Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Foreign Markets - Asia

Asia is a beguiling translation market. In recent years the amount of translations from English have increased, mostly a result of the growing Chinese, Thai, and Indonesian markets, though the two most significant markets in Asia remain Japan and Korea. Korea probably commissions the most titles of any territory, but the advances in Japan are higher than anywhere else (even though their overall market has steadily declined in recent years).

As always, major commercial fiction and literary fiction sells well, though due to the costs of translation longer books may get bypassed or even published in multiple editions. Mysteries do well in both Japan and Thailand (though these markets seem to be slightly shifted more towards lighter crime and cozies), and children's titles, including picture books, sell well throughout the region. Nonfiction, especially financial and self-help, seems to find a home in Taiwan, Japan and Korea, and even mainland China has also begun commissioning financial and political works.

China is by far the most intriguing market in Asia. Though people in Taiwan and mainland China both speak the same Mandarin dialect, in China their written characters are simplified, and so any book has to be produced in those characters. Because of this and the political history between China and Taiwan there are basically two Chinese markets (complex - Taiwan, simplified - mainland China).

Taiwan has long been a booming translation market, with nonfiction of all types finding a home. However, romance and mysteries seem to do less well, with Chinese writers dominating the market. China is the slumbering giant, but with stricter piracy laws and the loosening of censorship the market has slowly grown, with progressive books of all types now selling.


Jaye Wells said...

This is such an interesting topic. It's cool to see what types of books are popular around the world. Thanks!

L.C.McCabe said...


This question deals with Asia, but not with the countries you mentioned.

One of the members in my writers club is of Russian heritage. She wrote several historical novels set in Russia and received letters from people in Russia asking for her books to be made available in their country.

That correspondence came as a result of her translating a small portion of her work for a Russian magazine. The readers in Russia are starving to know their history because it had been denied to them by generations of repressive governments.

So far she hasn't been able to turn a demand for her work into a sale to get books into the hands of her fans.

She has a literary agent, but I wonder if the rules for the Russian literary markets are different or if selling of foreign rights isn't something her agent is knowledgeable about. My friend seems to think that she has to pay someone to translate the work before a Russian publisher will pick up her work. Therefore she is simply shrugging her shoulders as if nothing can be done since she isn't willing to pay for a translator (and she doesn't want to do it herself since it is so time consuming.)

Do you know if Russian publishers are different from other foreign markets and they do not identify and pay for translations of books written in different languages? Or would you have any suggestions for my friend?

I appreciate any thoughts you might have on this subject. I hate knowing that books she spent years writing have another audience that has not been exploited to its fullest potential. It seems like a wasted opportunity.

Thank you,

Linda McCabe

jason evans said...

How are the translators usually paid? A fixed fee or a royalty? I'm curious whether the existence of a translator significant decreases the value of of foreign publication (of course, any profit from foreign sales is better than no foreign sales).

I guess I'm thinking of this from the publisher's standpoint, since the author's royalties for foreign sales are usually set in the domestic contract, correct?

Jan Springer said...

Neat info!



Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you have made no mention of India. Why?

Jonathan Lyons said...

Well, I didn't mention it because the market is quite small. Translations into Hindi (as well as other languages spoken in India) is still very limited, and the advances are extremely low.