Editorial note: China will act as the guest of honor at Frankfurt Book Fair next year, and participate in the world’s largest international book fair that integrates the most important book copyright market place and the platform for information acquisition and interpersonal network building in the publishing industry. To better display the books, sell copyrights and reach the cooperation, how should the Chinese publishers prepare for Frankfurt Book Fair? On May 7, Li Pengyi, Secretary of the Party Group and Vice President of China Publishing Group, Zhao Bin, Sino United Publishing (Holdings) Limited, and Wang Jing, BIZ Peking shared their respective strategies for the book fair at the book industry observation forum held by the Beijing Xinliugan Publishing Creative & National Reading Promotion Center and the Non-state-owned Book Industry Working Committee of the Books and Periodicals Distribution Association of China.
Wang Jing: Attach the international publishing stage through universal display
Prepare at an early date
Poised to interpret guest of honor books
In the eyes of Wang Jing, the cultural media from across the world will focus on China at 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair. “If these media institutions even have not read the books published by China, how will they report the guest of honor? They can not merely report what China will do during the book fair itself.” To this end, Wang Jing gives his suggestion, “To prepare for the guest of honor events, the most essential element is that the participating publishing houses will recommend the books to the media at an early date.”
Wang Jing took the publishing schedule for the Brothers, a novel written by the Chinese writer whose copyright has been sold to Germany, as an example. Early this April, the German version of the Brothers was completed, and the translation was sent to relevant publishing house for editing, and as a result, the German version will be printed by the end of February or the start of March of 2009; then the German version will be sent to various media institution in Germany, including the famous cultural journalists and literature halls to solicit the feedbacks from all the people related to China. At the same time, they will need to prepare various marketing plans together with book stores, distributors and other channels. In consequence, only when Frankfurt Book Fair opens in October, 2009, can many cultural journalists and famous book critics report the book.
Wang Jing reveals that BIZ Peking is now joining hands with the General Administration of Press and Publication and China National Publications Import and Export Corporation to solicit a batch of both good and popular books. “This is because we understand German publishers better, and know what books are popular among the German public,” said Wang Jing. Now, the center is soliciting a number of books that can be translated into German, English and French, while BIZ Peking is authorized to choose 20-30 titles out of them at its own discretion.
“Even if you have already decided what books to be publicized and whom you will invite as experts, there is still quite a lot of marketing work to do. I just want to remind domestic publishers that there is no much time left and please hurry up.” Wang Jing said.
In 2009, China will become the guest of honor of Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s biggest one. As the Chinese envoy of Frankfurt Book Fair, Wang Jing believes that preparing for Frankfurt Book Fair 2009 is an urgent job. She gives a lot of professional advices to Chinese publishers from the angle of a host and suggests that Chinese publishers should take best use of this opportunity to reveal to the world the glamour of China.
Adopting localized publicity methods
In China, publishers use a lot of publicity methods to attract the attention from the media and the public, such as signing promotion, book reviews, and network reader communities. But these methods do not necessarily work in Germany. Wang Jing suggests that Chinese publishers can use German or international publicity methods to attract the attention of the publishing circles and the culture circles in Germany or even in the world.
“To make its appearance on the stage of Frankfurt Book Fair, and to publicize itself in Germany, China needs to know what is popular in Germany. The most popular publicity forms in Germany are recital and discussion. And such activities must be arranged in some unexpected places such as pubs, castles, or gardens. To achieve good publicity effect, these activities must be arranged in some prime locations of the book fair.” Wang said.
Wang also revealed that book signing and sale ceremony was not welcomed in Germany, just as German writers’ reciting their works was unwelcomed in China. Therefore, Chinese publishers must adopt appropriate publicity methods which suit to Germany.
Effectively participating in big projects of the book fair
Copyright manager conference has always been a major project of Frankfurt Book Fair. But Chinese publishers tend to give more attention to showing the image of the publication group or publishing house and copyright trading, and lack participation in the analysis and discussion of the trend of copyright trading.
“I had been feeling regretful that Chinese were seldom seen at copyright manager conference. But I saw a Chinese there. He was Li Pengyi, who was a speaker instead of an audience of the conference.” Wang said. According to Wang, copyright manager conference is the only one at Frankfurt Book Fair for top professionals to exchange ideas. Each year, some cutting-edge topics will be chosen and some authorities in these fields will voice their ideas or opinions. “Unfortunately, very few Chinese publishers attend this conference.” Wang said.
