For 16-month-old Beijing Bright Culture, making an impact on the market is the top priority, and Jef Nys’s Jeremy series (or Jommeke in the original Belgian) is the answer. “We have published only 25 out of the available 278 volumes, meaning that we have a built-in long seller in our portfolio,” general manager Liu Qian says, adding that “this #1 Dutch-language comic series sold over a million copies annually, and we want to not just match that figure in China but exceed it.” About 500,000 copies have been sold since its launch, in July 2017.
In its first year of operation, the team of 20 published around 150 titles, of which 70% were translations. “We shifted our focus to developing our own intellectual properties and nurturing local authors and illustrators in the first half of 2017. But despite the fact that we are a subsidiary of the Beijing Ru Yi Media Group, which is a well-known entertainment enterprise, it is taking considerable time and resources to build a list of authors creating original works with us. Each new book launch is accompanied by considerable excitement but also a great deal of anxiety.”
But there is no such anxiety with kindergarten teacher Cao Wenfang’s titles, which are prominently featured in Bright Culture’s new catalogue. Her five picture books, including Blueberry Rabbit, The Little Matryoshka Doll, and Cat’s Sky—which address themes such as sharing, friendship, love, and nature—have sold upward of 80,000 copies. The author is the younger sister of Cao Wenxuan, the first Chinese writer to win the Hans Christian Andersen Award.
“We publish mostly in three categories: picture books, comics, and popular science,” explains Liu, who has a great deal of experience in comics publishing. In author Wu Meizhen’s soon-to-be-launched Hilarious Classmates series, which chronicles the antics of a group of schoolchildren, Liu is keeping his fingers crossed for another bestseller. “The past five years have seen the comics industry benefitting from the government’s positioning of it as a blue ocean with immense crossover opportunities. In the case of Wu’s series—we own all the intellectual property associated with it—we are looking to leverage it for cross-media production as well as merchandising. This is where the collective strength of Bright Media Group, in animation and multimedia, comes into play.”