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  • Taiwanese Crime Fiction: Analysing How It’s Read, Written and Published (II)
    By Sean Hsu ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver
    Sep 07, 2020

    Read Previous Part: Taiwanese Crime Fiction: Analysing How It’s Read, Written and Published (I)

    In 1988, Lin Fo’er, the publisher of Mystery Magazine and founder of Lin Bai Publishing House (as well as a writer and poet in his own right), launched the Lin Fo’er Mystery Award. Even though it only ran for four years, it was still the first ever Taiwanese literature prize specifically for short stories in crime writing. In the same spirit, the Taiwan Detective Club was founded in 2002 (renamed the Mystery Writers of Taiwan in 2008) and in 2003 launched the Mystery Writers of Taiwan Award, which similarly encourages and nurtures potential in up-and-coming short story writers of crime fiction. Authors who have started their careers here include Mr Pets, Wen Han and Chan Ho-Kei, the latter of whom has gone on to sell international rights in many territories, his full-length novel The Borrowed has sold rights in more countries than any other Chinese-language crime novel to date.  

    The Borrowed

    The Soji Shimada Mystery Award was established in 2008 and is awarded to debut crime writers for full-length novels. The most recent winner was Tang Chia-Bang for The Wild Ball Club Incident in 2019. A penetrating portrayal of Taiwan, it blends history, railways and national baseball and has received interest from publishers in Korea and Japan. Publishers are also committed to developing new talent, for example Apex Press published Chopsticks, a short story collection of suspense crime with a supernatural slant, by five authors from Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong. Sharp Point Press encourages authors to combine crime and folklore in light novels such as My Sister Is A Teenage Bone Collector 1: Never Say Die, as a reflection of the younger generation’s abundant enthusiasm for diverse works which push boundaries and explore new subject-matters.  

    After absorbing so many creative elements of crime fiction from Japan and the West, Taiwanese authors initially found themselves overemphasising plot twists, or conspicuously playing into detective stereotypes, or over-researching societal issues. This mere imitation of the genre alienated Taiwanese readers. However, during the process of steadily internalising the components of crime fiction, authors began to realise that Taiwan’s distinctive history and geography generated a complexity and inclusivity which resonated with local readers, and gave it a niche in international markets. The latest manifestation of Taiwanese crime fiction today usurps cold-blooded violence with strong emotional ties, it seeks a to portray an honest and original perspective on crime and human nature, thus drawing up its own classification for itself bit by bit.

    In recent years, the Taiwanese government has been collaborating with production studios on developing key cultural projects for film and television, with several crime titles on the list. In addition to these original adaptations (such as the recent Netflix series The Victim’s Game), it will be worth watching to see whether this developmental collaboration between authors, publishers and production studios will bring with it any new impacts or growth for Taiwan’s entire cultural ecosystem.  

  • Taiwanese Crime Fiction: Analysing How It’s Read, Written and Published (I)
    By Sean Hsu ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver
    Aug 28, 2020

    Taiwanese crime fiction as a genre is still a relatively recent development as local novelists gradually internalised international influences. The genre, which literally translates as “mystery” but correlates more closely with “crime fiction” in English, encompasses crime, mystery, detective, thriller, suspense, and police procedural novels among others. The term may have originated in 1984 with the initial publication of Mystery Magazine (published 1984-2008). The magazine chose the term “mystery” as the Japanese publishing industry was already using it to describe the genre, so readers would relate it to this existing definition. It went on to inspire many authors to write in the style pioneered by Seichō Matsumoto.    

    At this point, there had been two main branches of crime fiction in Taiwan. The first was led by Eastern Publishing Co., who translated the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Arsène Lupin, adapting them into children’s stories which became shared childhood memories for anyone who grew up in the 1960s-1980s. The second was during the 1980s when many Western novels were translated into Chinese, regardless of whether they were classics or commercial fiction. All kinds of books were serialised in newspapers and magazines, or compiled into series such as those by Agatha Christie, Erle Stanley Gardner, Seichō Matsumoto etc., which increasingly helped distinguish crime writing as its own genre. 

