Brian Tibbetts

May 28, 2015

China – no longer an emerging market


Publishing & Technology: China – no longer an emerging market
Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be looking at China in an effort to debunk some persistent myths about the viability of licensing U.S. titles for Chinese translation while unpacking a few of the items reported by Jim Millot in his Publisher’s Weekly article China at BEA 2015: China Has Ambitious Plans for BEA. To read his article in its entirety please click here.
When I first set out to establish myself in selling rights for foreign translation, I was warned away from several markets. I was told that certain countries either weren’t “worth my time” or had such rampant ongoing issues that licensing translation rights in such markets was foolish in many cases. China was one such market.

I found these assertions to be overly simplified, lacking in the nuance afforded by real experience, and unfortunate in a variety of ways that we don’t have the room to go into here.

I have not been in the business long enough to remember the days before China acceded to the Berne Convention, the Universal Copyright Convention, and the WIPO Copyright Treaty. I cannot say if the sentiments I encountered when I first entered the rights business were holdovers from two decades earlier. Certainly the 2009 formal complaint lodged by the U.S. with the WTO regarding China’s failure to enforce copyright (primarily driven by issues with DVD piracy) didn’t do much to help general feelings in our industry about doing business with Chinese publishers. But if assertions made in a variety of PW articles hold true, that “sales through physical stores (in China) rebounded and online sales continued to rise” in 2014, and “China’s E-book market is robust and growing,” and that “U.S. books draw lots of interest” from Chinese publishers, we may be seeing the transition of the Chinese market from “emerging” to “robust.”

Suffice it to say that establishing licensing agreements in China, like many more established translation markets, can be well worth the effort, provided that you are working with established and trustworthy partners. Establishing those partnerships may require working with an agent or co-agent you can trust.

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