ABOUT LATEST BOOKS AUTHORS RESOURCES AWARDS FELLOWSHIP GRANT
DOWNLOAD the latest issue

LATEST

  • Jan 05, 2017
    Far Afield: The Fantastic Journeys of Chinese Books in Translation (II)
    By Chen Yu-Hao. Translated by Eleanor Goodman.

    First published on October 12, 2016 by Readmoo News

    https://news.readmoo.com/2016/10/12/161012-books-from-taiwan/

     

    3. Is Taiwan’s uniqueness a major selling point?

     

    Literature that deals primarily with Taiwanese culture frequently faces hurdles in foreign markets. Tan offers an example: a book about Taiwanese tea will be unique, but many foreign readers will have no use for it. They don’t know anything about Taiwan, nor do they know anything about the culture surrounding tea. A strategy for this kind of book is to translate it into English and sell it in Taiwan primarily to tourists already interested in the island and who want to bring a piece of Taiwanese culture back with them. Grace Chang suggests that one can go a step further and combine such projects with sightseeing tours, and offer accounts of scenic sites in different languages. If there are overseas orders, it can be sold directly abroad and avoid other licensing issues.

     

    4. Popular Taiwanese authors should be easy to sell abroad, right?

     

    Being known as a “famous Taiwanese blogger” or “one of Taiwan’s most controversial  writers” does not necessarily carry over to the international market. As soon as you enter the global arena, where you can’t rely on reputation, book sales are dependent again upon the quality of the work.

     

    For that reason, the essential thing is the contents of a book. What kind of book has a chance to make it out of Taiwan, to be translated, published and sell well in other countries? Literary agents are constantly on the lookout for the right books to introduce to a foreign audience books. The fact that Taiwan’s bookstores are being overtaken by large numbers of translated books can be a problem for local writers, yet it is also a chance to examine bestsellers from different countries, and figure out what the most popular kinds of books are right now, to ferret out where an opportunity may lie.

     

    Gray Tan believes that there is no shortcut: “It comes from looking at and reading a lot of books.” The more books you read, the better you are able to grasp potential trends.

     

    Literary categories in Taiwan and abroad do not always align. Some, like the essay or newspaper column collection, are not as familiar to foreign readers as they are to Taiwanese.  Young adult novels face strong competition from U.S. authors, so it just might be that picture books, with little or text, can better overcome cultural differences and different reading preferences, and have a better chance to be published abroad.

     

    IT’S ALL ABOUT PEOPLE

    Grace Chang thinks that the success of a Chinese-language book entering a foreign market depends primarily on the people involved, from the translator to the agent to the editor. Time and effort must be invested by many in order to make it all work. Opportunities won’t just come knocking; connections have to be made. This is why book fairs play a crucial role in the introduction of  domestic titles to the global market.

     

    “Think about it, if you’re trying to buy an apartment, do you want to just see photos of it, or do you want a real estate agent to show you the place and tell you about it personally?” Chang asks with a laugh. You have to be there at the book fairs, because you never know whether a foreign editor might pass by your booth and “discover” a book.

     

    It’s also a good idea to attend fellowship programs, where you can talk to editors, scouts, and agents from other countries, and build up your international network. Very often, a single book sale is predicated on years of friendship and meetings at book fairs. Your relationship is just as important as the content of the book.

     

    The Ministry of Culture of Taiwan has been sponsoring the Taipei Rights Workshop (TRW) since 2013. It’s a program that combines the traditional fellowship model with a series of presentations from publishing experts from around the world. There’s also the Books from Taiwan program, which was initiated in 2014 and works to introduce Taiwanese books to foreign publishers. Gray Tan and Grace Chang continue to be essential players in the greater project of introducing Chinese-language books to a larger market, desirous of showing off this island’s creativity to the rest of the world.

     

  • Jan 05, 2017
    Far Afield: The Fantastic Journeys of Chinese Books in Translation (I)
    By Chen Yu-Hao. Translated by Eleanor Goodman.

    First published on October 12, 2016 by Readmoo News

    https://news.readmoo.com/2016/10/12/161012-books-from-taiwan/

     

    The night air was cool, and under a thin drizzle in the Songshan Cultural Park, the log-cabin-style Yue Yue Bookstore was lit with a warm glow. Gray Tan, founder of the Grayhawk Agency, and Grace Chang, rights director for Books from Taiwan sat together on a brown leather couch. The two were holding a talk titled “Far Afield: The Fantastic Journeys of Chinese Books in Translation,” in which they called upon years of experience in the rights business in order to impart secrets of selling Chinese titles in other countries.

           

    Typhon Megi had postponed the talk for a week, but the two still drew a full house, including editors, translators as well as writers. With Chinese books gradually receiving greater notice abroad, more people have become interested in the topic. Speaking as a pioneer in representing Chinese-language authors in international markets, Gray Tan disabused the audience of four common misconceptions.

     

     

    1. Does translation just mean English translation?

     

    We tend to think that when we talk about the translation of Chinese books, we mean translating into English, assuming the enormous English-language market to be the main goal for Chinese authors. Although it can’t be denied that English is the world’s most influential language, the English-language market is the hardest to break into. Gray Tan, with seven years’ experience selling Chinese books abroad, tells us that only 3% of the books published in America are translations – an astonishingly low number.

     

    “Taking modern and contemporary Chinese literature together, the number of books published in the United States in any given year can probably be counted on one hand.” Tan said. It would be much more effective to prepare English-language materials (or “rights lists”) so all international editors can read about books in which they might be interested.  Such introductory materials should include plot summary, author bio, sales and review excerpts, and above all, a sample translation by a native English-language translator.

