With its focus on martial arts and alternative medicine, Singing Dragon has arguably the UK’s biggest tranche of Chinese-themed titles. The Jessica Kingsley Publishers imprint’s Claire Wilson and Claudia Esteves discuss the development of its list and the importance of Beijing.
What’s the background on Singing Dragon; when, and why, was it set up?
CW Singing Dragon started back in 2006 as an imprint of Jessica Kingsley Publishers. The list focused originally on martial arts and Chinese medicine, subjects of particular interest to Jessica Kingsley herself. There was clearly a market for books on these subjects and the list quickly expanded, and has continued to do so over the past 12 years. We now publish books for professionals and for the general reader on a range of subjects related to complementary and alter- native health, martial arts and ancient traditions for health and wellbeing. We also publish books for children on issues related to health and wellness, and graphic novels and comics covering topics such as pain, anxiety and trauma.
Can you give us a flavour of the make-up of the entire list?
CW We publish around 30–40 titles per year. The main subjects we publish around are acupuncture and Chinese medicine, martial arts, qi gong [a movement and breathing exercise akin to tai chi], Taoism, yoga and yoga therapy, manual therapy, aromatherapy and nutrition.
Within these subjects we publish a range of books, from clinical textbooks and practitioner manuals, to translations with commentary, colouring books, comic books and children’s books.
JKP is at this year’s BIBF—how important a fair is it for your rights team?
CE We’ve been exhibiting at BIBF for 12 years now, and the fair has proved to be an invaluable source of new opportunities, both for selling and acquiring rights. We don’t have an exclusive rights agent in China, which means we have to be in touch with Chinese publishers directly. Attending the fair every year means we get a chance of establishing new partnerships and nurturing the ones we already have face to face, which is invaluable. It might not happen otherwise, as not everyone will go to Frankfurt or London.
We also get to showcase our titles to the ever-growing Chinese market, and every year we return to London with a large number of new contacts, which is priceless.
Claudia Esteves and Claire Wilson
What are the keys to successful rights-trading in China?
CE The main things are to keep in touch with your customers or agent, and not to forget the backlist. Being in contact with customers isn’t only a way to promote our titles, more importantly, it’s how we get to know the Chinese market. There are subjects we publish that wouldn’t even have been considered by Chinese publishers five years ago, and they are now becoming more and more popular. This means that back- list can be a pot of gold...
Singing Dragon may be the UK’s biggest importer of Chinese-authored and Chinese-themed titles. What do you think the appeal is for a Western audience?
CW The market for our Chinese medicine titles is largely practitioner; it’s in the UK but also in the US (where we have an office in Philadelphia), Canada, Australia and Europe. As an area of study and practice, I think the appeal of Chinese medicine is that it offers a whole-person approach to health and wellness, with a focus on harmony within the body and with the external world too. Chinese medicine always looks for the root cause of a condition—a “disharmony”, in Chinese medicine terms—rather than treating symptoms in isolation.
And what are Singing Dragon’s big titles this year that we should look out for?
CW We have paediatric acupuncturist Rebecca Avern’s Acupuncture for Babies, Children and Teenagers publishing next month, which we are really excited about. Damo Mitchell’s A Comprehensive Guide to Daoist Nei Gong will publish soon, and we were delighted to publish Z’ev Rosenberg’s Returning to the Source: Han Dynasty Medical Classics in Modern Clinical Practice a few months ago—it’s doing really well. Beyond Chinese medicine, we published the first book in our Personalised Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine for Healthcare Practitioners series earlier this year—Mitochondria in Health and Disease by Ray Griffiths—with a number of titles following soon.
Claire Wilson is the senior commissioning editor of Singing Dragon, Claudia Esteves is Jessica Kingsley Publishers’ rights and special sales manager.