With its 2016 sales accounting for at least 7.5% of the Chinese children’s book market, Zhejiang Juvenile & Children’s Publishing House is the indisputable #1 children’s publisher in the country, a position it has occupied for the past 14 years. In fact, almost 30% of China’s bestselling children’s titles come from this 34-year-old company.
One series that propels Zhejiang Juvenile to the top of the children’s bookselling ranking is Yang Hongying’s Naughty Boy Ma Xiaotiao (titled Mo’s Mischief in the HarperCollins edition). About 23 million copies have been sold since the series’ 2003 launch; the latest volume (#24), released seven months ago, has already passed 570,000 copies sold.
Then there is Leon Image’s Charlie IX & Dodomo, currently the bestselling series in the Chinese market. Charlie IX’s plot twists and turns keep children in suspense. The eagerly anticipated next volume will push the series’ total sales beyond its current total of 66 million copies. So popular is Charlie IX that Zhejiang Juvenile has produced two different versions—a full-color comics version and novel version—for different age groups.
“Our three biggest brands are Naughty Ma, Charlie IX, and Shen Shixi’s animal-themed fiction series—and we are focused on expanding these IPs into new markets,” says Wang Zhong, president of Zhejiang Juvenile, adding that the paperback edition of Shen’s latest, Dream of Being a Wolf King, has sold over 4.8 million copies since October 2009. As of December 2016, Shen’s titles have sold upward of 25 million copies, with some translated into 11 languages. Animal stories such as these “are suitable for children everywhere—in China or overseas—because there is little cultural, social, or national background in such plots,” Wang says. “The stories are evergreen while also cultivating love and respect for nature and wildlife.”
But Zhejiang Juvenile, which many industry observers regard as “a talent and brand incubator,” is not focused solely on multivolume series. One of its original single-volume picture books, I Love You, for instance, has been published in Australia and Malaysia, with a U.K. edition set for release soon. “We have an abundance of local works and authors—in picture books, middle grade series, and children’s literature—waiting to be discovered by children from other parts of the world,” Wang says. “Many revolve around universal themes that transcend geographic and cultural barriers.”
As for translations into Chinese, no other series is as popular or closely associated with Zhejiang Juvenile as the Adventures of Tiger-Team. Launched in 2001, the series has sold tens of millions of copies. “Author Thomas Brezina’s visits and tours to meet his fans and participate in various activities throughout China were instrumental in branding this series and pushing its sales,” Wang says. “Together, we created a longstanding bestseller that is essentially China’s first blockbuster children’s series.” Wang emphasizes the need for continuous and close collaboration with authors in market-facing communications and interactions. In a year, the company organizes no fewer than 500 author-related events.
Wang and his team also translated Peter Carnavas’s The Children Who Loved Books, which has sold 100,000 copies, and work with big brands such as Disney (on movie tie-ins), DreamWorks (on Kung Fu Panda), Hasbro (on My Little Pony), and the National Geographic Society.
Annually, Zhejiang Juvenile publishes around 650 new titles, of which 20% are translations. Its limited success in selling rights, despite participating in major international fairs over the years, led to the company’s 2016 takeover of Australian publisher New Frontier Publishing. It was the first overseas acquisition by a Chinese children’s publisher. “Besides having new publications that we can translate for the Chinese market, we now have a new conduit to reach the global market, where our understanding of consumers’ needs and demands is not where it should be,” Wang says.
New Frontier’s U.K. branch office is now Zhejiang Juvenile’s wholly owned subsidiary and will focus on promoting Zhejiang Juvenile’s list internationally. “We have the publishing expertise and market knowledge honed through years of producing blockbuster series—originals and imported—and nurturing homegrown talents,” Wang says. “Now we are seeking collaborations with like-minded overseas publishers that are looking into further penetrating the Chinese book market through copublishing or translations and importing our titles for their markets. Let’s work together to enrich children’s reading world and provide them, wherever they are, with the best titles.”