However, in order to introduce Chinese culture to the world, Chinese publishers must come onto the world stage. Chinese publishers need not only to give speeches but also to take part in all sorts of important international activities. Only by doing so, can Chinese publishing industry play a more and more important role in the world. “In 2008, there will be Chinese publishers giving speeches in English at copyright manager conference and there will also be Chinese journalists and publishers with good command of foreign languages sitting there as audiences.” Wang said.
Taking full use of the German Book Information Center
The German Book Information Center (GBIC)is an organization co-established by the German Foreign Ministry, Frankfurt Book Fair and Goethe Institute. As the director of this center, Wang Jing is responsible for building a bridge between Chinese publishing circles and German publishing circles and Frankfurt.
Wang mentioned that Chinese publishers might feel at a loss at Frankfurt Book Fair, since they were not good at English and were unfamiliar with international publishers. But it was a great pity to miss this opportunity. She reveals that printing companies are quite active in participating in the fair. They wish to find clients and get orders at the Frankfurt Book Fair. However, mangers in charge of printing usually do not go to their booths.
To satisfy this need, GBIC will hold a conference in the name of GBIC and Frankfurt Book Fair. Target customers from all over the world will be invited to the conference to communicate with Chinese printing companies face to face.
Wang revealed that together with the “going global” strategy, GBIC and China CCM would plan “a Frankfurt trip for Chinese independent curators. A booth will be arranged for private publishing institutions.
Li Pengyi: the first and foremost function of book fair is to exchange ideas and make friends.
Three levels of copyright trading internationalization
According to Li, China’s copyright trading can be categorized into three levels. Most publishers are staying at level one. That means they are only aiming at domestic market when selecting projects, and therefore their copyright trading is restricted. Some publishers have started to develop international trade and began to have some level-two projects which are aiming at both domestic and foreign markets.
Li said that a few publishers have already reached international levels in terms of selecting projects, but the number is quite small. Most publishers are still at level one. And publishers at level two account for one-fourth to one-third of Chinese publishers. Publishers at international levels are quite few in number. China International Press Group Limited, and Beijing Language and Culture University Press are basically aiming at developing international projects, with the developing focus on projects such as how to teach foreigners Chinese.
Li Pengyi has participated in Frankfurt Book Fair for eight times since he first became an editor. In relating to his own experience, Li revealed his own recognition of Frankfurt Book Fair and gave some advice on how to take part in Frankfurt Book Fair.
Three functions of Frankfurt Book Fair
Li believes that Frankfurt Book Fair has three major functions.
Copyright trading platform. Eighty percent of the world’s copyright trading is completed at Frankfurt Book Fair, the birthplace of the biggest copyright trading share in the world. “If you want to engage in copyright trading, you must go to Frankfurt Book Fair. If you don’t go there, you will never know the current conditions of world copyright trading and how to do copyright trading.” Li Pengyi said.
Information service platform. According to Li, publishers, distributors and copyright agents get together at Frankfurt Book Fair every year. There, you can see a lot of activities such as speeches, displays, forums, and display of the guest of honor. So we can say that Frankfurt Book Fair is not only a platform for the world publishers to exchange information, but also a spirit home for them, and a big stage for different countries and peoples to exhibit their own cultures. Of course, you also can see the development trend of the world publishing industry here.
Platform for communication and make friends. Frankfurt Book Fair is a major platform for copyright trade. It's impossible for us to read all books of 300,000 or 400,000 varieties of books from over 7,000 publishing houses. However, the function of communication and making friends through the book fair is prominent. In Li Pengyi's opinion, communication and making friends should be regarded as the first function of the present Frankfurt Book Fair under the background of the developed information network.
Participating staff should have three levels
When speaking of the levels of the staff participating in Frankfurt Book Fair, Li Pengyi thinks the staff can be generally divided into three levels.
“The first level is the senior executives, who will focus on strategy, trend and business relations. ”For example, they may establish the strategic partnership with a certain international publishing institution and attend various forums to discover the development trends in the world publishing community. Li Pengyi remarked that he himself sang the Beijing opera to foreign publishers at Frankfurt Book Fair. “Each time I sing one or two sections, they will be very easy to accept it.”
