As IPR License has steadily grown its business in China during the last couple of years, the company’s Managing Director, Thomas Minkus, has gathered valuable insights into working in the Chinese publishing market. We asked him about how IPR is building up relationships in China and what opportunities he sees for IPR there over the next few years.
IPR: When and why did IPR start doing business in China?
Thomas Minkus: China is one of the largest publishing markets in the world. Chinese publishers buy a lot of rights, and they are intensifying their rights sales activities as well, so it makes sense for IPR to be there. IPR’s connections in China actually go back to 2012 – before the Frankfurt Book Fair acquired IPR License – when Publishing Perspectives began working with the editor of China Publishers Magazine, Guishan Yang, to produce special reports in English about the Chinese book market. Over the years, we developed a very strong and lasting relationship, which served us well when the magazine’s parent company, China South Publishing & Media Group, became a minority shareholder of IPR in 2017.
IPR: How is it different doing business in China than in other countries?
TM: Chinese publishers are working toward the same goals that publishers in other countries are: producing great content, promoting the work of their authors, and getting their books into the hands of readers. At the same time, the language barrier and cultural differences mean that you have to spend more time there to get to know people and build relationships – though I believe this applies to international business in general.
IPR: What opportunities do you see for IPR in China over the next few years?
TM: There are so many opportunities for Western and Chinese publishers to work together, and this potential has not been fully explored yet. IPR hopes to make these connections easier – both with our digital rights tools and by facilitating personal introductions. We want to become the leading portal for Chinese rights buyers to discover titles and buy rights, and for Chinese publishers to sell rights. IPR also aims to help Chinese publishers engage more internationally. We’ve done this by organising meetings and delegations of Chinese publishers in several countries, and by advising them on how best to use events like the Frankfurt Book Fair to build their international connections. Frankfurt’s office in Beijing also does a lot of work in this area and supports our work at IPR.
IPR: What kinds of books are Chinese publishers interested in buying rights to?
TM: Education and academic titles are of high interest, as well as bestsellers from other countries. Many Chinese publishers are also putting a strong focus on publishing Chinese authors, developing home-grown literary talent, and selling rights to their authors abroad.
IPR: What genres of Chinese titles does IPR represent on the platform?
TM: All genres. Children’s books are particularly strong, and there is also a good range of books on art, culture, and business – but really, the selection is huge and spans many categories.
IPR: What kind of books are selling well in China in 2018? What are Chinese readers looking for?
TM: You’ll often see Western fiction on Chinese bestseller lists. Classic literature will rise to the top when school reading lists are issued, and the global bestsellers are also popular. On the non-fiction side, personal development and self-help are very strong categories, as are business and history. Publishing Perspectives publishes monthly bestseller lists from China, which I’ve found very helpful in keeping up with these trends.
IPR: What surprises you most about China?
TM: I am impressed by the energy there. It’s a fast-growing market with a young population, and the publishers in China are excited about change and innovation. Everything moves quickly. It can take a while to build relationships, but once you get to know people, you see how enthusiastic Chinese publishers are for taking the next step, exploring what’s possible. I also discovered that you can’t do business in China if you’re not on WeChat. It’s a mobile app similar to WhatsApp. Email is just not as relevant there, and most communication – business and personal – happens through WeChat.
IPR: What do you most enjoy about your trips to China and when will you next be visiting?
TM: I will go back to China soon. I’ve visited a number of Chinese publishing houses already, and I’m always impressed by the warm welcome I receive, by their professionalism, and their dedication to their work. I’m looking forward to meeting more Chinese publishers and working with them through IPR.
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