ABOUT LATEST BOOKS AUTHORS RESOURCES FELLOWSHIP GRANT TRANSLATORS EVENTS

LATEST

  • How Children's Book Publishers in Asia Are Fighting the Pandemic (II)
    By Alice (Readmoo) ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver
    Dec 23, 2021

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=174

     

    Children’s Book Markets by Country: The Proportion of Local vs Foreign Titles

    At the moment it seems like most children’s books in Taiwan are translated titles, but Su Shin also wanted to note that in the last five years there has been a steady increase in the number of local children’s book authors and illustrators. In 2019, nine Taiwanese illustrators were selected to display their work at the Illustrator’s Exhibition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, which was a new record for Taiwan. This year, Lin Lian-En’s picture book Home won the 2021 Bologna Ragazzi Award for Fiction, and Animo Chen’s picture book Love Letter which was written in Taiwanese received a special mention for the 2021 Bologna Ragazzi Award for Poetry. These internationally recognised awards are not only a boost for Taiwanese creators but also bring increased visibility and publishing opportunities. Su Shin also candidly acknowledges that in reality these awards might not necessarily translate into sales: “Ultimately, is it more important for a book to be a bestseller or to be publicly lauded? Even at this stage, we still can’t avoid that struggle between critical acclaim and book sales.”

    In Thailand and Vietnam, the majority of children’s titles are translated books. “The proportion of original Vietnamese books is about 20-30%, with translated books accounting for nearly 70% of the market. The main reason is that it’s hard to find professional Vietnamese children’s writers.” Take picture books for example, the author has to co-create with an illustrator but since most illustrators in Vietnam work part-time or are moonlighting: “It takes a long time to create children’s books and it doesn’t generate much income.” Therefore, most children’s books in Vietnam tend to be translations of foreign titles. The same is true in Thailand, where over 80% of children’s books are translated titles. In the past, they have been published in co-edition with European publishers which not only reduced production costs but also served as professional guidance for Thai publishers by giving them the chance to collaborate with a lot of highly-skilled children’s book printing specialists.

    By contrast, translated books account for a smaller proportion of Indonesia’s publishing market, and the number of translated children’s titles is even smaller still. “Many local authors are very keen to interact with fans on the internet which makes marketing and publicising their books relatively easy, whereas translated works are never quite as effective at achieving this as their local counterparts.” Editors at Indonesian publishing houses often find picture book creators who have already a certain number of fans on social media and invite them to publish a physical book. Generally speaking, the market response is pretty good. Adapting books for the screen and selling the rights to streaming platforms is one of the ways they can promote local Indonesian books. “We actively contact domestic production companies as well as trying to sell international translation rights, but for the most part we tend to sell them to domestic production teams.” Filming brings the text to life on screen, making it more vivid with new layers of storytelling. In addition to Netflix, there are local Indonesian streaming platforms that bring great stories to readers.

    The children’s publishing market in South Korea is also dominated by local books. “In the past, domestic and foreign titles used to be a 50/50 or 60/40 split, but recently over 90% of books have been written by local authors.” There are two South Korean organisations that are investing resources in local authors, in particular the Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea (KPIPA) is there to assist translators, plan book fairs, and contact foreign publishing houses. They are one of the most important advocates for selling South Korean works overseas, and readers from neighbouring countries such as Japan, Taiwan, China and Vietnam are all very fond of Korean children’s books. Within South Korean children’s books, young adult novels have sold especially well and in recent years there has also been a significant increase in sales of Japanese books about economics targeted at middle school students. “Soaring stock prices, Bitcoin and so on have become hot topics in the last few years which has made parents hope that their children can learn how to use money from an early age.” It might seem unfathomable that middle school students would be studying economics but financial investment has been a popular subject in general over the last few years. For example, 25% of the books on Taiwan’s bestseller charts last year were related to personal finance.

     

    How Do You Detect Trends and Decide When to Follow Them?

    By chance, all eight publishers agreed that social trends and readers’ needs were their main points of reference when publishing a book. “Often, readers are hoping that a book will help them solve their problems, so it’s absolutely crucial to understand the difficulties people are facing.” For example, at the beginning of this year Thai publishers found that popular science books were doing very well. Meanwhile in Vietnam, publishers feel that the “loneliness economy” is an area that can developed further given that industry has already seen readers gravitate towards loneliness-related books about managing moods and healing anxiety. Brick-and-mortar bookshops, book reviews and the fluctuations of online bestseller lists are all equally important observation points, while social media is a crucial tool for grasping popular societal trends. As the various forms of book promotion become more and more diverse, “It’s imperative that publishers keep observing trends, and that they create new trends of their own.”

