When Children’s Books Go Digital: TOC at Bologna

So much excitement was in the air at this year’s very first Tools of Change conference at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.  This one day conference was entitled “The World of Storytelling is Changing” and it seems like the industry is embracing it!  A good mix of tech and publishing professionals from all around the world gathered to share their experiences throughout the day at forums and panel discussions.  In addition to the a discussion of the quick expansion of apps and e-books developments, fundamentals such as market structures and business models of the digital world were also addressed.

As we waited to hear about how the world of storytelling is changing.

With statistics showing that children know how to play with tablets and digital devices before they even know how to tie their shoelaces, there is no question about why it is essential for publishers to include digitalization as part of their on-going publishing strategy. 

And for now, all eyes are on apps. 

However, the high cost and lengthy development send up to costs of each app.  At the same time, downward pricing is expected by consumers due to economic squeeze and competitive market.  It was made clear by several experts that publishing companies must think through their digital strategy very carefully before jumping into this new wave of technology. 

The final takeaway? Choose the content wisely because as always, success is driven by content.

Closing keynote speaker, Martin Salisbury's, depiction of how it will be combined effort between the tech expert and artist.
When Children’s Books Go Digital: TOC at Bologna

What Caught the Eyes of Bologna Visitors?

While we proudly present new titles from Albert Whitman & Company twice a year at international book fairs, there are always a few titles that catch the eyes of the attendees from around the world quicker than others. 

At the Bologna Children’s Book Fair last month, there were quite a few favorites.

They range from the classic Whitman way of addressing an important issue: 

The Goodbye Cancer Garden


To a new favorite:

Princess Kim and Too Much Truth


And how about something Groovy?

The Really Groovy Story of the Tortoise and the Hare
What Caught the Eyes of Bologna Visitors?

China’s Visit Brought Trade Opportunities

Recently, a frozen Chicago welcomed a delegation of over 400 Chinese business owners which traveled with Chinese President Hu Jintao.  This U.S.-China Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum was co-organized by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products (CCCME).  The event was held at the Chicago Hilton and Towers and highlighted the business relationship between the two countries.  The program was opened by honorable guests including Chen Deming – Chinese Commerce Minister, Gary Locke – US Department of Commerce Secretary, and Pat Quinn – Illinois Governor.

US-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum

Prior to several panel discussions focusing on various trade topics, a ceremony for contract signings took place between multiple Midwestern based companies and their Chinese partners.  Due to the large number of contracts being signed, this portion of ceremony was broken down into five sections, grouped by the respective industries.  The main industries were agriculture, energy, and machinery.  Companies such as Caterpillar and Cargill, which are experiencing steady grown in the Chinese market, are optimistic about expanding this success in the years to come.    

Chinese Commerce Minister - Chen Deming's Opening Remarks

As a representative of the Chicago publishing industry, it was very timely for Albert Whitman & Company to attend this forum, as part of our growth strategy is to grow our international business.  We are currently finalizing a partnership with a Chinese publisher to publish the Chinese language of The Boxcar Children© Mystery series in China.

Another sign of good Chinese – Chicago relations? — Did you know that Chicago has two sister cities in China – Shanghai and Shenyang?

China’s Visit Brought Trade Opportunities

Selling Books Overseas

I love seeing our titles translated into multiple foreign languages and enjoyed by children around the world.  While all our books are of high quality, not all of them will work in all countries. Here are a few interesting things I’ve learned about selling our titles at international book fairs:

  • Science and math titles always get the attention of both rights agents and distributors, especially in the East-Asian market.  All I need to do is flip to the catalog page featuring a new Robert E. Wells title and a contract will be signed within months.

    What's So Special about Planet Earth? in Spanish
  • American holiday titles and illustration styles considered “American”, however, generally do not stir interest overseas.
  • Surprisingly, we have some interest in the Korean market for African American titles for they see those as encouraging, obstacle-overcoming lessons.
  • Speaking of Korean market, our title of Princess K.I.M. and the Lie That Grew put a smile on all the Korean publishers’ faces when it was first presented.  Why?  Because Kim is a very popular surname in Korea!

    Princess K.I.M. and the Lie That Grew in Korean
  • New born babies and titles on siblings are generally not too popular in China due to the One Child Policy.
  • Muslim regions do not accept any stories with pigs in them.
  • In general, illustrated animal characters sell.  The cuter they are, the more sample review copies are requested. 

    When I Feel Sad in Chinese
  • We also learned throughout the years that bunnies do particularly well in Germany.

Do you know of any other fun facts that I missed?  Feel free to share them with us!

Selling Books Overseas

Frankfurt Book Fair through the eyes of a freshman

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For whatever short time I have been in publishing, I have always been told that the annual Frankfurt Book Fair is the book fair where professionals from all over the world gather for meetings, sharing and learning the latest trends and activities of the industry.  I started having a better idea how important this event was when I was started getting lots of miscellaneous permission requests.  Everybody seemed to be working to beat the clock before they headed out to Frankfurt.  So there I was, a first time attendee at the Frankfurt Book Fair, trying my very best to feel and absorb all that I could during this weeklong event.

Since I arrived a day early to attend the 2nd annual Tools of Change conference (covered in my next blog post), I was able to get a glimpse of the exhibition halls being set up, where the halls were still fairly empty.  That was quite interesting, because then for the five days that followed, the convention center was just packed with people and actions.  During the first three days of the fair when most of the business was conducted, it was quite the norm to see attendees (myself included) rushing from one place to the other, whether to catch a meeting or seminar.  Comfortable shoes were a must.

When the fair was opened to public on Saturday and Sunday, the scene changed into a book/reading festival.  The local publishers’ halls were filled with author signing and reading sessions.  Families came to spend their weekend checking out the latest published works.  Even cosplayers—people in costumes, like at comic book conventions—were sighted, too!  When I was away from the Whitman booth I enjoyed spending time in Hall 8 general (where English-speaking countries were stationed), as well as checking out the amazing booth designs many local publishers had put together.

There is no question why the Frankfurt Book Fair is so highly regarded in the industry. Not only does it get the “book people” excited, but it’s such a high-energy event that people from all over town, or even around the world can take part in it and be immersed in the world of words.

Frankfurt Book Fair through the eyes of a freshman