The current Japanese book market

Ahead of the London Book Fair, Hamish Macaskill of The English Agency, a literary agency who place books from US and UK publishers and agents with Japanese publishers , gives a market update on the state of the Japanese publishing market.

The biggest-selling translated title post-Frankfurt has been Kodansha’s edition of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs bio: 700k hardcover in just a few months. The slow burn success of Stieg Larsson’s MILLENNIUM TRILOGY (Hayakawa) is now ablaze after the release of the remake of TGWTDT. The Japanese animated adaptation of THE MAGIC TREEHOUSE has made the already successful series into a children’s publishing phenomenon for Media Factory.

Shinchosha has done well with AGENT 6; combined Tom Robb Smith sales are now around 600k. Hayakawa has again done well with Michael Sandel’s JUSTICE now in paperback. It has been neck and neck with Sunmark’s edition of mind-reader Thorsten Havener’s -ICH WEISS VAS DU DENKST- this rivalry defining the poles of the translated non-fiction market here. Finally the continued success of PF Drucker, Dale Carnegie and George Polya proves that being deceased is not an obstacle to success in the Japanese translation market.

The Japanese best seller list has been heavy with diet books. Particularly successful has been the recipe book based on the tasty, satisfying, low-calorie, Japanese meals served at staff canteen of the Tanita (electronic scales) company.

In fiction, perennial favourite, Higashino Keigo has been doing well with KIRINNOTSUBASA and Shinya Tanaka, after four previous Aktugawa nominations, has achieved fame and controversy by winning the prize with TOMOGUI, doing a Shirley MacLaine impersonation (which nobody understood) in his acceptance speech, and insulting Tokyo’s governor who had stepped down as a judge for the prize because “all the entries were rubbish”.

In e-book news: Amazon has extended its predicted launch date for the Japanese Kindle from December 2011 to April 2012. This appears to be because Amazon has been unable to convince the major houses to agree to its discounting policy. It is as yet unclear whether continued resistance by large Japanese publishers will affect the launch in April. STOP PRESS: The Big Three: Kodansha, Shogakukan and Shueisha have announced a new cooperative e-publishing venture that will, in cooperation with 180 small and medium sized publishers commit to digitizing and distributing one million digital title.

Editors are looking for: action-packed thrillers with good, fast-paced, violent plots in not overly exotic settings; classic, locked-door, cozy mysteries; crime fiction award-winners; Regency romances and racy bad-boy romances (but not YA paranormal romances) ; award-winning, best-selling fiction that has sold in many territories; short, readable non-fiction: popular science, mathematics, physics, philosophy, as well as original, sensational and/or topical books on economics, business and geopolitics; heartwarming, uplifting and emotionally moving fiction and non-fiction; books on spirituality, angels or UFOS; business success stories and entrepreneurship books; middle grade readers; children’s picture books by established illustrators and YA titles with film tie-in potential.