    At the end of the roundtable discussion, the publishers couldn’t help reminiscing about the warmth of talking in-person at physical book fairs. In particular, Taiwan and Indonesia both felt as though they lacked a unified central platform like South Korea’s which serves as a channel for fielding inquiries. For many of the local children’s books that have already been translated, it feels like the only way for people to find out about them is at or around the book fairs, and a lot of books are difficult to promote without physical book fairs. For the Summer Edition of this year’s Taipei Rights Workshop, The Grayhawk Agency used Gather Town to build a virtual space which international delegates could “visit”. Some of the publishers candidly stated that it was much easier to use and far more interesting than Frankfurt Book Fair’s digital rights portal, but it’s only natural that as publishers around the world continue to solider through this pandemic with no end in sight, we still look forward to a future where we can meet in person to listen and talk about all the great stories that deserve to be read.

  • How Children’s Book Publishers in Asia Are Fighting the Pandemic (I)
    By Alice (Readmoo) ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver
    Dec 23, 2021

    (This article is a condensed version of one originally published at Readmoo: https://news.readmoo.com/2021/07/20/taipei-rights-workshop-2021/)

     

    “Over the last few months, I think children’s books have been something of a survival tool for parents stuck at home and a major way for them to connect with their children,” says Gray Tan, founder of The Grayhawk Agency, in his welcome speech for the 2021 Taipei Rights Workshop, Summer Edition, co-hosted by The Grayhawk Agency and Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA).

    This was the fourth session of the summer edition of Taipei Rights Workshop, but due to the pandemic the roundtable discussion was hosted online for the first time. The eight children’s publishers who were invited to participate had a wealth of industry experience and included: Supawee Supatit, foreign rights executive at Amarin (Thailand); Purichaya Asunee Na Ayuttaya, rights editor at B2S Co. (Thailand); Nguyen Thi Ha, rights executive at Thai Ha (Vitenam); Phan Thanh Lan, rights executive at Kim Dong (Vitenam); Yuliani Liputo, rights executive at Mizan (Indonesia); Shera Sihbudi, rights executive at Noura (Indonesia); Ally Bang, rights executive at Changbi (South Korea); and Su Shin, special assistant to the chairman of B.K. Agency (Taiwan). Together, their frank discussion focused on how the pandemic has impacted their respective book markets, as well as on the proportion of local or translated works in each market and what selling rights is like behind the scenes. Even though the pandemic prevented us from having the chance to get together in person, the children’s book publishers of the Milk Tea Alliance (an online democracy and human rights movement consisting of netizens from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia and South Korea among others) were still able to gather online and share their insight on fighting the pandemic.

     

    Publishers Fighting the Pandemic: The Rise of Shopee, Using Pre-orders to Determine Print Runs, and Curated Livestreams to Interact with Readers

    “As readers turned to purchasing books online, e-commerce site Shopee has started to become more important. Many of the book fairs have also been held online,” said Su Shin. This was a situation that a lot of countries’ book markets faced during the pandemic. Taiwan had the pandemic well under control during its early stages but in mid-May 2021 restrictions were escalated to Level 3 which was a hit to physical bookstores, especially independent bookstores who really bore the brunt of the new rules. Staying home long-term has led to an increase in book sales for certain genres: “Self-help books, books about exercise, and children’s books have responded particularly well, and recently we’ve also seen an increase in sales of colouring books and children’s study aids.”

    “Ultimately, we always have to find something for the children to do.” The same situation occurred in Indonesia where a third wave of the pandemic broke out last month and physical channels for book sales halted business one after the other, forcing publishers to switch to online platforms and hold virtual storytelling workshops to reach readers. “Some publishers have official online stores on Shopee, and they’re finding that children’s board books, story books and picture books are all extremely popular.” However, inevitably most book sales are still suffering and the sales for new titles are so much lower that a lot of publishing houses in Indonesia are starting to offer the book as a pre-order one month before publication and then only print copies after confirming the number of pre-orders.

