but the Government rejected one, The Taming of the Shrew, so we had 11 in the series in China. They were sold through the Bertelsmann Book Club.
"We also import and distribute English language art books into Taiwan. And while we concentrate on art and music in door to door, we have been successful in children's books in retail," says Meiling Lai, who manages product development for the company, having come from the children's house, Hsin Yi. "We also want to expand into subjects like parenting and self-help."
Book Selling in Taiwan
The main Eslite Bookstore in Taiwan is described by many book lovers there as a dream come true. It is two years old, but it still sets a new standard for retailing in Taiwan that nobody else can match.
"The book industry in Taiwan is young and energetic now," says the 37 year old Meiling Lo, the manager and one of the masterminds behind the Eslite retailing revolution. "Most of our customers are between 25 and 40, and we get 2000 people in this one store each day, five to six thousand a day on weekends.
Lo learned her trade on the job, starting with Rex How at China Times and moving to retailing just six years ago. She learned to speak and read English in school.
"We stock about 120,000 copies, including 1100 to 1300 magazine titles, which are displayed separately from the books, except that we put architecture titles and magazines together, as well as some professional magazines and books together.
"Our most popular book category now is Life and Leisure, then Business, then Literature. We also have rare books and some music CDs in this store, mostly new age and contemporary world music, most of it locally produced," says Lo.
"We have some remainder books, but we prefer to keep the quality high and our customers are not so price sensitive.
"We don't have an English language books section, per se. We mix everything together, English, French, Japanese and Chinese and file them together by subject. Foreigners complain, because it takes them longer to find the titles, but we are geared to local readers' needs, and they have no problem with this arrangement. With the books organized this way, they sometimes buy both the Chinese and original editions.
"About 22 to 25% of our titles are in foreign languages, most of those are in English, and most of them we purchase directly from the overseas publishers, but we also use Baker & Taylor and the online ordering services."
With such good international links, Eslite had the best selection of American titles at the Taipei International Book Exhibition earlier this year, representing Random House, DK, Taschen, Penguin USA and UK, Time Warner, Little Brown and Chronicle and managed by Anna Lee, who is in charge of foreign titles for all the stores. They also function as importers and distributors for the first three.
"Taiwan is a changing market in English language," Lee told PW. "I think the very quick translation of titles helps, it is almost simultaneous publication now."
With 16 stores in the chain, 10 of them in the capital city, the Eslite company has 850 employees, two fifths of those working in the book stores.
"We spend a great deal of energy on marketing now, with reading and book signings nearly daily," says Lo. "Making this store a kind a cultural center. Since all of us working here want to do something cultural, we work together to come up with things. Staff can choose a book or books they particularly like and create a display of them, exercise their creativity."
The store that PW visited, on Tunhua South Road, is the most elegant, but the newer one near the main train station is the biggest, according to Lo. And one near the University is the model for their future "Young Eslite" stores, which will attract the under 30 crowd. A rumor at press time had Eslite expanding, as well, to Hong Kong.
"The Eslite bookstores are helpful in changing people's thinking about titles," says Joyce Yen at China Times. "Every story is different. They can sell books that we cant sell elsewhere, they cater to alternative tastes. So they have an unusual top 100 list. A Year in Provence is still on their top 15. The book displays look like flower arrangements."
"Eslite is a fashion," says an editor at another house. "It's more than a bookstore. It is the cultural place to be. Kingstone focuses on bestsellers and reference books and magazines, so it is not so much a cultural statement."
Kingstone, however is the largest of four very competitive book store chains in Taiwan, with 65 stores. Hess and New Schoolmates compete fiercely alongside Eslite. There are only 500 true bookstores in the country, 200 of them in Taipei.
See a list of publishing resources in Taiwan.
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