XJPH’s books featuring Afanti (a Uighur protagonist) and the Mongolian epic Jangar are vivid reminders of what is possible from a publisher located in the vast Chinese interior, which borders eight countries and harbors 47 ethnic groups.
But also unique to XJPH are its titles by child authors. Take the Tomato Kingdom series: the author, who goes by the name Brother Tomato, started drawing and writing at the age of nine and was 11 when he was first published. His three titles—Mysterious Pepper Mansion, Secret Notebook, and Body Duplicator Machine—explore not only friendship and honesty but also cloning and environmental themes. The parents of Song Chibei compiled the imaginative stories that their six-year-old told them and prepared them for publication. Another, Xing Luo, was published when he was only 12 years old.
For Xu Jiang, president of XJPH, publishing child authors is an experiment. “It goes to show that stories can come from anywhere, anybody, and at any age. There is no shortage of talent—we just have to find these authors and give them the opportunity to be published.” For the same reasons, Xu launched a four-volume Demon Chasers series, based on traditional folktales and penned by authors and illustrators new to the book industry. “Old plots just need to be given a different twist and unique illustrations to feel relevant to a new generation of readers,” Xu says. “Classical stories are always popular for a reason, and we are a firm believer in finding new ways to retell those stories.” The Ming’s Adventure series, blending the present with historical places and icons, and the When I Was in My Childhood series, which recalls memories of old Beijing, are two examples.
Xu is also adept at taking cues from the competition. In the case of Fang Suzhen’s Friendship for Rent, which has sold more than 600,000 copies since 2013, the appearance of a pirated version styled in pinyin (a romanized system of simplified Chinese) and aimed directly at the school market became a boon for XJPH. “Since we have all the files, we were able to immediately launch the official pinyin version and go on to sell more than 65,000 copies within six months,” Xu says, noting that there is always something to learn, even from pirates, who are often quick to seize on sales opportunities.