China’s growing population and digital readership are the very reason why international authors and publishers are eager to enter the Chinese market. And while its diversity opens opportunities to increase book sales and gain more visibility outside Western countries, selling books in China isn’t as simple as you think.
Whether you intend to partner with traditional Chinese publishers and agencies or take the self-publishing route, you must formulate a suitable marketing strategy to attract your new potential readers.
In this comprehensive marketing guide, we will explore the thriving Chinese book market, the popular genres and topics that resonate with Chinese readers, and the essential strategies to sell and promote books in this dynamic landscape successfully.
Overview of the Chinese Book Market
Today, the total population in Mainland China is projected to reach over 1.4 billion people. Along with this increase is the growing number of Chinese consumers with disposable income that eventually led the country to publish over 500,000 books yearly.
Number of published book titles in China from 2011 to 2021. Source: Statista
The digital book market in China is also rapidly expanding, with a reported overall digital market value of 46.35 billion yuan (or approximately $6.73 billion) in 2022. The availability of more affordable digital content has led to a higher willingness among the Chinese audience to pay for books.
With approximately 58% of Chinese consumers regularly reading books, the market presents a staggering audience of over 800 million people.
Young people tend to gravitate toward fiction, while parents seek more stimulating and educational content. For the elderly, more profound subjects such as philosophy attract a more mature target audience.
The Chinese market boasts diverse interests in reading among its large audience. From fantasy and martial arts to philosophical works, Chinese readers show various preferences based on age and gender. Understanding these preferences is crucial, especially if you want to sell books in China in the long run.
Top 5 Websites to Sell Your Book in China
Dangdang, established in 1999 by Peggy Yu and Li Guoqing, is one of China’s pioneering e-commerce platforms and a prominent competitor to Amazon. In 2010, Dangdang entered the book market, igniting a fierce price war that has made it a significant player in the industry.
For foreign authors and publishers seeking to reach Chinese users, Dangdang offers a valuable platform to sell their books.
With millions of registered users, Dangdang provides a vast potential audience for books across various genres. The platform’s user-friendly interface and wide selection of books attract book lovers from all walks of life. Foreign authors can leverage Dangdang’s extensive reach to introduce their works to the Chinese market and tap into the country’s ever-growing demand for foreign literature.
Founded 14 years ago, Douban is a unique platform that primarily revolves around sharing opinions and advice on diverse topics, including books, music, films, and activities in various cities.
Although Douban may not be specifically geared toward direct book marketing in China, it plays a significant role in shaping a reader’s perception of literature. As such, foreign authors and publishers can benefit from fostering a positive presence on Douban by engaging with readers, responding to reviews, and encouraging discussions about their books.
By building a reputation on Douban, authors can generate interest in their works and gain valuable word-of-mouth promotion within the reading community.
3. WeChat Store
We all know that WeChat is China’s undisputed social media king, with over 1 billion users in 2023. Originally an instant messaging app, it has evolved into an all-encompassing platform with e-commerce functionalities.
With such a massive user base, WeChat has become an essential hub for brands and businesses seeking to connect with Chinese consumers.
For foreign authors and publishers, setting up an online shop on WeChat is an effective strategy to successfully sell and print books in China. By doing so, authors gain direct access to local readers and can create a loyal fan base by regularly sharing updates, book excerpts, and engaging content.
Leveraging WeChat’s features, such as group chats, mini-programs, and live streaming, authors can interact with readers in real time, making the reading experience more interactive and immersive.
Another e-commerce platform you can utilize to sell your book in China is Taobao. As one of China’s most popular online shopping platforms, it attracts millions of daily visitors seeking everything from household goods to books.
For foreign authors and online bookstores looking to sell their books in China, it provides an excellent opportunity to introduce their works to a broad audience. You can also count on its user-friendly interface and relatively straightforward registration process for ease of transaction.
You can also collaborate with local influencers and key opinion leaders (KOLs) on Taobao to enhance their book’s visibility and increase sales.
