China’s book publishing market is worth about $20 billion and e-books are a fast-growing segment, but it’s difficult for foreign authors to gain a foothold. First they have to find a publisher and then wait for their book to be translated and edited, a process that can take up to a year. Fiberead, a Beijing-based startup, wants to make the process faster and more straightforward.
Founded by Runa Jiang in 2011, Fiberead is currently taking part in 500 Startups’ accelerator program. Jiang says she launched the company because digital book platforms are proliferating in China and there is strong interest in works by foreign authors, but the traditional publishing industry can’t keep up with reader demand.
At the beginning, Fiberead focused on books about entrepreneurship, startups, and the Internet, but its catalog has expanded to include fiction, self-help, biographies, and other genres.
Fiberead currently has 100 authors on its roster and 200 titles available on its website. Thirty-three of those have also been released through other distribution channels, including Amazon.cn, Alibaba, JD.com, Dangdang, NetEase, Baidu, and iBooks). One novel, “Sugar & Spice” by British author Saffina Desforges, made it to the number one spot on Amazon.cn.
“Before Fiberead, these authors would have to go through traditional publishers. There are over one million English books published every year, but only 10,000 are translated into Chinese and published in China,” says Jiang. “With such odds, getting published in China is very competitive. Most of the best writers in the U.S. never get the chance to be published in China.”
Fiberead streamlines the process with its online platform. After a publishing agreement is signed, authors upload their manuscript and metadata to Fiberead’s site, where it is made available to translators and editors.
One of the reasons Fiberead is able to get book ready for the Chinese market more quickly than traditional publishers is because it works with about 300 qualified translators, which it narrowed down from a pool of 2,000 applications after posting information on social networks like Weibo, WeChat, and Douban. This allows Fiberead to get a book to market in about two to three months.
Mike Moyer, a tech entrepreneur and the author of “Slicing Pie,” says he decided to work with Fiberead after a previous collaboration with a traditional publishing house.
“I didn’t have a practical way of accessing the Chinese market on my own and working with them was very easy,” says Moyer, who lives in Illinois.
“I have another book that was licensed to a Chinese publisher through a traditional U.S. publisher,” he adds. “It took much longer to get to market and the royalties are so small that I have no interest in personally working to promote the book. The Fiberead model feels more collaborative.”
Fiberead’s revenue-sharing model gives 30 percent of money earned by a book to authors and 40 percent to its translators and editors. The company, which does not require a down payment from authors, keeps the rest.
Desforges says she sold almost 7,000 copies of her novel through Fiberead between November and the end of December 2014.
“The Chinese market is huge and growing fast. We wanted to be in there early and reach as many readers as possible,” she says.
Fiberead also keeps an eye out for pirated versions of books in its catalog. “We work with our authors to protect their IP in China by watching and reporting any illegal uses of our client’s IP,” says Jiang. “Chinese demand is high for international books and many titles are translated illegally and spread online because a legitimate translation is not available.”