Growing kids’ market appeals to UK firms in Beijing as fair launches dedicated strand

Growing kids’ market appeals to UK firms in Beijing as fair launches dedicated strand

Publishers and agents say they are expecting a positive Beijing International Book Fair, reflecting the growing Chinese market. The 26th edition of the fair (21st–25th August 2019) will host some 2,500 exhibitors from more than 95 countries and regions, as well as 300,000-plus visitors.

The Beijing International Children’s Book Fair—first run last year as a standalone exhibition—hints at the continued strength of children’s publishing in China, with educational titles and entertainment companies expected to attract considerable attention. The growth of this dedicated kids’ fair puts Beijing in direct competition with the Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair, which is held in November. BIBF director Liying Lin said: "The Chinese government requires every Chinese child to learn English, which puts English-language content in demand. Parents are increasingly keen to use apps, film, comics, audio and digital content, as well as books, to assist their children’s education and this provides a fabulous opportunity for exhibitors at the children’s fair." Kids’ indie Nosy Crow struck one of the biggest deals for UK publishers at last year’s BIBF, selling the rights to its Sing Along series to state-owned Chinese publisher CITIC for a six-figure sum.

Sam Arthur, c.e.o. of illustrated publisher Nobrow, is visiting Beijing for the first time this year. He sees a lot of potential, particularly for Nobrow’s Flying Eye children’s imprint. He said: "Children’s books and illustrated books in general appear to be booming in China. We noticed a real surge in interest from Chinese publishers around 2015/16, and sales have been steady ever since." He added: "The opportunities for the right books with the right client publishers are enormous. The children’s book market in China is brand new, but it is vast. It’s an exciting time."

In terms of competition with the Shanghai fair, many publishers have said that while both are important, Beijing has the edge. Pinelopi Pourpoutidou, foreign and digital sales director at Michael O’Mara, said: "As our list includes both children’s and adult titles, we usually prefer to attend Beijing, because it covers both." Grant Hartley, export sales director at Usborne, added: "Beijing still seems the main fair for English-language sales. It also attracts general booksellers, rather than just children’s specialists."

This year’s fair will also focus on emerging trends such as digital formats, new publishing technologies, entertainment, cross-merchandising and Intellectual Property. According to Lin, some of the biggest opportunities at BIBF lie in multi-channel IP, particularly in children’s entertainment: "China has become the world’s second-largest retail and consumer market, yet it remains relatively under-exploited in terms of licensing. BIBF presents a clear opportunity for global licensors and professionals across the whole licensing chain."

Helen Kogan, c.e.o. of business publisher Kogan Page, told The Bookseller Daily: "We do well with titles that look at contemporary work issues, such as Artificial Intelligence, data, digital transformation... but some of our ‘evergreen’ subjects, such as leadership and general business skills, do really well too."

Advances in technological channels and platforms in China mean there is potential for publishers in these areas as well. Hartley said: "Changes and innovations happen very quickly. The integrated way in which books are marketed and sold via online platforms in China is streets ahead."

Maria Kilcoyne, publicity and rights director at Reaktion Books, added: "Publishers are wishing to include e-books more often in contracts, and also audiobooks, which has opened up other revenue streams."