    It’s a very similar situation in Vietnam. In response to the pandemic, there has been an increase in sales of health-related titles and children’s books. High school students have been particularly drawn to comic books that come with tasteful free gifts and the students are happy to buy the comics with their own money. Shopee plays an equally important role in both Vietnam and Thailand’s book markets. Thailand’s previous pandemic response meant that the book market remained relatively stable, but sales have declined since a new wave of infections broke out in March and publishers have needed to rely on more diverse forms of online marketing and livestreaming. However, the restriction of physical publicity events has led to reduced visibility for new writers. Literary works have been a favourite of Thai readers during the pandemic and they’ve been particularly keen on romance novels, perhaps as a source of comfort during this period of public anxiety. Children’s books have also been a saving grace and parents have been willing to order them online.

    In South Korea, even though the scale of offline activities has been small, online book fairs have been extremely active. “Kobo, the largest publishing house in South Korea, increased its book fair activities by 17% and saw a 30% increase in online sales, but by contrast they only saw a 0.7% increase in sales from physical bookstores,” said Ally Bang. With children’s books, it can help sales immensely if a teacher includes a book in their recommended reading materials.

     

    Read On: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=175

  • 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. 

  • Censorship, the Rural-Urban Divide, and We-media Integration: The State of Reading in Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia
    By Lin Hsuan-Wei (Readmoo) ∥ Translated by Canaan Morse
    Sep 24, 2019

    While the Taiwanese government’s commitment to a “South Bound Policy” has survived two electoral cycles without wavering, its plans for how to advance that focus and invite deeper cooperation with South and Southeast Asian nations are far from complete. By contrast, certain private and popular interests have been executing their own campaigns in Southeast Asia for several years already. This year the summer session Taipei Rights Workshop for publishing and rights professionals, organized by the Grayhawk Agency, invited Phan Thanh Lan (Vietnam), Fidyastria Saspida (Indonesia), and Jureeporn Somart (Thailand) to share their understanding of current trends in reading and publishing in South Asia with audience members at the Brilliant Time Bookstore, a well-known local purveyor of  Southeast Asian literature in its original languages and in translation.

     

    An Up-and-Coming Book Market

    Phan Thanh Lan works for Kim Dong, Vietnam’s largest publisher of manga and children’s literature. Founded in 1957, they are responsible for many of the titles that Vietnamese readers grew up with. According to Phan Thanh Lan, Vietnam represents a growth market for the publishing industry. The majority of its 95 million citizens are young, capable members of a burgeoning work force currently driving fast economic development. Unlike in Taiwan, Vietnam’s publishing industry is split between cultural companies and publishing houses; when the former wish to publish a book, they must first acquire a permit via the latter. About sixty-four domestic publishing houses and a multitude of culture companies operate in Vietnam today, with at least one publishing house in almost every province. Educational publishing accounts for a dominating 75% of the market, a testament to the influence of the nation’s school enrollment and testing system. Given annual sales numbers, Phan Thanh Lan estimates that the average Vietnamese citizen reads about four books a year. Meanwhile, children’s publishing now stands at a rising 10% of the total market, a trend she attributes to increased care on the part of Vietnamese parents for their children’s early education.

    One significant blemish on this otherwise sunny picture is the slow growth of digital publishing. To date, only twelve domestic publishers have entered the digital publishing space, many fewer than expected. Disparities in literacy between rural and urban centers have made publishing much less profitable in the countryside. Moreover, the nation’s Communist regime mandates that all books undergo central government censorship before publication, leading to situations in which, according to her, “even a fully finished book project can become unpublishable.” Meanwhile, bootleg publishing remains rampant, and continues to escape government control.

    Kim Dong publishes an average of three hundred new titles every year, including a significant number of Taiwanese works in translation. Yet cooperation is not always easy, as deals can get hung up on issues like licensing and list prices. Phan Thanh Lan notes that, for instance, while Jimmy Liao’s children’s titles are extremely popular in Vietnam, Taiwanese publishers worry that the lower retail prices of the same books in Vietnam will end up cannibalizing sales in Taiwan.

     

    Do Indonesians Really Not Like to Read?

