Many Western publishers believe a relaxation of the one-child policy will result in China being a burgeoning growth market for kids’ books in the years to come. The editor-in-chief of the country’s Daylight Publishing House discusses the market with Tom Tivnan.
Can you tell us about Daylight Publishing House, and how it has developed in recent years?
Daylight Publishing House (DPH) is a children’s imprint of People’s Literature Publishing House: one of the most influential publishing house in China, with a history stretching back nearly 70 years. DPH itself was founded in 2009, so we’re quite a young company, and our main focus is children’s literature: we publish many picture books, and children’s non-fiction and reference [titles]. DPH’s annual growth has been 20%–30% over the past three years, which I think shows that we’re a children’s book publishing house of high quality.
How about the Chinese children’s books market in general? What are the key recent trends? What successes has DPH had?
The children’s book market has a good momentum, with [annual rates of] growth of more than 10% for several years in a row. In 2016, the children’s sector surpassed the social sciences, adult literature and art titles to be the number one category in the Chinese book market; the kids’ sector was responsible for more than a third of the wider market’s total growth. YA and children’s fiction accounted for the largest proportion [of that growth], followed by picture books and popular science.
DPH’s biggest successes have been in the publication of original literature: we have many of the top Chinese children’s writers, as well as dynamic young writers and illustrators.
Which books and authors will you be talking about most at this year’s Bologna?
We’ll be talking a lot about The Firefly King, The Draught and The Bat Aroma by the Hans Christian Andersen Award-winner Cao Wenxuan; the Little Wolf’s Stories series by Tang Sulan, a well-known fairytale writer in China; and picture books with Chinese elements such as Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, The Weird Dumpling (its main character is a panda) and Braids, whose creator Bingchun Huang won a Biennial of Illustration Bratislava Golden Apple Award in 2015.
What sort of rights from abroad are you looking to acquire? What kinds of stories and authors work well in China?
We are interested in new standalone fiction, non-fiction and picture books with themes of philosophy, science and art. We are less interested in foreign campus or school-themed series, as there are already many of these on the market by home-grown writers which are actually closer to the life of Chinese children.
And can you name some of your own authors and illustrators who you think might work well in the Anglophone world?
Bronze and Sunflower from Cao Wenxuan has already proven to be a success in the UK and the US, it’s been on an annual list by a US association of school librarians of most recommended titles for three years. Therefore, we believe that his new stories can also gain recognition abroad.
Apart from this, picture books with Chinese elements have also been attracting attention: for example, our picture book Happy Mid-Autumn Festival is used as the text in a translation competition for Chinese-language learners held by the University of Leeds. The book was chosen for its illustration style, interesting story and also the content—it concerns a traditional Chinese festival. The Weird Dumpling, which was a big favourite of London Book Fair director Jacks Thomas when she visited China last year, will also be published in UK.
How do you see the Chinese children’s market developing?
The children’s book market in China is thriving and the marketing channels are becoming diversified. The emergence of various ￼￼￼￼￼online channels provides more possibilities for children’s books. Products which we found hard to sell well through traditional channels, such as expensive pop-ups and novelty books, may find a ready market via certain online channels.
So all in all, there is an improvement in the quality of the books and the marketing, so the market will continue to grow.