CQUP differentiates itself with an abundance of well-designed and glossy publications that are heavy on research and yet accessible to nonacademic readers. A four-volume work on ancient architecture of southwest China, for instance, is a collection of meticulously illustrated books that is also a definitive reference filled with architectural drawings and specifications that can be used to reconstruct, or replicate, any of the featured ancient buildings and sites.
“We publish titles from selected fields—arts, design, lifestyle, popular science, psychology, and self-help—that have crossover appeal to reach the nonscholarly, general readership,” says Yi Shuping, the president of the 32-year-old press, adding that attractive book design, high-quality printing and binding, and well-crafted marketing strategies are crucial to ensuring the success of such titles. The newly published Food Is God, for example, presents designer tableware collections seen through cultural and historical perspectives, and is targeted at well-heeled and well-traveled readers from China’s rising middle class who have a taste for fine dining. The average print run for such books is about 9,000 copies.
CQUP kick-started its vigorous trade publishing program back in 2008, making it a segment pioneer among China’s university presses. “Surviving in the publishing industry is about being innovative, creative, and market-oriented, and trade publishing pushes us to be even more so in order to succeed,” says Yi, whose team has translated Joseph J. Luciani’s Self-Coaching: The Powerful Program to Beat Anxiety and Depression (50,000 copies sold), Clifford A. Pickover’s The Math Book (25,000 copies), and Diane Ackerman’s The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story (12,000 copies).
The city of Chongqing’s unique characteristics (it is built on mountains with aerial tramways and surrounded by rivers and bridges) and its economic prowess as China’s third largest production center for cars and the largest for motorcycles provide CQUP with ample content and resources. “On the academic side, we have four important series: domestic automotive innovation and technology, and urban transportation in mountainous city—two topics that are close to this city and university—as well as special education and the Naxi minority language in Yunnan Province,” says Yi, a professor at the department of industrial engineering, whose team added 650 new publications in 2016 to the backlist of 10,500.
Serving the needs of the parent university comes first, which means that 60% of CQUP’s publishing program is dedicated to textbooks and teaching materials. “As a research university, we are devoted to helping our faculty to publish books and market their academic titles to the world,” adds Yi, who points out that the institution is best known for its courses on architecture and building, and electrical and mechanical engineering. One major title, Pu Xincheng’s Super-High-Strength High Performance Concrete, was recently published in English by Taylor & Francis.
“Playing up our parent university’s expertise has worked well for our trade publishing program,” Yi says. “Since we have access to the experts and their research, we can make full use of the resources to produce special products for the general readers.”
Yi finds that his team has gained extensive experience in branding and market-facing strategies and direct-to-consumer communications through CQUP’s trade publishing program. “With academic books, we mostly deal with libraries and big chains such as Xinhua Bookstores,” he says. “But, with trade titles, we work closely with independent bookstores such as Eslite, Fangshuo, and Xixifu, and during the process we have become more attuned to market needs and changing consumer preferences—attributes that we need to face industry realities.”
A good university press, Yi adds, goes beyond producing bestsellers or generating big sales. “We need effective marketing and branding strategies so that our publications can spread their influence within the academic society and reading public,” he says. “The research results should not stay within the academic tribe; these should be applied and communicated to the society at large.”
CQUP also has two subsidiary companies for digital publishing and e-books. In 2016, e-book sales (mostly from textbooks and teaching materials) amounted to 760,000 CNY. Over the next three years, Yi and his team will be building a comprehensive learning and teaching service platform, and compiling digital content resources for R&D and teaching/learning purposes. “The strategy is one of integrated development, upgrading and transformation,” he says, “and this will strengthen the position of CQUP within the publishing industry.”