London indie Flame Tree Publishing has entered a "pioneering" co-publishing deal with Jiangsu Phoenix Literary and Art Publishing, a division of the leading Chinese publisher Phoenix Publishing and Media Group (PPMG).
The deal, formally signed at the Beijing International Book Fair yesterday (Wednesday 21st August), will see the two co-produce titles under Phoenix Flame Tree branding, using a new logo that combines elements of those of both participants to create a fiery bird image. The two will also work collaboratively on global marketing. PPMG president Jiangtao She said the result would be "spectacular culturally and huge in terms of sales".
Announcing the deal, he said: "Our co-operation is not just a simple copyright trade. We are combining concepts from China and the UK and co-producing our own projects and sharing our experience in marketing." Costs, turnover and profits will be shared between the parties, he confirmed.
The first two projects for the joint venture will launch this autumn, with The Little Golden Book Series and the Masterpieces of Art series. For the Chinese market, there will be a collection of six collectable classics - Arthur Conan Doyle's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Charles Dickens' The Tale of Two Cities, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and L M Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables - each one including a glossary of important vocabulary in the novel, and packaged with gold-edged pages, and cased in a golden slipcase alongside a gold-coloured notebook. The collection is aimed squarely at China's gifting market.
The second venture will pair titles from Flame Tree's existing Masterpieces of Art series - including books on Van Gogh, Klimt and Japanese Woodcuts - with "beautiful and practical" notebooks, addressing "a need in the market for delightful brevity, where people know the art they like but don't know about the artist". The series is "designed for the busy consumer who is on the phone 24/7", according to PPMG.
However this is intended to be just the start of the collaboration, with many more projects to come.
The Phoenix president told The Bookseller: "Co-publishing is the way forward. Being a publisher, you have huge experience of the market. Sharing our experiences together, we can create a new product which can break down the boundaries between our cultures. In the West, there are lots of co-publishing deals - the UK, France and Germany work more closely together rather than just trading rights. The joint collaboration between China and the UK will have a much bigger impact because China is huge and the English language market is huge. It will create something that is spectacular culturally, and that will also be huge in terms of sales."
He added: "If you just sell rights [to your titles], you don't get sales data on which channels are most effective."
Flame Tree founder and publisher Nick Wells said: "Flame Tree publishes into the English language worldwide, and collaborates with publishers in all markets. Co-operation and constant invention are cornerstones of our approach." He explained: "We're not saying, 'This is a good idea, buy it', we're saying, 'This is an idea - how would it work in China?"
The deal pairs a small indie (Flame Tree's turnover is £6.3m) with a Chinese giant - PPMG's revenue in 2017 was RMB17.7bn (£1.4bn). Of the difference in size between the two partners, Jiangtao She said: "Phoenix has lots of small imprints. And it's about finding the right partner, and an innovative partner."
Phoenix has also just announced a collaborative partnership with personalised publishing company Wonderbly, creator of hit titles including most famously Lost My Name.
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