By Lin Ya-Ching
Translated by Eleanor Goodman
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  • The 2019 Taipei Rights Workshop: Women Shifting the Market (II)
    Jan 14, 2020 / By Alice (Readmoo) ∥ Translated by Roddy Flagg

    The Korean Book Market: Female Writers on the Rise


    The Korean book market is becoming more diverse: market shares of books on philosophy, textbooks and careers advice are rising, while novels and travel books have fallen off a little. And since 2018 books on dealing with depression have attracted more interest. Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 struck a chord with female readers. Meanwhile, Korea is seeing a notable increase in the number of female readers in their 40s – up 11% since 2015, to 33%. And this is reflected in the success female writers are finding in the Korean bestseller lists: Eight of 2019’s ten top novels were written by women. These includes Cho Nam-joo’s Kim Ji-young, Born 1982, Son Won-pyeong’s Almond, Choi Eun-young’s Shoko’s Smile and Han Gang’s Human Act. Look at the Korean book market and the number and quality of novels written from a female point of view and books on social issues stand out.

    Korean literature is currently popular in Japan, but Michelle Nam doesn’t put this down to a perhaps similar cultural background. Success in overseas markets is still determined by how well publishers understand writers and their writing.

    “It took a long time for books like this, capable of having such a huge social impact, to emerge in Korea.” “As long as more people are reading it, everyone should read this book.” This is how Kim Ji-young, Born 1982’s two editors conclude their Youtube video. And the publishing industry may be facing tough challenges, but with hard work a good story can still find readers all over the world.


    Germany: Children’s Books Remain Popular, Ensuring Our Future Audience

    “I didn’t have any other paper with me, I had to make a note on a serviette.” Mona Lang, editor with German publishers Kiepenheur & Kitsch, describes how she first heard of Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 over dinner with a book scout. The treatment of gender issues convinced both her boss and the marketing department: this was a very promising book. Other books with similar themes, told from the viewpoint of young urban women, written by authors from Turkey and Eastern Europe, had already sold well in German bookstores.

    “Any topic could grab us,” said Mona. And while she and her colleagues are discussing a book, it is often the editorial and marketing departments working together to decide whether a book should be published, and if so how to promote it. In Germany, books used to be promoted by offering free copies of books to a limited number of readers who wrote in; while local guided-reading events see an hour of reading followed by an hour-long question-and-answer session. Interactive events like that are ideal for readers who like to meet their authors in person.

    “The German book market is healthy, even if we are struggling to survive like everyone else.” To laughter, Mona pointed out that steady sales of children’s books offer reassurance: “This means we will still have an audience two decades from now.” She added that they need trusted manuscript readers before publishing Asian books, and that books already successful in English-language markets such as the UK and US are more likely to pique the interest of German publishers.

  • The 2019 Taipei Rights Workshop: Women Shifting the Market (I)
    Jan 14, 2020 / By Alice (Readmoo) ∥ Translated by Roddy Flagg

    The 7th Taipei Rights Workshop welcomed publishing industry workers from around the world: agents who have sold international rights to Asian books; the overseas editors who have snapped up those books; and even book scouts on the lookout for compelling plots to tempt movie-makers with. Our theme this year - “from literature, to the world” – saw us discuss our views on the book market in different countries. 


    The Story Behind Kim Ji-young, Born 1982

    The film adaptation of Kim Ji-young, Born 1982, now in cinemas starring Gong Yoo and Jung Yu-mi, has sent the global bestseller back to the top of the charts in Korea. Michelle Nam, executive director of the book’s publisher, Minumsa, spoke at the workshop about the state of the book market in Korea and the story behind Kim Ji-young, Born 1982.

    And when she spoke about acquiring readers – “Youtube is a huge challenge for publishers, young people even treat it as a search engine,” – the publishers in the audience smiled in recognition. But Minumsa is now marketing its books via Youtube:  it launched a channel on the video-sharing platform in May, featuring editors talking about their books. A video for Kim Ji-young, Born 1982, answers readers’ questions and talks about the publishing process and how the movie adaptation came about.

