When it comes to partnering with major overseas publishing houses, few people are more knowledgeable than founder and publisher Huang Xiaoyan of Everafter Books. After all, she was involved in the high-profile joint ventures of Macmillan Century and Hachette-Phoenix.
In November 2017, Huang launched a new joint venture with Paris-based Bayard Group. “Bayard Bridge will focus on the zero-to-12 age group and plans to publish around 100 titles—including Hervé Tullet’s new picture book Oh! Un livre qui fait des sons—by the end of 2018,” says Huang, whose team will adapt titles, by authors such as Xavier Deneux and Serge Bloch, for the Chinese market. “This partnership will cover not just books but also digital products and magazines for children.” Several Bayard Bridge titles, such as those in the Pense Pas Bête series and Hervé Tullet’s new title, have become immediate bestsellers in China.
Next on Huang’s agenda is Chronicle Bridge. “This is not a joint venture but a rights collaboration whereby we get first option rights to all Chronicle picture books,” Huang says, who accepted the offer to establish and head Everafter Books after meeting with investment company Trustbridge Global Media in January 2015.
Six months later, the Beijing office was up and running, and by December 2015, the first title had been published. Within nine days, 10,000 hardcover copies of Marla Frazee’s Santa Claus the World’s Number One Toy Expert were sold out through an exclusive JD.com promotion. Another 10,000 special boxed sets containing the paperback edition and a build-it-yourself Christmas playset sold out even faster.
“We have a flexible publishing program through which we offer specially selected titles to mark major events, in particular those related to books and reading,” says Huang, who launched Jose Jorge Letria’s If I Were a Book and Rilla Alexander’s The Best Book in the World in April 2016 in conjunction with World Book Day. The latter was translated and promoted by the director of the children’s division of China’s National Public Library. “We have since published more than 10 books with either the words ‘book’ or ‘reading’ in their titles. These bestsellers are helping to brand Everafter Books as a serious children’s reading promoter in the market.”
Another title, Charlotte Zolotow’s The Storm Book, a 1953 Caldecott Honor book, took the Chinese market by storm. Huang says, “It was launched in June 2016, and sales have exceeded 160,000 copies. This book was one of JD.com’s top 10 bestsellers across all book categories in 2017.” The team is now busy promoting Zolotow’s Say It!, which Huang describes as “the perfect title to help parents to learn how to spend quality time with their kids and express their love properly.”
While titles from Everafter Books have often ended up on bestseller lists, it is the company’s unique selection and publishing program—from poem-based picture books to those discussing important social issues—that differentiates it from others in the market. “Everafter Books will not follow market trends; we will instead lead the market,” Huang promises.
Currently, translations take up nearly 80% of its catalogue. But with 25 years in the publishing business, Huang knows very well that the future lies in producing originals. “The shifts in the Chinese book market are obvious to everyone. Parents and teachers are searching for original works that highlight local cultures, traditions, and stories in an effort to balance the onslaught of Western cultures and values. As a publisher, we also want to create original content and have our own intellectual properties that we can promote and sell to overseas partners. This year, you will see more original titles in our catalogue.”
The changes in the Chinese educational system, Huang says, “are a boon to the children’s publishing industry, particularly the focus on reading and the drive for increased reading services. For a children’s book publisher in China, this is an exciting and a challenging time. There is momentum in the industry to grow and prosper. For Everafter Books, what we really need is to create a solid editorial foundation that will immediately take its cues from market changes and adapt quickly.”
Huang adds that “we want to build a brand that will last through generations, one that parents and children will automatically associate with the best content and with quality authors and illustrators. Our endgame is to help children to grow into happy, healthy, and independent adults.”