Learn some Chinese history and familiarize yourself with key concepts. To help, we’ve just made the ebook of our acclaimed primer, This Is China: The First 5,000 Years, available free through Flexpub. The book’s final chapter provides a summary of the most important Chinese concepts, including guanxi 关系 (networking) and mianzi 面子 (face).
- Read Chinese book catalogs in English. The English will probably not be great, but you can still learn a lot about what’s being published, and especially about what Chinese presses think will interest global readers.
- Talk to anyone you can who comes from China and credit them for their command of English. That’s one of the imbalances that makes partnerships so difficult. Chinese presses have international departments, yet the key staff are very much over-stretched at conferences. Often the people on the stands speak little or no English (or don’t have the confidence to try). This is frustrating when you want to get acquainted, but by politely exchanging name cards, you can start a relationship by email.
- Realize that China is very different from anything you’ve seen in the West. Chinese food is the best evidence of this: what we get here, even in New York, is just a tantalizing glimpse of what’s available in China.
- Go to China, and get off the beaten path. You won’t have minders (that’s ancient history now, from the 1970s and 1980s) but you’re likely to be coddled. Don’t let that happen.
And, No. 6: work with Berkshire. We are now representing some nonfiction titles for other presses and individual authors and will be expanding this as we set up systems not only for making rights sales but for managing long-term relationships and royalty accounting and auditing.
Berkshire Publishing is an entrepreneurial academic press based in western Massachusetts and New York City. It is known for its China expertise and for works such as the Dictionary of Chinese Biography and the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Chinese Cuisines. Berkshire’s China titles are published online by Oxford University Press.