    “And I was first to look at the submission!”, head of Minumsa’s Korean literature division, Seo Hyo-in, said. The author, Cho Nam-joo, already an award-winner, made a special request in her cover letter: “I do hope you reply, whether you want the book or not. It’s so saddening to get no response…” On reading the manuscript the entire editor’s office agreed: this had potential. But sales figures for this tale of one Korean woman amazed even them. “Initially I wanted to say it’d sell 10,000 copies,” laughs Seo, before recalling a colleague quietly advising less ambition. In the end a sales target of 8,000 copies was set. And actual sales so far? 150 times that target – 1.2 million. 

  • Books from Taiwan’s 2019 Book Fair Adventures
    Jan 13, 2020 / By Catrina Liu ∥ Translated by Roddy Flagg

    2019 saw Books from Taiwan attend the world’s two largest books fairs, Frankfurt and Guadalajara, presenting the best of Taiwan’s books to an international audience.


    The Frankfurt Book Fair

    The Taiwanese presence at the Frankfurt Book Fair expanded this year – as well as the usual stand alongside other East Asian publishers from Korea, Thailand, Japan and elsewhere in the Asian section, also had a Taiwanese Comic Book Stand in Hall 3, hoping to introduce Taiwan’s comic books to more visitors.



    So, making the journey to Germany alongside Liao Hongji (廖鴻基) and Syaman Rapongan (夏曼.藍波安), both known for their writings on the ocean, were three manga artists: Chang Sheng (常勝), who has sold international rights to his shonen manga; Hom, who excels at portraying urban life; and Chen Hanling (陳漢玲), cosplayer and shojo manga artist.

    And with two locations, we could take more books to promote. At our usual stand, the 10th issue of our catalog, still warm from the printing press; and 20 novels, non-fiction books and picture books. And as for our comic book stand? Well… comic books, of course!

    During three busy trade-only days, BFT met and talked shop with editors from around the world. Books that won particular interest include:

    1. Wild Boars Cross the River (野豬渡河), Zhang Guixing (張貴興): A literary epic set amongst the Chinese settlers of Borneo during World War II.

    2. What’s It Like Growing up? (長大是什麼樣子) Wu Yi-Ting (吳宜庭): A child-friendly look at growing-up, full of creativity and wisdom.

    3. Quiet Is a Superpower (安靜是種超能力), Jill Chang (張瀞仁): A workplace survival guide, helping introverts see their strengths. Based on the author’s own experiences.

    And alongside marketing our books, BFT met with our counterparts from around the world, such as Turkey’s Yatedam and Catalonia’s Intitute Ramon Llull, comparing notes and swopping advice – all of which will help in our future work.


    The Guadalajara Book Fair

    The world’s second-largest book fair, and the Spanish-speaking world’s largest, the Guadalajara Book Fair was yet again bustling with book-lovers from all over. Activities in the children’s book area were always popular with both children and adults; in the Mexican section books from Spanish-speaking nations including Spain, Argentina and Columbia were on display; and retailers from the US were snapping up books alongside the locals. In the international section there were international rights agents, a rights center and publishers from all over the world – and, of course, the Taiwanese stand.



    The Taiwan stand aimed, as always, for visual impact. Both illustrator Lai Ma (賴馬), a bold user of color whose images burst with movement, and graphic novelist Sean Chuang (小莊), known for detailed portrayals of events both everyday and extraordinary, were there to sign books, chat to visitors and show how they work. BFT contributed to the Taiwan stand by displaying 20 children’s books and comic books, offering a visual introduction to Taiwan.

    Mexico is a long way from Taiwan – a fourteen-hour time difference, and no direct flights. The journey takes a full day and more, so Taiwanese publishers aren’t regular visitors and there isn’t a great deal of back and forth communication. While at other book fairs we find ourselves expanding and consolidating our networks, in Guadalajara we were more starting from scratch, introducing people to Taiwan and its books and publishers.

    It was comic books that got most interest this time. Unlike with novels, it is the visuals, not the story, that grabs editors’ attention. The authors that got the most interest at Guadalajara were – apart from Lai Ma and Sean Chuang, who were present – as follows:

    1. 61Chi: 61Chi attended the Guadalajara Book Fair in 2018, and is known for the unique style with which she portrays life’s little details.

    2. Yellow Book: Bright colors, a somewhat American visual style, and satirical stories.


    After a long year of selecting books and translating and editing samples, international book fairs are BFT’s chance to shine and show publishers at home and abroad what we’ve spent the last twelve months doing. These events are also an opportunity for us to experience first hand how successful we are in promoting Taiwanese book rights and see how we can further improve.