Category Archives: China

South China Morning Post: Limited Opportunities in Tightly Regulated Publishing Market


The article in this paper tells of how difficult it is to publish a book in China. There is a complicated process to go through that would surely siphon off the weaker ones, so perhaps China is actually striving for excellence, amongst all the rules. The only way to publish an internationally published book in China is to co-publish through a Chinese publishing company. It would certainly be very frustrating to go through the process, especially when the end result isn’t quite the same as the original product, and, “Under a co-publishing arrangement, real publishing rights and powers reside with the Chinese party.” That means they have the right to change whatever doesn’t fulfil the rules and regulations, and have control over the details of the actual publishing and promotion of the book.

From a Western perspective all this “fuss and bother” seems crazy. We are constantly exposed to books and material that is written from all kinds of perspectives, on all kinds of topics, which can delight or offend readers. China strictly censors any content that is published, so that readers aren’t encouraged to question the culture and government of China. It’s quite a difference from Australia, where we make fun of politicians and question just about every decision that is made.

It’s interesting to know about the publishing industry in China and just how complicated it can get to publish a book in the country. The author of the article concludes that, “Removal of the restrictions on distribution should help eliminate a major hurdle for foreign publishers seeking to do business in China. Unfortunately, direct publishing is off-limits to foreigners for the foreseeable future. Indirect access to the publishing market, with foreign content publishers having little control over content and publication format, continues to be the only means for foreigners to establish a presence in China’s publishing market.” Maybe it seems unfair that China can impose such restrictions, but perhaps over time they will lessen and the market will become more open and cooperative.


Paper Republic


This is a very good interview with a man who works in the publishing industry in China. He talks about censorship and translation of books that are imported into China. It’s an eye-opening look into what goes on when a book is translated to be sold in China, including the processes that have to be walked through and the people who are required to see the book before it’s finalised. Li Jihong, the interviewee, is a publishing professional who co-found Shanghai Silk Books. He started out as a freelance translator, gaining much experience of the questionable practices that goes on in the industry, which led him to start up a publishing company of his own. It’s great to read his answers to the questions, it really is interesting to understand what goes on in Chinese publishing and makes you wonder how badly some English-written texts are being translated into Chinese.

He talks about his translations being changed at the next level of editing, “They misread the source text and arbitrarily replaced correct renditions with flawed, even absurd ones.” So he left the company and co-found Shanghai Silk Books with his friend, Xie Fangwei. Their mission is to, “introduce high-quality translations of English literature and works in the ‘New Age Movement’ genre. We believe that Silk Books can differentiate itself by providing healthier, more spiritually nourishing reading matter to its Chinese readership.” This is an exciting mission statement and certainly captures the heart of aspiring publishers who are hoping to get into publishing for similar reasons.

Shanghai Silk Books doesn’t quite fit into a particular category in the publishing industry as it’s something new and innovative. “We secure the translation rights for a title we have targeted, render it in Chinese, and sell the translated texts to state-owned publishers for a certain percentage of the royalties. We decide the cover design in conjunction with the publisher.” They are not quite a literary agent or an independent publisher. Li Jihong suggests “content provider” might be a more accurate term. Whatever the title, they are growing and providing a wonderful alternative way for international publishers to get their books translated and sold into China.

NPR: Book News – US Authors face Hard Choice when Publishing in China


The part of this article that is about China tells about the strict censorship that China imposes on all books. Authors wishing to sell their books in China have to allow their books to be censored, free of “ethnic tensions, Taiwan and Falun Gong, the banned spiritual movement, are off limits, and books that contain even a passing reference to the Cultural Revolution or contemporary Chinese leaders.” China have the power to cut text from books that they feel don’t represent China in a flattering enough light. It may seem that to publish a book in China there are many topics off-limits, but perhaps this is just something we have to take into account for now.

The article gives an example of how a writer and publisher need to think in order to sell their book in China: “Ezra F. Vogel, whose biography of Deng Xiaoping was cut by censors to present a more flattering picture of the Communist Party, told the newspaper, “To me the choice was easy. I thought it was better to have 90 percent of the book available here than zero.”” Those that read his book would probably have known enough about the Communist Party to know that the book had left bits out. So it wasn’t that big a deal to let censors cut text out of the book, just an inconvenience. The question some would have is whether truth is still truth if some of the details are left out.

Overall, this article is interesting, albeit short. It offers a glimpse into what publishers need to keep in mind when selling a book into China.

New Asia Books


The presentation of this page is quite attractive and colourful, and the beautiful background is creatively connected to the text through the use of headings like, “Planting the Seed.” It’s a very intriguing way of presenting the information about their publishing company.