    Fidyastria Saspida is an editor at Elex, a multimedia company founded in 1985 that has been a paragon of modernization in the publishing industry: In 2001, Elex set up a commercial products department to sell the literacy cards that had become extremely popular among pre-school children, and in 2016, the company started a IP department in order to stay at the cusp of digital publishing. Elex has published a total of nearly twenty thousand titles to date, with an average of 150 new titles emerging each month in every theme and market segment – the new biography of Jack Ma, for instance, was extremely popular with their readers. This trip to Taiwan has left Fidyastria with the impression that Taiwan’s reading environment is not so different from Indonesia’s. Both readerships share a love for genres such as romance and fantasy, leading Fidyastria to conclude that “We ought to have a lot of room for cooperation!” Elex publishes domestic manga as well as translated titles; religious tracts, owing to the strength of Indonesia’s Islamic population, are also quite popular. Furthermore, Elex has capitalized on a recent surge in international tourism to Indonesia by partnering with the Ministry of Tourism to produce guidebooks and other related titles.

    “A lot of people say, ‘Indonesians don’t read books, so the market isn’t good,’ but if the market weren’t good, how could we do so well?” She introduces audience members to a number of popular domestic writing and publishing events, including the Bali Readers and Writers Festival, a five-day event on the island of Bali that draws huge crowds of famous authors and enthusiastic readers; it’s “the best reader’s festival in the world,” Fidyastria avers. This year, representatives from Taiwan also attended. One widely-anticipated feature of the festival is a one- to two-day book sale in which prices drop as low as 70% off.

    But the Indonesian book market is also not without its difficulties. Since 2015, about half the nation’s bookstores have closed. The majority of publishers are located in Jakarta, the largest city on the island of Java, which means that readers on more remote islands usually have to rely on online retailers to buy books. Significant wealth gaps between the cities and countryside also create significant instability and inequality in the book market, despite its large size. Children’s literature remains the only dependable genre from a sales perspective, though other facets of the market still have room to develop.

     

    Thailand: Facing a Revolution in Publishing Practice

    Jureeporn Somart works for SE-ED Publishing House, a business whose name refers to science, engineering, and education. Founded by engineers in 1974, it publishes very popular titles in the hard and natural sciences, as well as in computer science. The business’s crown jewels are its dictionaries, which are the most trusted and best-selling in the country. The Thai people love learning foreign languages, and SE-ED’s TOIEC and English-learning titles are also hot commodities. “After all, these are the kind of books that can get you a raise,” Jureeporn notes.

    Jureeporn reports that over the last few years, Thai publishers have begun focusing on their online readership communities. Bricks-and-mortar bookstores, no longer the main vehicle for sales, have become more like exhibition spaces. Publishers have also warmed up to social media as a tool for understanding reader’s appetites more quickly and completely. “Tastes and reading habits are changing,” Jureeporn says. While DIY titles and “boy-love” romances have become extremely popular in recent years, she observes, hard-copy works on cooking, cosmetics, and nutrition have fallen off sharply as readers have turned to online outlets for that sort of information. “They believe the tips and tricks that internet celebrities teach them,” and therefore are less willing to buy printed books. SE-ED caught onto the global social media craze long ago. They encourage online authors to publish previews of their work in advance, so that customers may pre-order titles, which the publisher will then print and distribute according to demand. Jureeporn believes that traditional content and digital content can exist symbiotically; readers still want to feel the weight of a book in their hands, while digital publishing gives them more choices and a different method of reading.

  • Jung and Farber: Partners in Crime (II)
    By Liu Chih-Yu ∥ Translated by Roddy Flagg
    Jan 14, 2019

    A good crime story isn’t just about suspense: it portrays a society. The protagonist in Moses and the Ship of the Dead, which Jung is to publish in 2019, is a thoroughly German chief inspector: well-educated, meticulous, and punctual and polite to the point of being boring. Yet on arrival at a crime scene he is repeatedly mistaken for an assistant – because he is black. And with that particular perspective and an intriguing crime to solve, the novel shows there are subtler forms of racism than violence and abuse.

    Hideo Yokoyama’s 64 sounds like exactly the kind of book Germans aren’t keen on: long, slow and full of foreign names. No other publisher would touch it, but Jung added a stunning cover and sold the book as a window on contemporary Japanese society. In doing so he created a much-discussed success which spent four months on Germany’s crime bestselling list and was hailed by critics as “doing something no other crime novel has done.”

    After the success of 64, many people asking Jung when he’d decided to jump on the Asian crime bandwagon. He struggles to answer – as far as he is concerned, he did no such thing. It was only after the success of 64 that bookstores started to dedicate sections to “Asian Crime Fiction” – the trend didn’t exist when he bought it. “To force books on the public which they don’t want is the publisher’s most important and most wonderful mission,” said Jung, quoting another German publisher.

