Tapping into Western book publishers' recent interest in China, a new literary agency has set up shop in Hong Kong, with the goal of bringing Chinese voices to the West. Creative Work Ltd. began agenting last year and has since sold Chinese authors' works to Transworld UK and Atlas Books. Its latest acquisition, Chinese writer Yang Hengjun, signed on with the agency just last week. His spy thriller trilogy—about a U.S. double agent—still untranslated and currently too sensitive to be published in China, has generated widespread interest online, where it has been read by many overseas Chinese.
“There are many voices out there that need to be heard,” said Marysia Juszczakiewicz, who heads Creative Work's literary arm (the agency also represents film properties). The firm currently represents about 20 writers spanning a range of genres. Co-founded by Britons Duncan Jepson and Ilyas Khan, Creative Work seeks out and represents emerging and established Asian authors; provides development and editorial support; negotiates rights and sales; arranges translations; and markets its books in all Asian territories. Juszczakiewicz, who has held editorial positions at Hodder Headline and Reader's Digest, has been with the firm since its beginning.
Among the first deals inked by Creative Work were world rights to a collection of short stories and an untitled novel by Chinese bestselling author Su Tong, to Jane Lawson, editorial director of Transworld UK's Doubleday imprint. Creative Work also recently sold North American rights to Lijia Zhang's Socialism Is Great! to Atlas Books (see PW, Feb. 5), as part of a six-book package. The agency also reps bestselling author Annie Baby, whose Goodbye Vivien sold 500,000 copies in China.
Creative Work is based in Hong Kong and Beijing, with about five full-time employees on its literary side. Despite the growing interest in China, Juszczakiewicz acknowledges that there are challenges in doing business there. Chinese writers, she noted, don't necessarily understand what an agent can do for them, and many don't know anything about publishers outside of China. Working out contracts, including translating them, “can be time consuming,” Juszczakiewicz said.
Creative Work sells world rights to some novels, but single-country rights, too. In particular, Juszczakiewicz is focusing on selling into Vietnam, Korea and Poland. The agency is also looking to acquire authors elsewhere in Asia, particularly Japan.