JD, a prominent e-retailer in China, holds a significant share of the Chinese market, accounting for approximately 30%. The outbreak of COVID-19 had a notable impact on online book sales, and JD’s book distributors experienced a substantial surge in demand. For instance, Zhongshan Children’s Books witnessed an impressive increase in sales during this period.
As part of its commitment to supporting indie authors, JD has partnered with PublishDrive, a platform that assists indie authors in accessing the local market. This collaboration opens up new opportunities for independent authors to reach a broader audience in China and expand their presence in the country’s booming e-commerce and book market.
Steps for Getting Your Book Published in China
If you are an author with a book you want to see published in China, navigating the publishing process can seem daunting.
However, with careful planning and understanding of the steps involved, you can successfully have your book published in this dynamic business landscape. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:
Step 1: Look for a Suitable Publishing Partner
The first step in getting your book published in China is researching and finding a suitable publisher. You can start by attending book events, such as the Beijing International Book Fair or the Shanghai International Book Fair, where you can connect with potential Chinese publishers.
Alternatively, you can search online for publishers specializing in the genre or type of book you have written. We also recommend looking for companies with extensive experience launching foreign books in the local market.
Besides knowing how to promote foreign titles in the local market properly, these publishers are equipped with experts (e.g., Chinese translators) to make your publishing journey easier.
Step 2: Review and Negotiate the Contract
Before you decide to publish books with any of the Chinese publishers you contacted, carefully reviewing and negotiating the contract is crucial.
Have a lawyer experienced in international publishing agreements review the contract to ensure it aligns with your interests and rights as an author or a partner. Pay close attention to any clauses that you may not be comfortable with, or that may impact your copyright and royalties.
Step 3: Begin the Publishing Process
After signing the contract, the Chinese publisher or partner will initiate the publishing process for the book. The process will include translating the books into simplified Chinese language, formatting the content, and making book covers.
These steps are essential if you want the book to sell well in the local market. The timeline for this process can vary depending on the complexity and size of the book.
Step 4: Promote Your Book in China
Getting books published aren’t the end of this venture. You must promote it to reach Chinese consumers. Consider giving talks and interviews, participating in book events, or sending review copies to influential book reviewers and bloggers.
You can also leverage Chinese social media platforms like Douban to increase your book’s visibility among the target audience. If you’re unfamiliar with the local digital platform, you can seek assistance from expert agencies specializing in formulating digital marketing campaigns in China.
Step 5: Create or Localize Your Website
Create a Chinese website to avoid commission and distribution complications. Chinese users rely heavily on the internet to seek information, and having a user-friendly website accessible on laptops and mobile devices is crucial.
Localizing the website to Chinese preferences, with appealing design and well-written content, is essential. Avoid simply translating from another language; ensure the website has a Chinese domain or is hosted in nearby countries to optimize loading speed.
Step 6: Optimize for Chinese Search Engines
To enhance discoverability in the Chinese market, optimize your online presence for Chinese search engines like Baidu, the country’s largest search engine.
Search engine optimization includes using relevant keywords, creating localized content, and engaging with local readers through digital channels.
Are Western Books Popular in China?
China’s market offers immense potential for foreign books, and the demand for Western content is rising. The country’s sociological landscape has seen significant economic and urban growth, leading to a more educated middle class increasingly interested in international books.
Foreign titles have gained market share in China, surpassing 26% of total book sales in the first quarter of 2020. Among the imported books, 33% originated from Taiwan, while the remaining share came from various foreign countries.
Is Selling Ebooks in China a Good Idea?
Selling an e-book in China using self-publishing platforms can be profitable in the long term, although initial earnings may be modest. Many Chinese ebook sellers offer low-priced ebooks to attract readers and build a marketing funnel. Later, premium services like consulting or courses can generate revenue.
Today, self-published authors and publishers who hope to attract Chinese audiences utilize Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to sell e-books. You may not know, but the platform now supports publishing in simplified Chinese (traditional) language to give readers in China more access to the world’s largest online bookstore.