    And once a publisher decides what type of book to publish, how are the actual books found? Jung stressed again and again the importance of partnerships – in this case, partners in “crime”. It was US literary scout Kelly Farber who first recommended 64.

    Kelly, the All-Knowing Literary Scout

    Kelly Farber, often mentioned by Jung, finally had the opportunity to talk about her own work as a literary scout. It’s not a common job in Taiwan, but she summed it up as a form of consultancy. Her publisher clients, hailing from various time-zones and cultural backgrounds, look to her for the latest intelligence on the US book market, recommendations and market analysis, and help reaching out to rights holders and closing deals.

    The need to stay on top of the latest first-hand info mean literary scouts spend much of their time talking to editors, trying to figure out what manuscripts are being considered. Sometimes an editor will voluntarily send over a manuscript he or she would like a scout’s opinion on, and a nod of approval from a scout can be an important indicator of potential success internationally and help rights sales.

    A literary scout’s job is not, as some people think, to read all day. Most of their working day is spent on the phone and replying to emails. At most they read short outlines of non-fiction books, with novels read at home in the evenings. Four manuscripts a week is the norm.

    Kelly also pointed out that book markets are becoming polarized – well-known authors with a clear political stance are more popular. Fiction is becoming harder to sell, but in Spain fiction sells twice as much as non-fiction. So don’t give up, she says: it’s a tough market, but there can be good news where you least expect it.

  • Jung and Farber: Partners in Crime (I)
    By Liu Chih-Yu ∥ Translated by Roddy Flagg
    Jan 14, 2019

    The Taipei Rights Workshop is an annual highlight for local editors and agents: an opportunity here in Taiwan to meet publishing sector people from around the world and discuss differences in cultures and markets – something that can be hard to do in the chaos of the major book fairs.

    2018’s workshop, the sixth, again welcomed attendees from around the world: from agents who have sold books worldwide to overseas editors who have snapped up Taiwanese books. But what do they discuss?

    Recent years have seen German Tim Jung excel in his role as publishing director at Arche/Atrium, snapping up the rights to Chan Ho-Kei’s The Borrowed, Wang Ting-Kuo’s My Enemy’s Cherry Tree and Hideo Yokoyama’s 64 and guiding these books to impressive sales on the German market. Meanwhile Kelly Farber, a young and talented literary scout and the eyes and ears for Jung and other publishers across eighteen countries, is helping bring Chinese-language literature to a global audience.

    Reading in Germany

    Tim Jung manages two publishing houses. Arche was originally founded to provided reading materials for German prisoners of war during World War Two; Atrium has been publishing novels since 1935.

    There were 72,499 new books published in Germany in 2017, 31% of those novels and 9,890 translated. The majority of the translated works were originally published in English, French or Japanese (including manga). Rights to an impressive 7,856 German books were sold overseas, with the three most common target languages for translation being Chinese, English and Spanish.

    But the news is not all good. Here’s one worrying statistic: the number of people buying books in Germany has plummeted by 6 million over the past four years, to 30 million. It’s a trend which has Germany’s publishing sector on edge.

    It’s not just Germany: publishers around the world are finding themselves squeezed between Facebook and Instagram. But Jung believes books can hold their own against new competitors and remain the "touchstone" against which television shows and video games are judged. Even though many regard other forms of media, including movie or game adaptations, as competitors, Jung finds this approach inadequate. Those adaptations still have value, even if the book market does suffer, and may be key to converting viewers and gamers into readers.

    Why Publish Crime Novels?

    Novels account for a large percentage of book sales and the crime story is an important category of novel: every book store will have a crime section. A German movie director once said that there is no better way to understand the world than through a crime story, and while each publishing house has its own criteria for choosing books, Atrium’s publication of 13.67 proves this point.

    The English edition of the book was titled The Borrowed, hinting at Hong Kong’s particular status. Fears the relationship between China, the UK and Hong Kong may not have been so familiar to German readers, however, meant the German edition was titled The Eye of Hong Kong – a clever combination of the setting and the “Eye of Heaven” nickname of detective protagonist Kwan Chun-dok. The novel tells of six key cases over the course of Kwan’s career, covering key events in the city’s history as it does so and making for a read which provides German readers with both entertainment and a better understanding of the territory.

