The president of one of China’s leading publishing houses, which releases more than 10,000 titles annually and has the third-highest sales among the nation’s publishers, outlines its growth plans.
01 What is the general strategy for Phoenix Publishing and Media Group (PPMG), and your plans for growth and partnerships over the next few years?
PPMG will continue to have publishing at its core and build a transnational publishing group with international market knowledge and influence. We will do this by integrating five elements within our international business—namely content, channels, platforms, teams and translation—and set international-level standards.
Our work will keep up with, and even surpass, international standards in terms of publishing philosophy, publishing rules and production values. Our long-term co-operation and exchanges with first-class cultural partners will contribute to our international publishing vision and stature. Our publications will be produced with multilingual copyright export, co-publishing and international authoring in mind, to ensure we can sell internationally. We will bring everything together from an international perspective by setting and implementing high standards and promoting communication between Chinese culture and its counterparts.
02 Over the next few years, which parts of the Phoenix business are expected to see the largest growth?
PPMG is one of the largest and strongest publishing industry groups in China, and has ranked highly among the top 30 cultural companies in China for 11 consecutive years. PPMG is number one in China, with nine publishing houses; and with more than 10,000 titles published annually, PPMG’s sales volume ranks as the third-highest of China’s publishing groups.
Education publishing plays an important role in publishing in China today, and PPMG is the second-largest publisher of primary and secondary school textbooks and teaching materials. But our imprints across a wide range of subject matters are all growing.
03 How important are China-based book fairs, like Beijing and Shanghai, to PPMG?
We see BIBF as a very important platform for book launches, promoting and negotiating licensing as well as showcasing the latest Phoenix publications and achievements in copyright trade. BIBF provides a much-valued bridge for reaching overseas publishers, particularly in developing international co-operation. Phoenix has been a regular exhibitor at Shanghai, where it has been instrumental in showing award winners such as the English version of Cao Wenxuan’s award-winning Bronze and Sunflower, and the winners of the Cao Wenxuan Children’s Literature Prize 2017. The winners of that prize, which were published in 2018, are now bestsellers. One of the award winners, The Flood, was selected as a Book of the Year in China in 2018.
For BIBF 2019, I would like to recommend a recent title from Phoenix to overseas readers: The Crucial Ten Years: Chinese Experience of Cultural Heritage Protection. This book tells the story of the protection of our cultural heritage and the development of contemporary museums in China. From urban planning to heritage research; from cultural heritage protection to museum development, this book clearly reflects the author’s scholarly learning and the development of the whole museum industry. The Crucial Ten Years presents readers with an authentic voice from China, and I hope that more readers around the world can appreciate the conservation achievements of China’s cultural heritage.
04 Licensing seems to be a big focus of this year’s BIBF. Will acquiring rights in such forms as multimedia and integrated media become a bigger part of Phoenix’s business?
Phoenix publishers have co-operated with international publishing giants in creating both content and channels, providing a sound basis for rights acquisition in both multimedia and integrated media.
Phoenix Media Publishing and Phoenix Digital Media are the two subsidiaries under the Phoenix umbrella that specialise in multimedia and digital publishing. They have bought rights from foreign publishers, such as [those for] Peppa Pig and Hey Duggee, and based on those acquisitions, they will launch a series of audiobooks on their paid-for-content platforms.
Last month, Balaji Devarajan, vice-president of Taylor & Francis China, visited Phoenix, and we discussed integrated publishing and professional content. We plan to promote the integration of digital technology and specialised content, as well as undertake further research and develop existing content to jointly address market needs.
In the future, Phoenix will develop more international links and jointly initiate large projects in order to drive our development through innovating content, product forms and business models. By doing so, Phoenix aims at new business growth via multimedia and integrated media projects.
05 You signed a memorandum of understanding with a UK firm Wonderbly a couple of months ago. What attracted you to the company? And how do you see that business developing in China?
In recent years, it has become clear that there is increased demand for tailored products that support parent-child relationships, and tailored reading material for children has grown rapidly. Wonderbly is a leading player in the business, so Phoenix has chosen to co-operate with it and make use of its platform and technology
to create a series of personalised children’s books.
We aim to develop personalised children’s books in Mandarin, serving local readers with Phoenix brands and ultimately taking the products worldwide. China is the largest children’s publishing market, with the fastest growth and the greatest potential, and we plan to be leaders in tailored books for children in China via this highly original project. We will initiate a reader-oriented service (on-demand printing, zero inventory) with online and offline distribution and nationwide sales operations, using
a creative means of telling a story, innovative technologies and well-known IP. In this way, we will produce high-quality personalised children’s books through digital operations and services, offering readers immersive experiences.