Go West

Updated: 2012-05-29 10:50

By Mei Jia (China Daily)

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Go West
Go West
Go West
Go West

London-based CYPI Press is known for its illustrated books in English. Some of its most successful productions cover the themes of Chinese art and culture. Photos provided to China Daily

CYPI Press is one of the first Chinese publishing companies to gain a foothold overseas. Mei Jia looks at the secrets of its success.

While the publishing industry has been struggling to make ends meet in the last five years, Chinese company CYPI Press has done well by having its business based overseas.

The success of the London-based publishing firm, owned by China Youth Publishing Group, has inspired other China publishers to look West.

But success did not come easy.

"I've had my frustrations and paid enough of what I call 'tuition fees' to finally get a foothold into the Western market," CYPI Press general manager Guo Guang says. The company records an average of between 20 and 30 percent return on investment annually.

"We were fish swimming at ease in rivers. And suddenly we were put in the ocean. Naturally, there was fear. The keys to our success include operating from China where costs are lower, understanding the international market, and our business model," he adds.

According to statistics from the General Administration of Press and Publication released in April, 459 Chinese press and publishing companies have branched out overseas, with 28 of them in book publishing-related business.

But, according to Zhao Haiyun, an official with the international exchange and cooperation department of the General Administration of Press and Publication, less than 10 of these companies are profit driven.

Guo and his team had spent two years researching and finally chose London as its base in 2007. It was a move in the right direction for the company, which is gradually gaining a foothold in London's already busy and crowded publishing scene, after experiencing hiccups in between.

Its parent company China Youth Publishing Group had been specializing in art book publishing for 30 years before setting up CYPI Press as its main publishing arm.

The company celebrated its fifth anniversary at the 2012 London International Book Fair in April. Looking back, Guo remembers the cold reception at the first few international book fairs in which the company participated.

"Nobody came to our booth. And both our Chinese and foreign peers were skeptical of us. We were placed among the British publishers but we had Chinese faces," Guo says.

Guo says initially, CYPI Press also experienced cold treatment from their partners, world-renowned publishers/retailers like American Gingko and French Citadelles & Mazenod.

But their persistence melted the ice. "Now we're on good terms and they recognize our products."

Guo says the most painful lessons learned during their five-year publishing journey was having to discard tons of books meant for the American market because they did not convert the British spelling text.

Another lesson is the release date of the publication, which should be about six months after the marketing of copies.

Guo says they did not know about the convention, and printed the publishing date according to the release of the marketing copies. "All our books became old books when they were actually new," he says.

While Chinese readers like to view pictures together with text on the same page, British readers like to appreciate the photos and refer to the captions at the end of the book.

Guo says when the company first started out, the team was motivated by sheer passion and faith. Their turning point came in 2009 because of the Beijing Olympics and Shanghai Expo.

"The world began to focus on China because of the two events. We seized the chance to promote our beautiful and high-quality illustrated books," he says, adding that the company's unique selling point was the China-themed photo albums.

Commenting on CYPI's success, Medwyn Hughes, joint managing director of Publishers Group UK, said in an e-mail reply: "It is the unique understanding and ability to blend the culture and art of China in a style of CYPI that is highly appreciated in the West. A CYPI produced book is instantly recognized because of its outstanding quality of production."

Publishers Group UK is one of CYPI's close partners.

After five years of hard work, CYPI shares a cost-saving secret, which is to have some of the operations, such as editing, based in Beijing. The company also prints hardcover books in various sizes to meet different demands and sells the smaller sizes in supermarkets and grocery stores.

By doing so, they have managed to double their profit.

Guo's peers and partners recognize his effort and passion. "We were very impressed by Guo and his team. The books were very suitable for the European and US market. This is a testimony to the publisher's understanding of these markets," Hughes says.

"In our opinion CYPI is the leading Chinese publisher of illustrated books in English," he says.

Meanwhile, British Ambassador to China Sebastian Wood CMG says: "CYPI's achievements are a success story for Chinese publishing industry, not only in the UK but globally."

Contact the writer at meijia@chinadaily.com.cn.