    The craze became even more popular in the 1990s and crime fiction (in terms of both publishers and readers) gradually divided into two main factions: Western and Japanese. Crown, Doghouse and Wikiwand were the three biggest crime fiction publishers in the early 1990s. The latter two publishers placed substantial emphasis on Japanese works, illustrating that Japan’s similar culture and value system resonated on a greater level with Taiwanese readers. Between the late 1990s and early 2000s there was yet another readjustment phase, led by four exceptional publishers at their respective publishing houses: Hung-Tze Jan at Yuan-Liou Publishing, Tang Nuo at Faces Publishing, Sun Hongfu at Wisdom and Knowledge Publishing, and Chen Huihui at Business Weekly Publications (and the recently founded independent imprint Apex Press). These four publishers systematically worked their way through their expanding Western and Japanese crime fiction networks, inviting literary critics and authors to write introductions and afterwards for their titles, as well as collaborating with bookstores to host events and discount fairs. This, on top of the global popularity of bestsellers like The Da Vinci Code and well-known TV series such as CSI, meant that the sheer enthusiasm for reading and publishing crime fiction began to extend to creating it too.

    Read on: Taiwanese Crime Fiction: Analysing How It’s Read, Written and Published (II)

  • Observations on the Current State of Taiwanese Books in Japan
    By Ellie Huang ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver
    Jul 17, 2020

    Japan had been a major country for literary translation since the Meiji period, actively introducing works from Europe and America. However, since the collapse of Japan’s economic bubble in 1991, translated books have fallen out of favour for a variety of reasons, such as the high cost of producing translations which led to a slide in sales as younger people went into poverty, and a shift in general interest from the international to the domestic. Although there has been no shortage of discussion and ongoing research, ultimately, it is safe to say that it has been a sluggish 30 years for translated books. In the last five years, there has been a profound sense of crisis among translators, editors and their counterparts. They have banded together across different language families and gradually formed discussions and a movement popularising translated literature from abroad, to the point where The Best Translation Award has been established, and a lot of Japanese publishers have steadily regained interest in translated works.    

     

    From left: Bungei "Korean and Japanese Feminism", "China’s Sci-Fi Revolution", Hon no Zasshi, Gunzō

     

    By chance, the June 2020 issues of the literary magazine Gunzō (published by Kodansha) and the publishing news outlet Hon no Zasshi featured special editions on “Translated Fiction” and “Publishing Translations Today!” respectively. The newly revised quarterly magazine Bungei (meaning “fiction”, published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha) also forged forward on this front, with its Autumn 2019 issue on “Korean and Japanese Feminism” that featured fiction translated from Korean, and its Spring 2020 issue on “China’s Sci-Fi Revolution” covering translated Chinese novels. These issues not only included a lot of newly translated fiction and essays, but also book reviews, discussions and exclusive interviews. In the 86 years since the magazine was first published, this was the first time an issue had been reprinted three times, with a total print-run of more than 10,000 copies, eventually marking a small step forward in the craze for translated works from Asia.

     

    I will combine the topics raised by the literary magazines above with my own observations from the last few years, as well as the current state of publishing in terms of individual books.

    In South Korea, female writers make up over 60% of authors and there is a strong emphasis on the difficulties faced by modern women in a traditional society, whether they be struggles at home, in the workplace or with their partners. The Vegetarian by Han Kang is an early example, and more recent novels like Cho Nam-Joo’s Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 also explore the plight of the individual in society. From writers in Chinese, there has been a lot of fantasy, crime and other genre fiction, with bestsellers such as The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu, and The Borrowed by Chan Ho-Kei all sparking a lot of discussion. By contrast, while there are also plenty of translated Taiwanese books in Japan, they tend to cover a multitude of diverse subjects (which can also be said to be one of Taiwan’s specialities) and can be divided into three genres: poetry, literary novels and indigenous literature. Among these, there aren’t many titles which are able to be both literary and popular, to achieve the sales numbers and renown that attract widespread attention.

     

    The edition of Gunzō mentioned above interviewed 70 authors, critics, publishers, academics and cartoonists, asking each of these people from across the industry to suggest one book they recommend translating. There was only one title from a Taiwanese author, Wu Ming-yi’s The Illusionist on the Skywalk. 12 people recommended Korean books, while three recommended books from Mainland China. Over the last two years, Tai-tai Books has worked tirelessly to sell Japanese rights to 16 Taiwanese titles which is almost miraculous, especially given that Taiwanese literature is relatively niche in the Japanese mainstream market. However, there is still a lot of room for future expansion.