    Jung quoted Mark Billingham, another of his best-selling authors: “Above all, give your readers characters they care about, that have the power to move them, and then you will have suspense from page one.”

  • A report on the Taipei Right’s Workshop (II)
    By Anne Meadows
    Apr 06, 2017

    What then of us, the eight fellows who had come so far to talk about the challenges we face in our own countries? Dave Haysom, a translator from Chinese into English and editor of the Chinese literary magazine, Pathlight: New Chinese Writing, and Gloria Masdeau, a Spanish-born editor and rights seller at the Beijing publishing house Shanghai 99, talked about the difficulties of getting Chinese-language works published in the West. The English-language editors – myself, Janie Yoon from Anansi in Canada and Johanna Castillo from Atria in the US – spoke of readers’ reluctance to encounter translations; whether this might now be changing; and how we as publishers seek to overcome it. My company, Portobello Books, has had great success in the past years with a number of translated titles, most notably Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, which has sold more than 150,000 copies in the UK alone. There have been big successes too for other UK publishers, with “Ferrante Fever” and “Knausgaard Mania” improving the visibility of literary fiction in translation. A widely quoted study commissioned by the Man Booker International Prize found that literary fiction in translation is actually on average outselling literary fiction publishing in English. Michel Van de Waart, an editor at De Arbeiderspers in Holland, spoke of a growing insularity in the Dutch market, which is nonetheless much more open to translation (14%) than either the UK or the US (3%). In Thailand, where Sirithada Kongpha founded her publishing house, Legend Books, the market for literary fiction is very small, and there is little or no support from the Thai government. Bookstores are closing, as they are worldwide, and magazines are generally only. The South Korean market fares a little better, with 21% of titles translated (43% of which are from Japan; 23% from the US; 8% from the UK). But according to Jungha Song from Sigongsa, a law fixing book discounts at a maximum of 10% of their recommended retail price in perpetuity is driving readers to second hand bookstores and hampering publishers’ profits.  Finally, New York-based scout Bettina Schrewe spoke of helping publishers around the world discover and acquire the best new American writers, a job which sounded both exhilarating and exhausting.


    A well-run fellowship is an exchange of expertise between multiple cultures, so after we had finished talking for two days about our own books, careers, and cultures, we sat down to listen. In Encounter, a bookstore-cum-cafe in the Zhongshan District, we heard short pitches from Taiwanese translators, rights sellers, book reviewers, and critics. It was literary speed dating, with a bell rung every five minutes pushing us on to the next table and the next proposition. Taiwanese literature is as diverse and varied as that of any other country, but among the books I heard about there were a number of notable confluences: a return to questions of the environment and its protection; an unusually high number of novels set in coffee shops; short story collections sell (they struggle in the UK); and illustrated books are thriving. 


    I returned to England after two weeks in Taiwan to find things much as I had left them: dark and cold, Trump-ridden. The London underground was chaotic and aggressive, whereas Taipei’s metro had been smooth, efficient, and polite. Nothing tasted as good in those weeks as gua bao had, and I missed both the other fellows and my hosts. In idle moments I found myself searching for Taipei on Instagram and dreaming of going back to open a coffee shop of my own. As a publisher abroad, your hope is to discover something remarkable you can bring home. In Taipei, I had heard about one novel over and over again – Wang Ting-Kuo’s My Enemy’s Cherry Tree – first from the Chinese translator of Alice Munro, and later from journalists, students, and our hosts. Back in London, homesick for somewhere that is not my home, I sent this novel to two readers whose taste I trust.  


    I brought a number of things back with me from Taiwan: a green stone found on a beach in Hualien; hand-forged Chinese characters from a foundry in the ramshackle district of Datong; a lifelong love of gua bao; and new friendships forged with the other fellows and with my hosts. Of these, Wang Ting-Kuo’s novel is the only thing I can share with you. We’ll be publishing the English translation in 2018. Meanwhile, if you have the chance, go. 
     

