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Publishing partnerships open new chapter in int'l cooperation

Updated: 2017-10-26 | By: Xinhua

Just as a larger number of foreign publishers have been eyeing China-themed books, Chinese publishers have been looking to raise the number of books they sell overseas.

Last year, more than 9,800 publication copyrights were sold to foreign buyers, according to a report published by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television in July. In 2012, the figure was about 7,800.

The ratio between copyright imports and exports fell to 1.6-to-1 last year from 1.9-to-1 in 2012.

Projects overseas

Zhang Haiou has worked in publishing for more than 30 years, but in the past decade she has focused on promoting Chinese books overseas.

"In the beginning, we were just involved in copyright trade with foreign publishers," said Zhang, the editor-in-chief of New World Press, a subsidiary of the China International Publishing Group.

The limitations of such trade became obvious over the years: Chinese editors learned little about the tastes of overseas readers, while foreign editors failed to develop an understanding of Chinese books.

"Although our editors attend book fairs in London and in Frankfurt, Germany, every year, it's still not enough for us to get a sense of which (Chinese) books will sell well in foreign markets," Zhang said.

She added that a Turkish publisher once asked her to recommend good Chinese editors to help screen the many book pitches his company received from publishers in China. The request prompted Zhang to create a closer channel to work with counterparts overseas.

In August, New World Press signed an agreement with Cengage Learning, a publishing group in the United States that focuses on educational titles, to set up an editorial department dedicated to developing Chinese books and help editors on both sides to discuss coproduction projects.

The group holds monthly video conferences and plans to publish five to eight books about China every year in the future.

It's one of eight projects the China Book Editorial Department at New World Press has initiated with publishing houses overseas, including GBD Books of India and the Dar Al Shorouk Publishing House of Egypt, since October last year

Similar undertakings have also been developed at the China Translation and Publishing House, a member of China International Publishing.

Zhang Gaoli, editor-in-chief of the China Translation and Publishing House, said the company has signed memorandums of understanding with seven publishers overseas this year to jointly establish editorial departments to specialize in the planning, editing and publishing of China-themed books.

"It was inspired by our cooperation with LID Publishing which began in 2015," Zhang Gaoli said, referring to the publication of the series Chinese Entrepreneurs and Their Enterprises with the British publisher which specializes in business books.

"The editors at LID listed who they wanted the series to cover and the areas in which those entrepreneurs operated that would be of interest to their readers," he said.

"Our editors helped to contact the Chinese enterprises and compile the content."

The first titles in the series, which were published in the United Kingdom in June, include books about Jack Ma of Alibaba, Wang Jianlin of Wanda, Tencent's Ma Huateng, Ren Zhengfei of Huawei, and Gree's Dong Mingzhu. Planning for the second series began in August.

"Foreign publishers, especially in countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, are very interested in books about China's recent developments in politics and economics," said Zhang Gaoli, recalling his conversations with foreign peers at international book fairs.

Translation bridges

Translation is a major factor affecting the publication of Chinese books overseas, so since 2015, an annual workshop has been held for foreign translators and publishers to promote better translations.

"More than 100 Chinese works were introduced to 46 foreign scholars, translators and publishers during the workshop in August," said Xu Donghao, a project specialist at the Chinese Culture Translation and Studies Support Network, which was founded by the Ministry of Culture and the Beijing Language and Culture University.

The network organizes the Sino-Foreign Literature Translation and Publishing Workshop, which has hosted more than 150 foreign scholars over the past three years, among many other programs relating to translation and publishing.

During the weeklong workshops, the participants meet Chinese authors to learn about their new works and are also introduced to domestic publishers to discuss the possibility of translating books.

Xu compiled a list of potential translation projects in which the foreign participants expressed an interest.

"The children's book Monsters in the Forbidden City was the most popular title during this year's workshop," she said. "Translators from six countries have reached initial agreements with the publishing house to translate the book into their own languages."

The book tells stories of the many sculptures and decorative pieces that adorn the Forbidden City, aka the Palace Museum, in Beijing and feature mythical Chinese beasts. The network has also compiled a guide to 180 works by 61 Chinese writers to help foreign translators become familiar with the country's contemporary literature.

It also provides funds for translations of book samples and cooperates with Amazon to e-publish about 300 samples online, Xu added.

Greater cooperation will benefit everyone involved, according to Wang Fuli, the network's program officer. "Right now, we have a member network of more than 2,000 translators in China and overseas," she said.

"We want to build a bridge between translators and publishers to avoid the problems they commonly encounter: Publishers often find it difficult to find good translators, while at the same time translators struggle to find good translation projects."