     

    Considerations about publishing foreign translations are often dragged down by concerns of localisation and transnationalism. Books by famous authors or with strong “local Taiwanese characteristics” are often seen as the first choice for their portrayal of Taiwanese culture, but for overseas readers this emphasis on setting can serve as a barrier, making it difficult for them to empathise with the story and find it interesting to read. Ideally, the book can attract widespread attention while retaining its local characteristics, and achieve that universality which transcends national borders. Translating so-called “untranslatable” local traits can take more time and energy, often depending on the assistance of editors, reviewers and other translators. In The Illusionist on the Skywalk, the Chunghwa Market and crowded housing communities are shared memories for both Taiwanese and Japanese people, and there should be even more opportunities for boundary-crossing contemporary novels like this going forward.

     

    From left: The Tan Ting-pho Code, A Map of Taiwanese Monsters, A Carpenter and His Taiwan Exposition

     

    Since Taiwan and Japan are close both geographically and historically, they have a relatively special relationship compared to that of other countries and languages. A lot of books in the last ten years have explored the culture and history of life in Taiwan under Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945). These might initially seem like they would be a good fit to promote in Japan, but Japanese authors have already written a myriad of books on the subject which makes it extremely difficult to make an impact by bringing anything new to the table. Take A Carpenter and His Taiwan Exposition by Chen Ruojin for example, which Tai-tai books was selling the rights to earlier this year. The book is a collection of the three hundred official seals from the Taiwan Exposition which was held in 1935 to commemorate the first forty years of Japanese colonial rule. It is the first time these historic materials have been revealed, attracting historical researchers, collectors and people in design, giving the book a wide range of entry points which has become an important factor for enticing editors. However, we still haven’t signed a contract with a Japanese publisher, the key to making this final sale will be finding a publisher who can produce and sell high-end picture books and hold internal meetings to make accurate print cost calculations.

     

    Elsewhere, A Map of Taiwanese Monsters builds on the existing popularity of Japan’s monster trend, while The Tan Ting-pho Code takes a piece of Taiwan and Japan’s shared art history which is unknown to most Japanese people and captures the atmosphere of Taiwanese society after the war but before martial law was declared. These books have potential in Japan but might not be suitable for other countries, this is what makes the Japanese market relatively unique for Taiwanese publishers. From this, we can see the importance of accurately selecting books based on individual markets.

     

    As someone who promotes Chinese-language books in Japan, I am often asked “which books have the best chance of succeeding in Japan?” Regardless of subject-matter, we must return to each book and decide whether it’s enticing and which points or aspects of it will appeal to local readers. It’s best if there are a lot of key elements that different kinds of readers will find moving, and it’s crucial to base recommendations on the editor’s interests and the publisher’s specific direction. As a rule, it tends to be a case of paying attention to Japanese publishing trends and waiting for opportunities, then making a move when the chance arises.

     

    Members of my team at Tai-tai Books do long stays in Tokyo to maintain a stronghold in Japan. In the last few years of going back and forth, there’s been an increase in outstanding Taiwanese writers and books across all genres, prompting Japanese publishers to pay close attention. According to them, however, progressive thinking on the part of Japanese readers might be what is most lacking at present. For example, Taiwan’s legalisation of same-sex marriage last year has prompted discussion of the subject in Japan, just as Japanese LGBTQ fiction exploring gender equality has really started to develop. If we can keep our finger on the pulse, our prospects for the future should look very bright. 

  • Malaysian-Chinese Literature in Taiwan (II)
    By Woo Kam-Loon ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver
    Jun 15, 2020

    Read Previous Part: Malaysian-Chinese Literature in Taiwan (I)

    Like Lee Yung Ping (李永平), Zhang Guixing (張貴興) is also from Borneo and rose to fame in Taiwan’s literary scene with his novel Capturing the Tiger. He developed his own distinct style, as evident in Herds of Elephants (published in Japanese by Jimbun Shoin) and The Primate Cup, which were both sensations in Taiwanese literary circles and earned him notoriety far and wide. Published in 2018, Wild Boars Cross the River blends history, legend and folklore to tell the story of an agonising period in Sarawak history. In Taiwan, it has been hailed as one of the best novels in recent years and went on to win the Golden Tripod Award, Taiwan Literature Award, China Times Open Book Award, and sell French rights!