New Asia Publishing House has a long history of publishing educational books in Hong Kong, especially in the primary school sector. The page includes a brief timeline of events that shows the growth of their company and how influential they have become.

They also incorporate an online resources section on their site that allows teachers to get further tools to support their teaching. “By logging onto our website –, teachers can freely download reference materials, photos, drawings, question banks, Powerpoints and other electronic teaching tools or software. It also provides links to other useful and relevant websites.” Students can also find useful online resources on this site to help them learn, available in Chinese, and English for Maths and General Studies.

Overall, this site is quite informative about the New Asia Publishing House, and is presented in a way that makes it quite memorable.

Publishing Technology: Publishing Export Market Stats


This article is about the export of books into international markets. It contains some very interesting information about the growth in the demand for English-language content in Asia. “By far the most interesting insight to come out of the AAP’s report was that Asia is now the biggest growth territory for many US publishers’ English language content. Demand for English-language content in rapidly developing countries such as China, Indonesia and Malaysia reflects the high status these societies place on education and particularly English Language learning.” We all know the stereotype of the Asian child forced by their parents to focus on their studies and not socialise with peers. Asian parents want the best for their children so they push them to get more knowledgeable and succeed in earning high marks in school. The above statement supports that stereotype.

The article then semi-contradicts itself by saying, “The same statistics also suggested that there is also a burgeoning market for reading as a leisure activity in Asia, led by increased sales and consumption of children’s, youth and Young Adult content.” It pulls the two statements together by adding that perhaps somehow the improved levels of educational attainment could be creating a generation of young people who will choose to read for leisure and a love for literature.

E-books are creating a pathway for trade and education publishers into the Asian market. It creates a simplified delivery system that is growing rapidly and is sure to help international publishers get their product into the Asian market.

Publishing Trends: Hong Kong, a Great Place to Meet the Future of Asian Publishing


This article is about how publishing in Hong Kong is changing and will hopefully expand more effectively in China. It presents Hong Kong as a great “middle-ground” to publishing in mainland China as the official languages spoken include English and Cantonese, so it offers a “home-base more permanent than a table at a book fair rights centre.” Hong Kong welcomes international players in the publishing industry, as can be seen by “Pearson, Pan Macmillan, and Random House UK have had offices in Hong Kong for several years, and Hachette UK set up shop there in late 2012.” If big publishing houses like these are interested in Hong Kong, then they must be worth looking at.

It also acknowledges the challenge of international players trying to break into the Chinese book publishing market. It says that, “Hong Kong does have a strong book market, says Carmen Kwong, Editor in Chief at Mguru, but “We [Chinese-language publishers in Hong Kong] are not permitted to publish or sell directly in the Chinese market—we have to work in partnership with local companies…and make sure book content is politically correct.” In addition to trade restrictions, the separation is linguistic: In Mainland China, text is printed with simplified characters, while Hong Kong still uses traditional characters.” It’s a challenge, but publishing companies seem willing to take it up and try to break into China.

Near the end of the article, we find out that Hong Kong publishing companies are discovering ways to market to mainland Chinese people. “Though it isn’t a funnel for selling directly to the Mainland, Hong Kong has recently discovered a market for Chinese-language books specifically targeted at Mainland tourists who come to Hong Kong ready to shop.” It’s an interesting plan and will surely pan out well with tourists taking the books back home and perhaps wanting to order more while in their home environment. It could result in a channel for getting some books into the mainland market.

Publishers Weekly: Children’s Book Publishing in Asia


This article is a very interesting read. It contains great information about what kinds of books sell well in China, Japan, India, Korea and Taiwan. It turns out kid’s books are very marketable, particularly picture books. Through the use of sections for each publishing company located in each location, the reader can skim through and just read the about the country they are interested in.

It’s interesting to see that Chinese publishers are more interested in promoting local authors than international imports. The article says, “No foreign illustrated books, except some Korean ones, have made the bestseller list.” This would make it challenging for an Australian publisher to promote their Australian writers’ work in China. But it wouldn’t be impossible, as the article also notes, “The juvenile market remains the realm of local publishers, whereas the YA market is split between originals and imports.” An Australian publisher who is determined to break into the Chinese publishing market could try to get through in the Young Adult market.

The section on India is interesting, as it details some books written in India that “introduce young readers to the world of the less fortunate.”  They are breaking through boundaries and daring to differ from the stories usually told in picture books, by telling the stories of children from deprived backgrounds.  India is certainly a country worth watching in regards to published books that challenge us all to think beyond ourselves.

The article comes to the conclusion that Asia’s children’s book segment is growing and prospering, with more originals coming out of Asia, while big-name translations are still “…an indispensable part of a publisher’s program.” The article is an interesting look at what’s happening in Asia and certainly prompts some thought about how to break into this market.