Taking the pulse of the children’s book market in Asia is no easy task. For a start, this is a huge territory with varying tastes for originals, translations, picture books and YA titles. In general, picture books remain the region’s most popular exports. YA titles are starting to shine, with no better example than Nahoko Uehashi’s Moribito series, winner of the 2008 Mildred L. Batchelder award, now available in English, Chinese, Italian and Spanish.
For accurate industry pulse taking, no one does it better than the rights agencies involved in buying and selling rights, introducing bestsellers to readers and establishing new local authors overseas. PW turns to some of the biggest agencies in the region to give us the lowdown on four countries that are the most active in publishing, translations and rights buying in Asia–China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
In Japan, “the children’s book market is stable. Originals are getting stronger, even in the YA segment,” says Solan Natsume, senior agent (children’s division) of Tokyo-based Tuttle-Mori Agency. “If in previous years it was hard to find an original YA title on the bestseller list, well, that’s no longer the case.” She and her team inked about 140 deals in 2008, contributing 12%–15% of the firm’s annual turnover. Recently, the agency sold several originals, including Hitomi Kanehara’s Auto Fiction and Yoshitomo Nara’s Lonesome Puppy, while signing deals for such big American and British titles as If I Stay, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, On the Night You Were Born and the Fairy Chronicles series