    Wild Boars Cross the River

    Wild Boars Cross the River

    Ng Kim Chew (黃錦樹), whose titles include Lightless and Dreams, Pigs, and Dawn (published in Japanese by Jimbun Shoin), has attracted attention for his courage to experiment with style and tackle challenging subject-matters. He has won numerous literary prizes and his works From Island to Island, Memorandums of the South Seas People's Republic, Fish and Rain explore national Malaysian-Chinese political disputes.

    Lightless

    Li Zishu (黎紫書) immediately became a sensation when “Maggot Nightmare” was published, and her short story collections Gateway to Heaven, Wild Buddha, The Years of Remembrance portray Malaysian-Chinese families, ethnicity and nationality using magical realism and collective memory. Her new work Through Customs and Places elegantly tells the story of a city and a blind girl, it contemplates the fates of ethnically Chinese people with low social status in Malaysian society and how they flow like a river through the country’s small towns. 

    Elsewhere, Ho Sok Fong’s (賀淑芳) story “Never Mention It Again” touches on the taboo subject of conflict between religion and Malaysian-Chinese shamans, Maze Carpet and Lake Like a Mirror concisely convey in-depth female perspectives on desire, society and religion. Lake Like a Mirror was translated into English and published by Granta Books in the UK and Two Lines Press in the US.

    After being subjected to colonial rule by the West from Portugal, the Netherlands and Great Britain, as well as three years and eight months under Japanese rule, Malaysia found that the various segregation policies implemented by the colonising forces had caused conflict between each of the main ethnic groups. Clashes had arisen following independence, while at the same time the Malaysian government was facing military challenges from Malay, Islamic and Indian forces, among others.

    Malaysia sits on the equator, with its hot, humid climate and rubber plantations, oil palm fields and tropical rainforest. Although it has gone from being a colony to a post-colonial state, the Malay, Indian, Malaysian-Chinese and indigenous populations each face their own set of conflicts involving social status, class, wealth, politics, religion and language, all caused by deep historical wounds and memories. Their unique stories are theirs alone, and as the visibility of Malaysian-Chinese literature overseas continues to increase we can look forward to seeing how it develops in the future.

  • Malaysian-Chinese Literature in Taiwan (I)
    By Woo Kam-Loon ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver
    May 29, 2020

    Since the 1960s, many Malaysian-Chinese high school graduates have chosen to do their higher education in Taiwan so they can continue studying in Chinese (they’ve also benefitted from the Kuomintang’s Overseas Chinese Education Policy). The federation of Malaysia was formed on 16 September 1963, although it had achieved independence several years earlier in 1957. 

    The Malaysian-Chinese students who came to Taiwan, such as Shang Wanyun (商晚筠), Lee Yung Ping (李永平), Zhang Guixing (張貴興) and the poet Lin Lü (林綠), devoted themselves to creating literature and went on to win national prizes and publish books as well as literary criticism. The emergence of these authors and the award-winning works that they published, established Taiwan as the first domain of Malaysian-Chinese literature. 

    We cannot forget that first generation of scholars: Zheng Liangshu (鄭良樹), Lim Chooi Kwa (林水檺), and the poet Li Youcheng’s (李有成) Constellation Poetry Society (1964-), whose members included Chen Huihua (陳慧樺), Lin Lü, Dan Ying (淡瑩) and Wang Runhua (王潤華), among others. Or later, the group of literary friends who formed the Divine Land Poetry Society (1976-1980, Woon Swee Oan (溫瑞安), Fang E’zhen (方娥真), Huang Hunxing (黃昏星), Zhou Qingxiao (周清嘯) etc); or Pan Yutong (潘雨桐), who won the third United Daily News Book Prize in the early 1980s; or Ng Kim Chew (黃錦樹), Chen Dawei (陳大為), Zhong Yiwen (鍾怡雯) and Lin Xingqian (林幸謙) who each won major literary awards and brought their combination of creativity and research experience to Taiwan’s education system. At the same time, there were also humanities scholars such as Tee Kim Tong (張錦忠), Lin Jianguo (林建國), Wei Yueping (魏月萍) and Gao Jiaqian (高嘉謙), who wrote from a critical perspective on contemporary art, literature and historical research. 

