The second annual Global Kids Connect conference, organized by Publishers Weekly and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, surveyed a fast-growing market for picture books in China, examined renewed foreign rights sales in Spain and Latin America, and looked at challenges to the rights marketplace due to currency exchange issues in the wake of Brexit.

The children's book market in China is booming, growing at the rate 10% to 15% a year, according to Renee Huang, founder and publisher of Everafter Books, part of Trustbridge Publishing. In a detailed presentation called “Finding Success in China Today,” Huang outlined a Chinese children’s book market led by the growth of picture books and English-learning titles, and bursting with opportunities for online sales of titles through popular Chinese social media channels like WeChat. According to Huang, 70% to 80% of online sales are via mobile devices.

Huang noted the growth of private publishing ventures, including international publishers, in a Chinese book marketplace dominated by state-owned publishing entities. Out of the 582 state publishers, only about 30 are focused on children's publishing.

Auction-driven advances for picture books are “skyrocketing and unreasonably high,” Huang reported (the average advance, she said, has grown from about $3,000 to about $20,000). She said the Chinese prose market is focused on middle-grade novels (the YA category doesn’t really exist in China), and is dominated by big-name Chinese authors along with sporadic appearance of some popular Western franchises. Children’s books, Huang said, represent about 44% of revenue generated by Chinese physical bookstores and about 32% of book sales at online booksellers.

Literary agent Ginger Clark led a lively discussion on “Sales and Acquisitions in an Unpredictable Marketplace,” with a panel of scouts and rights directors that included Kelly Farber, Rachel Hecht and Allison Hellegers. Farber confirmed the booming market for picture books in China, saying “they want a sample of every single picture book sent to them.” The group pointed to a renewed rights sales in Brazil, Spain and Latin America in general.

And while German advances for children’s properties were characterized as “stable,” there was much discussion of the weakness of the British pound, which has lost about 1/6 of its value since the vote to leave the European Union. “In U.S. deals, U.K. author advances are going to be higher,” Hellegers said.

Farber explained that while the weak pound makes U.K. books cheaper to buy and very competitive with U.S. rights, she cautioned British publishers to be wary of “over-confidence,” based on a currency advantage she said was likely “unsustainable.” Clark also warned that the currency exchange issue made U.K. subsidiaries with German and American parent companies appear less profitable to their owners.

The panel also touched on the “exciting” growth in in-house I.P. as part of the foreign rights marketplace, which is a trend toward English-language publishers creating foreign language projects in conjunction with foreign partners, and then selling it back into the U.S. market.

Rounding out the GKC morning session were panels on foreign translations of kids’ books, managing the online relationship between fans on social media and popular global kids brands they love, licensing issues and issues of diversity and technology in children's publishing.

Click here for more coverage of the event, held December 7 in New York City.