November 19, 2013
China’s first children’s book fair a success
by Nick Davies
Earlier this month, China held its first international children’s book festival in Shanghai, welcoming European and Chinese publishers alike to the Shanghai Children’s International Book Fair. And The Bookseller’s Lisa Campbell reports that—at least for the Western publishers—the inaugural effort went off without a hitch.
Andrew Sharp, groups rights and digital director for Hachette Children’s Books, described the fair as “phenomenal” and “overwhelming.” He told The Bookseller that fiction and picture books were particularly popular, which oddly enough, represents something of a shift in how the Chinese treat literature for kids. “The culture is very much that children read to learn,” he explained, “but I have sensed that this fair is trying to get out the message of reading for pleasure. What this has really done is given us an opportunity to meet Chinese publishers,” allowing for more direct communication about what both sides are looking for.
The publisher of British house Sweet Cherry Publishing, Abdul Thada, enthused that “There was massive interest from librarians who wanted to buy books in different languages, which is a bonus I wasn’t expecting;” and Digital Leaf Founder Dustin Brooks said that the fair was “just as busy as Frankfurt” in terms of networking and building relationships, if not necessarily for inking deals.
For Chinese publishers, though, the fair wasn’t quite such an unqualified success. The foreign rights manager for Zhejiang Juvenile & Children’s Publishing House, Zhu Jing, was somewhat frustrated. “We really hope to sell more titles into the UK,” he explained, “but right now we don’t have much understanding of what the young readers are looking for or interested in. We have been to the London Book Fair, Frankfurt and Bologna and tried different agents to sell titles to the UK but it hasn’t been very successful so far.” Others seemed somewhat more optimistic, though, including Zhou Qing, chief editor and vice-president of Shanghai Century Publishing. She told The Bookseller that children’s books have had a recent boom in China, and the potential for them to reach international markets is exciting.
Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.