Critical Considerations for Selling Ebooks in China:
- Use mobile platforms for content distribution, as Chinese media consumption is predominantly mobile-based.
- Understand China’s unique cultural, political, and social aspects to tailor your promotional strategy.
- Chinese publishers often focus on mobile platforms and content delivery rather than the traditional publishing industry model.
How much does it cost to publish a book in China?
Publishing a book in China involves certain costs and regulations that independent authors and publishers must consider. One of the essential requirements for publishing any book in China is obtaining a book license, which can cost between $5,000 and $7,500, depending on the demand and the publisher. Overall, the cost of publishing a book in China can range around $10,000.
Essential Tips for a Successful Book Promotion in China
1. Importance of Accurate Translation
You must ensure that your book resonates with Chinese readers by investing in professional translation services. Accurate translation of your content and cultural nuances is crucial for effectively connecting with the local audience.
2. Understanding and Adhering to Cultural Sensitivities
Be mindful of China’s unique cultural sensitivities and restrictions. Familiarize yourself with local customs and values to avoid potential controversies and ensure your book meets cultural norms.
3. Leveraging Online Marketing and Visibility
In China’s digitally-driven society, online marketing is key to book promotion. Utilize social media platforms, content sharing, and collaborations with influencers to increase your book’s visibility and gain credibility among potential audiences.
4. Building Reputation and Branding
Establish a positive image and brand reputation in the local market. Engage with local readers, encourage positive reviews, and actively participate in relevant literary events to build credibility and trust for your work.
The Popularity of Western Children’s Books in China
China offers an incredible opportunity for authors and publishers to release children’s books, primarily because 26.53% of the local book market belongs to this particular genre.
China’s post-80s and 90s generation, who experienced the country’s reformation period, now comprises many parents who are highly attentive to their children’s educational needs. This demographic’s focus on their children’s education has increased demand for high-quality kid-friendly books.
Key Market Factors:
- Children’s cartoon, comic, and illustration books emerged as the best-performing categories in online stores, highlighting the strong interest in visually appealing and engaging content for young readers.
- Kid-friendly books maintain positive growth, surpassing other genres in the market, indicating the enthusiasm of parents and educators in providing valuable educational resources for children.
For authors and publishers of kid-friendly books, China presents an inviting market with great potential for success. The growing middle class, emphasis on education, and government support for reading initiatives have created a thriving environment for children’s literature.
Navigating Restrictions on Selling Books in China
Selling books in China requires careful attention to certain restrictions imposed by the government and cultural sensitivities. Here are some key points to consider:
- Strict filtering and sanitizing system
Specific topics may not be welcome in the country. Authors and publishers must be aware of sensitive subjects and avoid content that may clash with local values.
Chinese books and written materials may face restrictions on specific words, numbers, dates, or events. These limitations may stem from cultural reasons or government censorship. Working with a reliable translation service that understands these intricacies is crucial to ensure compliance with local regulations and avoid unintended controversies.
- Popularity and Local Aspirations
Foreign books have gained popularity in China, but their increasing presence poses a potential challenge to local writers and the dominant ideology. As a result, the acceptance of foreign literature may face gradual scrutiny, and only the most exceptional works are likely to be embraced if not marketed properly.
Ready to Dominate the Chinese Book Publishing Market? Get in Touch with Us Today!
As China’s population grows more literate and eager for diverse content, the time has come for international authors and publishers to discover the untapped potential of the Chinese book publishing market.
At Sekkei Digital Group, we understand the local market’s nuances, consumer preferences, and shifting trends. With our expert guidance, you can unlock your brand’s maximum potential and establish yourself as a prominent industry leader.
Our team of seasoned experts specializes in delivering exceptional digital marketing and advertising solutions. We create captivating branding and positioning strategies, ensuring your books stand out amidst the competition. Our focus on building a formidable online presence guarantees measurable results and a loyal readership base.
Contact us today, and let us help you navigate the intricacies of the Chinese book market with cultural sensitivity and innovative strategies.