‘Exporting is learning’ might be the motto of Leicester-based children’s book publisher, Sweet Cherry.
It has not always been easy for the group - founded in 2013 - to keep advancing in China where it has been selling foreign rights to its titles for four years.
Yet, based on its experience of the Chinese market, confirmed by a recent company trip to Shanghai, it believes that there is increased demand for its offering of middle grade books as demand among Chinese consumers partly shifts from baby books and toddler ranges to books for older age children.
That is good news for the company, which is known for its boxsets of books, such as ‘The Dinosaur Detectives’ and ‘Apley Towers’, aimed at middle grade children aged 8-12, and editions of the Sherlock Holmes stories, as well as its use of features such as audio QR codes to make its titles a fun way to learn English for children in overseas markets.
As part of its growth, it has worked with Costco, Baker and Taylor, Scholastic, Readerlink Marketing Services, Book Depot Canada, and BMS Wholesale, and expanded its workforce to 20.
In the potentially huge Chinese market, Sweet Cherry is represented by Andrew Nurnberg, a Beijing-based agent, who agreed to work with the publisher after meeting the company’s Founder and Managing Director, Abdul Thadha, at the Beijing Book Fair.
Through its agency representation, Sweet Cherry has been able to collaborate with a number of Chinese partners to publish its books in simplified Chinese.
In working with Chinese partners, it has had to overcome some difficulties in communication and high staff turnover rates. It has also been a challenge to keep track of the correct contacts within organisations.
However, the company says that its rights agents helped to facilitate these relationships and questions how easy it would have been to navigate the Chinese market without agent representation.
Sweet Cherry did one large export deal into China in 2016. At the time, it thought this was great, but it also resulted in counterfeit copies cropping up within the Chinese market.
Sales Director Lara Clift said:
“We have learnt that moving forwards, it would be better to have exclusive relationships with distributors so that they can help us to combat the counterfeits.
“More recently, we have found distributors who are more willing to buy the English finished copies than in previous years. This has opened up the door to an easier way to distribute our own English, finished copies.
“We would ideally like to find a solid distribution partner who has exclusive rights to our titles.”
So what advice would Clift give to other UK creative companies aiming to increase their presence in the Chinese market?
“Never assume. The Chinese market can be unpredictable and come with surprises so never assume something will definitely work or not work in China.
“Listen to trends. It is an extremely consumer driven market so people are usually very aware of what is trending and only really take chances on content which they can see a space for.”
For any prospective Chinese client or partners, she advises: “Always take a business card with two hands, look at both sides and say thank you!”
She also believes there could be more communication between the import companies in China and UK businesses so the latter can learn the complexities of the Chinese distribution model, as this can be “a little tricky to understand at the start”.
With company turnover increasing by 124 per cent, the company is also looking to other international markets to maintain its growth in future.
It is seeking distribution partners in China, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and recently signed distribution agreements with Baker and Taylor in the USA and PMS in Malaysia and Singapore.
Aside from China, other priority overseas markets are the USA, India, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and South Africa.
Success in China as well as those markets will play a vital role if the company is to realize its potential to be earning 80 per cent of its total revenues in markets outside the UK in three years’ time.
Visit https://www.sweetcherrypublishing.com/ for more on the company and its titles.