Children’s indie Nosy Crow has made huge strides in export markets since its launch. Its senior rights manager, Michela Pea, explains the importance of BIBF.
01 How has Nosy Crow fared in China?
In the past couple of years, China has become one of our biggest markets outside the UK, to the point that we hired Lena Petzke, a Chinese speaker who has previously worked at Penguin Random House China, in our small four-people rights team. We attended both Beijing and Shanghai book fairs in 2018, and we will do the same in 2019.
02 What’s the state of the kids’ market there in general?
China’s children’s book market is vibrant and competitive, owing to its expanding middle class with higher disposable incomes, and a growing pool of readers since the baby boom that followed the end of the country’s one-child policy.
03 What are the challenges in doing business there?
It’s hard for our Chinese partners to guarantee that they will obtain an ISBN for a title that they bought from us, due to the way ISBNs are allocated. And while there is more and more clarity about this process, it’s still shocking for us when a contract is cancelled after signatures should an ISBN not be allocated.
04 What are the opportunities?
With WeChat reaching millions and millions of users, social media marketing campaigns are able to sell huge volumes of books in weeks, days, or even hours when timed with key promotional slots such as Chinese Black Friday.
05 What sort of books are Chinese publishers particularly keen on?
Our Chinese customers are primarily concerned with the educational aspect, be it through straight informative non-fiction, bilingual editions of novelty titles, or picture books with a clear moral message. Our series Go Wild, a survival guide for children aged 8+, found a Chinese publisher because we pitched it as a guide to learning how to stay safe outdoors rather than emphasising the playful "wild" element.
06 What are the keys to successful rights-trading in China?
A good understanding of the market is the most important thing. It comes from an open mind to cultural differences and frequent trips to China. Having a Chinese speaker in the team helps, although it’s not necessary because of the very good English-language skills of the new generation of Chinese editors. It’s also important to find a number of close partners and to nurture these relationships over time.
07 How important a fair is Beijing International Book Fair for your rights team?
It’s very important, because it enables us to focus on the Chinese market only. Also, being in Beijing gives us the opportunity to visit some of our main customers in their offices ahead of the fair itself, and this is always beneficial.
08 And finally, what are Nosy Crow’s big titles this year?
We have just announced the acquisition of Earth Heroes: Twenty Inspiring Stories of People Saving Our World by Lucy Dyu. It’s a collection of biographies of climate change activists, publishing this October. We hope to find the book a Chinese home at this Beijing International Book Fair.