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December 22, 2011

Publishing a Book in China

This article is written to help writers realize and protect their rights to their books being published in China, pursuant to Chinese copyright laws.

Q: How do I have my book(s) published in China?

The first step is to select and contact a legally established publisher in China. Under Chinese law, the right to press is an administrative right exercised not by any individual but by well established publishers.

The editor is the person you and/or your agent should be talking to. Although many editors are interested only in worldwide classics or bestsellers from foreign languages, there still are editors who would pay attention to new writers especially if you could convince him or her that your book is worth being translated and/or published in China. One thing to note is that most editors speak only Chinese.

The editor would request for an outline of your book before having the entire manuscript submitted for review. You should have the outline be prepared in Chinese and/or bilingually. Once the editor or the editing committee from the publisher has the outline approved, you will be asked to submit the entire manuscript. Once the manuscript is submitted, the publisher will decide within 6 months whether or not to approve the book. If they 1) fail to sign a contract before the six months expire or 2) fail to inform the writer about the rejection of the book, the publisher shall compensate the writer pursuant to relevant articles of the copyright laws and regulations.

Q: A Chinese publisher contacted me about having my book(s) translated into Chinese or published in China. What should I do now?

Ask them to provide you with a Publishing Contract before agreeing to anything, or consult with an expert in this field. It is mandatory by law to have a Publishing Contract in writing. It is stipulated in Article 29 of the Copyright Law of People’s Republic of China.

Generally speaking, there are two important rights that a writer is required to grant the publisher: the right to reproduction, and the right to distribution. The writer authorizes only the publisher to exercise the rights to his or her book, but these rights are not transferable to third parties without permission from the writer.

There are two types of authorization: exclusive and non-exclusive. Your publisher usually would try to get an exclusive right to publish your book, meaning all third parties and the writer him/herself would be forbidden from exercising such right.

Case

Mr. Green (alias) was having his novel translated into Chinese and having it published via a publisher in Hangzhou, Jiangsu Province (hereinafter referred to as “Publisher A”). He signed an exclusive Publishing Contract provided by Publisher A. The book went to market and sold out quickly. Mr. Green was then approached by a publisher located in Shanghai (hereinafter referred to as “Publisher B”). Publisher B was a well established, noted publisher that had access to the nationwide market, and without consulting with Publisher A, Mr. Green signed another Publishing Contract with Publisher B for the same book but with the book title changed (hereinafter referred to as “New Book”). Neither of the two publishers knew the other’s contract with Mr. Green. The New Book was soon published and went to market.

Publisher A purchased the New Book at Shanghai Book City and had the purchase notarized before filing a lawsuit against Publisher B and Mr. Green. The court found both defendants responsible for compensating Publisher A’s losses. Mr. Green’s fault was intentional and was largely responsible for the compensation; Publisher B’s fault was negligent and resulted in punishment pursuant to the Chinese copyright law.

Q: I have heard that E-publishing is very popular and profitable on Chinese web sites. What should I know about E-publishing?

E-publishing means you authorize and sell a unique right known as the right to network dissemination of information. It is formed and governed by the law ofRegulation on the Protection of the Right to Network Dissemination of Information.

Choose the right web site for e-publishing your book(s). Find one that is legally established. I would recommend Qidian. Not only would you have your book published via their publisher and other publishers they collaborate with, but you get opportunities to sell the rights to your book to publishers of other media such as video games, television, movies, etc.

Q: Does China have copyright laws at all? How can I protect my book(s) from being pirated? What else should I know?

While researching for this article, I have been reading some interesting articles online such as this one. (Note: The article was posted in 2009 but the writer was misinformed to some extent even for that period.) The short answer is yes, China does have copyright laws, but for the most part enforcement has been lax and weak for various reasons.

I have pointed out just the basics and main points for having foreign language book(s) translated and published in China, and I may have additional information in the near future.


If you have any inquiries regarding this topic or if you are a writer with concerns about having your book(s) published in China, feel free to contact Eva at eva@evaslaw.com.

December 22, 2011