Interesting news about the state of children’s book publishing in Asia. We may be on the verge of becoming one big, global neighborhood, but there are still different needs in different parts of the world. Sometimes looking outside your own borders can open up a universe of opportunity.
In most parts of Asia, wizardry and fantastical plots have lost much of their magic after dominating the bestseller list for so long. The subsequent vampire and werewolf fever is, by comparison, not as rabidly welcomed in certain territories. As for that wimpy kid, well, his popularity suffers somewhat as Asian kids have different school life and growing-up problems. Still, these imported blockbusters have spurred local writers to produce longer fiction for children and helped boost a hitherto weak YA market.
Overall, picture books—local and translated—remain a big game this side of the world. And while rights agencies used to go after European and American publishing houses for both exports and imports, more deals are now inked with neighbors instead. China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand, for instance, represent newer markets that are seeking more (and newer) content, but are reluctant to spend big bucks on American or European titles. Both cultural and geographical proximity are tipping the balance in favor of regional rights trading.
Asians’ obsession with academic excellence makes educational picture books an easier sell. In this regard, Korean publishers have a stranglehold, with their ability to turn complex topics into accessible and entertaining edu-comics. Just check out some of the multivolume series published by Kyowon, YeaRimDang, Woongjin ThinkBig, and Daesan. Over in Taiwan, picture books continue to be big sellers for both import and export. Interestingly, since both the Taipei and Seoul book fairs had France as the guest country last year, French titles are enjoying a revival in these territories. Sales of Korean and Taiwanese children’s titles to French publishers also saw an uptick.
Across the straits, in Japan, manga remains hot. But now there is a new Japanese category attracting neighboring countries: light YA novels in various genres such as romance, thriller, and adventure. China is still receptive to new ideas, titles, and authors from countries far and near. Its children’s segment is expanding and going beyond material with educational value. Picture books have a bigger audience than before, and the quality of titles in the marketplace has improved significantly.
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