This is the Chinese home of the Wimpy Kid series, which made its first appearance in China in 2009 and has since sold more than 9.2 million copies. The decision to ignore market skepticism (this comics-style series with American humor and school culture was initially deemed unworkable in China) has been the right one, says chief editor Huang Chunqing of GNCPH.
“There was only one volume then, and that was another mark against it: the Chinese market went for series—it still does—and single titles tended to get lost on the bookshelf,” Huang says, adding that his editors “were attracted by the book’s random observations, easy reading, and gentle humor. They saw a market for Wimpy Kid.”
Adaptation followed. “We had Chinese in the first part of the book and English at the back, a great strategy when parents were demanding bilingual editions. This decision also enabled us to categorize the series as children’s literature as well as bilingual reading, which has continued to help in sales and discoverability,” says Huang, whose team created various editions and boxed sets. In 2011, the Chinese-only edition was targeted at second-tier cities, and in 2014, demands for more extracurricular English reading materials resulted in the English Study Notes edition. “We have promotions during school vacations at 20 to 30 key bookstores and a monthly thematic marketing on the e-commerce site Dangdang. Our editors have also set up a microblogging site on the series to keep fans updated and happy.”
Aside from translations, GNCPH has been busy with originals by unconventional authors. “We have Rhymes of the Four Seasons, a poetry book by two farmers that is based on seasonal changes with folksy illustrations,” Huang says. “It has gone into a fourth printing, having sold 10,000 copies since its launch in April 2016.” Another book, Starting with Science and Fascinating Tales, explores the science in folktales, which is both unique and interesting.
What these titles show, Huang adds, “is the abundance of ideas within our own land, culture, and history—and the opportunity these books provide to present these ideas to the rest of the world. What the next title or author may bring to the table is often a surprise. And this is exactly what publishing is all about: the cultivation, and sharing, of ideas and knowledge.”