Established in 1952, Juvenile & Children’s Publishing House was China’s first professional children’s publisher and is part of the much larger Shanghai Century Publishing. It is also China’s most active publisher in rights selling, starting with the 1979 sale of picture book Precious Boat to Japan. Since then, more than 1,500 titles have been exported to countries including France, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam. JCPH publishes 800 titles per year, along with eight journals and two weekly newspapers.
Creating long-running bestsellers is a JCPH tradition, and 100,000 Whys is one outstanding example. Launched in 1961, the current 18-volume 100,000 Whys boasts contributions from 110 academicians and 700 scientists. The full-color sixth edition has received accolades from schools, teachers, parents, and the government for developing scientific thinking and reasoning in the young. Around 2.5 million sets of the latest edition have been sold, and it is now available in six languages, including Kazakh, Uyghur, and Vietnamese.
“Many of our bestsellers were published in the 1950s and 1960s by old publishing houses, which were acquired by our parent company,” explains Zhou Qing, president and editor-in-chief of JCPH. “Given the shifts in demographics and market preferences, we are now working on ensuring that these old publications meet current market demands and will continue to thrive for generations to come.”
For Zhou, successful branding is critical in extending the product line, which will add considerably to the company’s sales and market influence: “Take our Juvenile Science magazine as an example. I rebranded it 100,000 Whys three years ago to capitalize on the success of the book series and to realign our editorial efforts. It resulted in our collaboration with National Geographic in 2015, and today we have three different editions—focusing on learning, exploration, and discovery—to further promote science education.”
The rebranding effort also includes a 100,000 Whys Museum in Shanghai’s Baoshan District and a winter science camp in Xishuangbanna (along the Myanmar/Laos border with China) in the past year. “This brand now covers not just books and magazines, but also online communities and science curriculum recommendation and assessments,” adds Zhou, who is working on a science literacy evaluation system modeled upon the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Project 2061.
JCPH is also active in organizing events aimed at brand promotion and awareness. The company’s magazine The Kingdom of Story has sponsored a nationwide storytelling competition for the past 18 years. The success of the 365 Bedtime Stories picture book series led to the launch of a spin-off series, Little Frog Stories. “We set up a Little Frog storytelling game on our WeChat account, and 90,000 participated overnight,” Zhou says. “This platform has become our direct-to-market communications channel for more reading activities as well as promotional services for that brand.”
But it is not just about originals at JCPH. “We have introduced beloved characters such as Eloise, Garfield, and Peter Pan, and bestsellers including David McKee’s Elmer, Akiko Hayashi’s Baby series, Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram’s Guess How Much I Love You, and Richard Peck’s A Long Way from Chicago,” Zhou says, adding that the company’s first translated work, Disney’s Mickey’s Wonderful World, was released in 1993.
Picture books are one of JCPH’s big segments; the publisher recently launched the Crocodiles Fall in Love with Giraffes boxed set containing three titles from Daniela Kulot. “The market is paying a lot of attention to the zero-to-six age group due to the spotlight on preschool education and early childhood reading,” says Zhou, whose original picture book series The Adventures of Sanmao—featuring a protagonist who has only three hairs on his head—has sold more than 10 million sets since 1959 and is now available in French.
Zhou attributes the company’s success (sales doubled between 2010 and 2015) to meticulous content development. “Our contributors and editorial team took three years to produce the new edition of 100,000 Whys,” she notes. “But many content creators today are not as patient or meticulous as authors of old. Research is often insufficiently done, resulting in subpar quality. And that worries me, since we are determined to create long-running products that can be branded, expanded, and promoted extensively.” Zhou adds that JCPH is looking for new content promoting scientific thinking and unique picture books.