    By the late 1990s and the early 2000s, when Lee Tian Poh (李天葆) and Ho Sok Fong (賀淑芳) became well-known and Li Zishu (黎紫書) rapidly rose to fame after winning both the United Daily News Book Prize and the China Times Literature Award, Malaysian-Chinese writers had already been living in Taiwan for 50 years (1967-present) and established a strong reputation. 

    Key examples of fiction from this era include the novels of Shang Wanyun (1952-1995), who, following her untimely death, left behind Stupid Ah-Lian and The Seven-Coloured Water Flower, as well as the unfinished works Fleas and Earthly Fireworks.


    Lee Yung Ping

    Lee Yung Ping (1947-2017) became famous following the publication of his story “A La-tzu Woman”, then Retribution: The Jiling Chronicles (published in Japanese by Jimbun Shoin and English by Columbia University Press) shocked the Taiwanese literary scene. More recently, his two-part novel The End of the River (part one: Flowing Upstream, part two: Mountains) and Zhu Ling’s Adventures in Wonderland (Japanese translation in progress) have portrayed the treacherous nature of Borneo’s tropical rainforest. His unfinished work, The Portrait of a Swordswoman, pays tribute to the world of Wuxia, continuing in the spirit of Tang Dynasty legends and chivalric novels.


    The Portrait of a Swordswoman

     

    Read on: Malaysian-Chinese Literature in Taiwan (II)

  • 2020 Translation Grant Program, Ministry of Culture, Republic of China (Taiwan)
    By Books from Taiwan
    Mar 31, 2020

    Books from Taiwan supports the translation of Taiwanese literature into foreign languages with the Translation Grant Program, administered by The Ministry of Culture of Taiwan. The grant is to encourage the publication of translations of Taiwan’s literature, including fiction, non-fiction, picture books and comics, and help Taiwan’s publishing industry to explore non-Chinese international markets.

     

    •    Applicant Eligibility: Foreign publishers (legal persons) legally registered in accordance with the laws and regulations of their respective countries.


    •    Conditions:

    1. Works translated shall be original, published works (for example, fiction, non-fiction, picture books, and comics but not anthologies) by Taiwanese writers (Republic of China nationals) in traditional Chinese characters.

    2. Priority is given to works to be translated and published for the first time in a non-Chinese language market.

    3. Applicants are not limited to submitting only one project for funding in each application year; however, an applicant may only receive funding for up to three projects in any given round of applications.

    4. Projects receiving funding shall have already obtained authorization for translation, and be published within two years starting from the date of announcement of grant recipients (published before the end of October).

     

    •    Funding Items and Amount

    1. Funds may cover licensing fees going to the rights holder of the original work, translation fees, and promotional fees (limited to an economy-class airline ticket for authors who are citizens of the Republic of China traveling abroad to attend promotional activities), and book production fees.

    2. The maximum funding available for any given project is NT$600,000 (including income tax and remittance charges).

    3. Priority consideration will be given to those works that have not yet been published in a language other than Chinese, as well as winners of a Golden Tripod Award, Golden Comic Award, or Taiwan Literature Golden Award (list appended.)


    •    Application Period: Twice every year. The MOC reserves the right to change the application periods, and will announce said changes separately. The first application period for 2020 is April1 through April 30.


    •    Announcement of successful applications: Winners will be announced within three months of the end of the application period.


    •    Application Method: Please visit the Ministry’s website (https://grants.moc.gov.tw/Web_ENG/PointDetail.jsp?__viewstate=5EIMFXS2V5PTM1JCFQWT0yMDIwJCFQVD0yOTAyJCFTdGF0dXNQYXJhbWV0ZXI9S2V5LFBZLFBULCQh), and use the online application system.


    For full details of the Translation Grant Program, please visit http://booksfromtaiwan.tw/grant_index.php
    Or contact: books@moc.gov.tw

     

    *Recommended Books for Translation Grant Program 

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

    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)
    By Alice (Readmoo) ∥ Translated by Roddy Flagg
    Jan 14, 2020

    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
    By Catrina Liu ∥ Translated by Roddy Flagg
    Jan 13, 2020

    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.