     

    These synopses are like a book’s ID, serving as an introduction and an advertisement. How many copies have been sold in Taiwan? Has it been made into a movie? Any positives that will help sell the rights should be listed, creating a strong case for the book.

     

    It is also very important to use comparison titles (“comps” for short) as reference. For instance, The Man from Riversouth, the novel that has been adapted into China’s biggest TV series, Nirvana in Fire, can be described as China’s answer to The Count of Monte Cristo and Game of Thrones.

     

    This will give a foreign editor an immediate, general idea of what the book and author are like. Although it won’t be completely the same kind of work, this is still an efficient method for promoting a book.

     

    2. Is the friendly relationship between Taiwan and Japan conducive to selling Taiwanese books in Japan?

     

    When you go into a Taiwanese bookstore, the shelves are packed with translated works, and aside from the large quantities of literature from the U.S. and the U.K., many come from Japan. From the literary giant Haruki Murakami to manga and “light novels”, Japanese literature in translation is extremely popular in Taiwan. Does the closeness of the two cultures and peoples help the sale of Chinese books in Japan?

     

    Gray Tan once again threw a wrench into the conversation, noting that the Japanese market is quite closed, and both the quality and quantity of their own books are high, which doesn’t allow for much translated work. Readers there are not accustomed to reading works in translation, and that extends to more than just Chinese-language books. Even global bestsellers like Fifty Shades of Grey and The Hunger Games have sold poorly in Japan. An international bestseller could be licensed in thirty foreign languages, except for Japanese. Tan proposed instead that we can turn our attention toward Korea, where interest in Chinese culture is high and there are many Chinese language learners. It’s a market that should not be ignored.

  • Jan 04, 2017
    Wu Ming-Yi’s Neo-Realist Communion with the Minute, the Marginal and the Material
    By David Der-Wei Wang. Translated by Darryl Sterk.

    First published on June 28, 2016, United Daily News

    David Der-Wei Wang, Professor of Chinese Literature at Harvard, makes a statement on behalf of the judges.

     

    There were six finalists for the third annual UDN Grand Literary Award, including poets, essayists and novelists, all outstanding representatives of contemporary Taiwan literature who have won our respect and esteem. After detailed discussions, we, the judges, have decided to award the prize to Wu Ming-Yi.

    Wu Ming-Yi began writing Nativist short stories – stories about a rural way of life that was passing away – in the early 1990s, but he really made his mark after the turn of the new millennium with several collections of nature writing: Book of Lost Butterflies (2000), about the decline of butterfly populations in Taiwan over the twentieth century; Butterfly Way (2003), about the multigenerational journeys on which certain species of butterfly still embark today; So Much Water So Close to Home (2007), an homage to Raymond Carver about an epic seaside hike down Taiwan’s East Coast, and Flame Above Flame (2014), a meditation on photography, in which Wu Ming-Yi follows in Roman Vishniac’s footsteps around the old neighborhood of Báng-kah. In these works, Wu Ming-Yi appeals to the environmental ethos of his era, but also reveals a fiercely intellectual streak and resolutely empirical spirit. With the addition of a magical realism to his creative palette, Wu created a style all his own in two novels. First, in Dreamliner (2007), a narcolept follows in his father’s footsteps from Taiwan to Japan at the height of the Pacific War to manufacture fighter props. Second, in The Man With the Compound Eyes (2011), a million eyes watch as a floating trash mountain crashes upon Taiwan’s eastern shore.

    The Magician on the Skywalk (2011) is a collection of nine tales of bildungsroman set in the Chung Hwa Market, where the narrator (and the author) grew up. The market, which was demolished in 1992, and returns to life in these pages, is a habitat for hundreds – small shop owners, diners, families – from all walks of life. It is also a den of thieves, in which each protagonist gets his first bittersweet taste of life. When, later in life, the protagonists look back on their time there, they remember the magician who stood on the skywalk, and finally realize his significance: as unremarkable as he seemed at the time, he presided over rites of passage, leading them down paths less travelled by and initiating them into the ineffable knowledge of adulthood.

    The Stolen Bicycle turns one bicycle into the stuff of legend. With a title that pays tribute to Vittorio De Sica’s Neo-Realist masterpiece Ladri di Biciclette, this story records the quotidian passions of people, flora, and fauna as they undergo modernization – from Japanese colonialization, which ended in the Pacific War, to postwar industrialization under the Kuomintang. As the wheel of fortune turns, the protagonists cycle from Taipei, on Taiwan’s northern tip, to Puli and Gangshan, the mountains of the central interior; from the Malay Peninsula to the jungles of northern Burma, and from one period in Taiwan’s history to another.

    Interspersed among the ten chapters of The Stolen Bicycle are eight excerpts from an archive of notes on bicycle construction and evolution, as well as the narrator’s antique bicycle collection. It is a chronicle of an obsession with a stolen bicycle that contains important clues concerning its recovery, as well as an archaeological record of artifacts and their users as they develop, disappear and reappear. Hardly a typical nature writer, Wu Ming-Yi has extended his empathetic gaze to objects, which he sees in the longue durée of their production, consumption and dilapidation. In so doing, he communes with the minute, the marginal, and the material, and in his communion discovers a method for making sense of the Taiwan experience.

    Wu Ming-Yi’s works have garnered mixed responses. Detractors disparage his narratives as baroque, his novels as kaleidoscopes in which themes get blurred. Supporters appreciate his story-telling skill, and his ability to convey historical memory, both human and environmental. Whether negative or positive, the intensity of the responses testifies to the relevance of his works, which by getting under our skin motivate us to question what fiction should be about and how it should be written. This year’s winner of the UDN Grand Literary Award, Wu Ming-Yi will continue to explore new answers to those questions.