    A report on the Taipei Right’s Workshop  (I)

  • A report on the Taipei Right’s Workshop (I)
    By Anne Meadows
    Apr 06, 2017

    I arrived in Taiwan late on a Sunday afternoon in November. Outside the air-conditioned halls of Taoyuan International Airport, the weather was humid. In London it had been raining on and off for weeks. I had been travelling for sixteen hours and back home it was still early morning. As the taxi sped from the airport along the freeway towards the hotel where I and the other fellows of the Taipei Rights Workshop would be staying for the week, the city grew in density around me until at last the world’s second tallest building, Taipei 101, came into view, framed by the mountains. Knowing very little about Taipei, I had anticipated tall glass skyscrapers, buildings jutting against one another. I had thought it would feel like a city from the future: uniform, glassy, unwelcoming. What I saw from the taxi cab window was far more familiar: a jumble of architectural styles, bulky steel and glass buildings rubbing shoulders with older blocks, wide plazas bordered by a rare glimpse of a Japanese factory or Confucian temple; a colour palette with more earthy tones than silvers. All the while in the background was the presence of the mountains. Taipei felt cradled. By the time the taxi arrived at our hotel, I was in love.


    The Taipei Rights Workshop has been bringing together publishing professionals from around the world with Taiwanese editors, translators, and rights sellers since 2013. In the 2016 cohort, we were eight – six editors, a translator and a scout – from three different continents; seven different countries; and six different time zones. All of those present were facing challenges in their markets – diminishing review space, bookshops and readers that are shy of translations, the proliferation of other endless forms of entertainment. Publishing, it is often said, is in a state of crisis, but here we were, eight people who had travelled a great distance in the hope of making new connections and bringing home a piece of Taiwanese literature. The fellowship itself, founded and run by the indefatigable agent Gray Tan and his colleagues at the Grayhawk agency, is an example of this same optimistic spirit and a resolve to make literature travel.  


    Over the next five days, Gray and our hosts Grace Chang, Jade Fu and Emily Chuang acquainted us with the history and culture of Taiwan. At the National Palace Museum we saw ceramics so delicate they were almost transparent and ornate sculptures hewn from a single piece of jade. Standing in front of a case which holds a 30th century BC representation of our universe – sun and planets orbiting around a disc of jade – I felt overwhelmed by a culture and craftsmanship that extends back in time so much further than my own.


    Taiwan’s modern history is as complex and multi-layered as its ancient treasures. After the Museum we ate at The Grand Hotel in Zhongshan District, one of the world's tallest buildings in a Chinese classical style. It was constructed on the orders of President Chiang Kai-shek after his flight from mainland China in 1949. The hotel was built over the remains of the Taiwan Grand Shrine, a beautiful Shinto complex from the early days of  Japanese occupation. The Grand Hotel embodies Taiwan’s twentieth century: Japanese colony until 1945, Republic of China and the West’s ally during Mao’s rule, and now; a country in limbo, a modern democracy with a thriving economy which is nonetheless unrecognized by the United Nations and which is regarded by China as an errant son. What then to make of Taiwanese literature, which shares a language its Chinese counterpart but remains distinct from it? Indeed Taiwan, because it is a democracy, does not suffer from the censorship imposed on Chinese editors and authors. If you are a radical Chinese writer, your work is more likely to find a home in Taiwan. If you are a bookseller or publisher, it is in Taiwan that you can exercise independence. If you are a foreign editor looking to translate Chinese authors, you would do well to turn to Taiwan first.


    The bookstores we visited in Taipei were bustling. At Eslite’s multi-level flagship store (a chain similar to Waterstones or Barnes & Noble) we wandered through room after room filled with books, many of them translations. Western big hitters dominate in Taiwan as they dominate across the world. The Girl on the Train has sold 100,000 copies(Taiwan’s population is only twenty-four million). Around 40% of the books published here are translated. Of these, 55% come from Japanese and 30% from English, mostly from the United States. Compare this to Britain and America, where a mere 3% of titles are translations. At Crown Culture, publishers of the magnificent writer Eileen Chang, we were told that fiction sales are at an all time low, and sales in general are being driven by film tie-ins. As with most of the Western world, print sales of newspapers in Taiwan are in severe decline, and review culture is vanishing. Book recommendations come from celebrities or social media, and the books that sell best are often film tie-ins, or self-help. Most books will have only a single edition, rather than a hardback followed by a paperback. At Readmoo, an innovative, multi-platform e-book publisher and app developer, they are experimenting with “gamification.” Readers who purchase an ebook are invited to enter competitions and are rewarded with points they can then use against future purchases. The app connects to your social media. It’s Amazon meets Instagram meets Nintendo, and it’s working: their number of readers is increasing month by month. Publishers in the West would do well to pay attention.
     

    A report on the Taipei Right’s Workshop  (II)