As a novice to the children's book fair scene, the idea of rolling up to a foreign city to display my book alongside titles from all over the world from so many amazing well known authors was more than just a little daunting. Luckily for me as someone who regularly trips over their own feet in public, I have suffered greater humiliations so how confronting could this be?
The China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair 2013 was the first of its kind in the city. Running from the 7th to the 9th of November the book fair aimed to bring together the best of Chinese children’s publishing. It also looked at the development of this genre to ensure China’s 230 million children under 16 have access to a wide range of literature from across the country and around the globe. To me it was an exciting prospect to learn more about this emerging market of readers.
That is how after several months of planning, 3 in-flight movies, 2 unsuccessful attempts at sleep and a vegan meal that would cause any Brunswick Street cafe to turn up its organic, fair trade, gluten-free nose, I arrived in Shanghai.
For anyone who has never been to Shanghai the best way to describe it is as a ride at an amusement park; a kaleidoscope of lights, noise, excitement and at times heart-stopping, but once you get off all you say is....AGAIN!
The morning of the first trade day found me careering my way to the exhibition centre. After multiple cardiac arrests courtesy of my taxi driver and Shanghai peak hour, I kissed the ground and made my way to registration. I was greeted by a scene similar to that of the Boxing Day sales which required a deep breath and a willingness to get the elbows out if need be.
Fortunately no such rough and tumble was required and I was soon on the main exhibition floor feeling like a golden ticket winner to Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (minus the obligatory confectionery required for a chocolate factory). The iridescent colours, lights and whimsical displays complete with large novelty sized mushrooms and book characters immediately satisfied my expectations of a children’s book fair and I giggled to think how it would all look after they let the kids loose on it?
I have to admit that seeing my book on display at an international book fair was definitely up there as one of the most satisfying moments I have had. As any author knows, the road to publication is a long one so this took it to another level and should a happy dance not have drawn some perplexed looks, I would have gone there! Not the time to employ the 'dance like no one is watching' mantra!
In among all the merriment was of course the serious side of children's publishing and I was fortunate enough to sit in on some great forums once we had the 'running of the bulls' to find a seat. It was like musical chairs where you all dived on to the nearest stoop. I love party games so I joined in!
Feeling very UN with my interpreter receiver thingy and headphones I was able to extract some fabulous insight about how far the Chinese children's book market has come and where it intends on heading......at break neck speed (apply the running for chairs analogy)!
While a couple of the key note speakers went a bit hard on the self-promotion bandwagon rather than delivering quality research and market assessment, the thirst for innovation was one of the clear points to come out of most of the sessions.
In his discussion on The Globalisation Era of Children's Book Publishing in China, Xia Shunhua, GM of Dolphin Media, explained that Chinese publishers must continually improve the quality of their content and cultivate their talents by working with overseas authors, illustrators and designers. The look to western cultures and expertise coupled with Chinese production capability will make this an exciting industry over the next 5 years.
In the International Forum on Children's Digital Publishing, the idea of eBook 3.0 was discussed with the need to provide for parents and teachers as well as children in the integration of audio, visual and interactivity to ensure that the experience delivered could reach maximum potential.
Other key points included:
- the licensing of products to become more scalable as a result of new technology.
- data mining allows publishers to record how users are interacting with content.
- product development is based on more immediate user lead knowledge rather than long term sales patterns.
- the trend of end users accessing high value content for reasonable cost will continue as technology develops.
For me the value in attending CCBF and being part of the New Title Showcase gave me more than just daily exercise, and for anyone thinking of attending in future I would make the following recommendations.
- Pre-register early. I was able to build relationships with the great staff at Reed Exhibitions who ran the event and they assisted me greatly with making appointments. I now have some wonderful contacts in the industry who I will be working with closely over the coming months.
- Once you have appointments booked then determine if you will need translation services for any of these. They can be booked in ahead of time.
- Register for the forums they are a fabulous insight in to the market and the key note speakers are happy to chat after the sessions.
- Eat a big breakfast, you won't have time for lunch.
- Pack the Nikes!
I look forward to seeing how this event develops for next year. If you attended CCBF I would love to hear your experiences. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.