“The second level is directors of editorial offices, whose work is to negotiate about copyrights and cooperation and sign contracts. The third level is the common staff, who will focus on the products. The publishing houses dispatch editors to participate in the book fair just for the purpose of broadening their views, and better learning from others’ products," notes Li Pengyi.
Zhao Bin: make full preparation, and embrace the paradise of publishing
Pay attention to details
Zhao Bin sees the potential in the Frankfurt Book Fair. The publishers all over the world go for it at the expense of high rent and high exchange rate because there is no other method that has such a high efficient, Zhao Bin said firmly, you cannot only buy or sell copyright, but also learn other publishers’ ideas and thinking. He thinks publishers should attend the Fair even if they are not to buy or sell copyrights, since it is enlightening. Such value is much more than the copyright deal. He also expressed that exhibitors should make some friends with their peers, or else there is no communication and elicitation. Frankfurt Book Fair is the paradise and free kingdom of publishers.
Zhao Bin thinks exhibitors can learn many things in the theme gallery, know the ability of the guest of honor in organizing exhibitions, and learn how to design a gallery. It is surely an enjoyment at multi-level and extensive degree.
Exhibitors should first define their position, then make full preparation, and then schedule the time, and finally prepare professional outfit, and master exhibition skills, Zhao Bin emphasized. He also introduced that the Frankfurt Book Fair will last five days, so to visit the entire book fair, we only can visit two exhibition booths in one minute, even if we work 10 hours a day. Go to an exhibition, we should make full preparation in advance, and be clear that who am I and what I want. In our country, the publishing houses classify books based on subjects, but the foreign publishing industry classifies books into three kinds, education, professional, and general. He stressed that exhibitors should find the corresponding publishers exactly and clearly know their purpose for exhibition.
To do the work better, exhibitors should also pay attention to the necessary outfits. Exhibitors would better wear thin clothes inside and thicker outside, and take overcoat with them, since in October it is still cold in Frankfurt. Zhao Bin’s suggestions are detailed and considerate. They should better pull on flatties, take bags to hold book catalogs, pens, stapler, notebooks, camera, recorder, and water, which are necessary. In addition, they’d better have good sleep and nutrient food. A key point that never change is to keep good condition, said Zhao Bin.
Odd things in the book fair
The Frankfurt Book Fair is a book market. The sellers are always British and America. They are the key copyright seller. Zhao Bin said, at the beginning, the buyers were Latin phylum countries, such as France and Italy. Then Japan, our country including the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and also ROK began to take part in the fair. Germany is neither the seller nor the buyer, but why almost 7000 exhibitors and around 300,000 persons collect in Frankfurt every October? Zhao Bin joked that the Frankfurt Book Fair is absolutely a monster.
Frankfurt Book Fair is gigantic so that we need to walk 35km to visit around the fair, in which the British and American booths take up 6km. Zhao Bin questioned that whether it is good or not. He said the organizer of the Frankfurt Book Fair wish it should be of a large scale. They take the newly added exhibitors, category, and visitors as the index of their achievement. But how can such a big book fair provide what exhibitors actually need?
Zhao Bin said the exhibitors who have been to the Frankfurt Book Fair have the common feeling, which is there are so many persons are interested in publishing, and the publishing industry has great potential. But in such an occasion, they clearly feel a cycle, which marks different grade. Additionally, it is obvious that eastern literature and western literature is unequal. For example, Japan never has exceeded its position as a third world country, and never received the respect from international publishing industry in line with its national strength, although Japan ranks second and Germany the third in view of the GDP. It means that the western literature is still the main stream while the eastern literature is just an auxiliary part.
It is important to reserve a hotel nearby, Zhao Bin reminds, the hotels in Frankfurt do not meet the requirement, and the price increases year by year. It will be difficult if you don’t reserve hotels nearby, and it is impossible to negotiate the price. He says it is lucky if you reserve a hotel with about RMB 2500. There are some small hotels on the mountain north in Frankfurt. It is quite cheap, but few people knows, Zhao Bin reveals. There is no another place where the hotels are always in short, but no more hotel is built. It is odder.