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.