China Bestsellers for September: Classics Reign, Adjacent to Cinematic Tie-Ins

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson1 Comment

Our September bestseller lists in China, produced in partnership with OpenBook and Trajectory, show the market’s fondness for classics cinematic tie-in editions.

Classics: Autumn afternoon light at the Temple of Confucius in Beijing near the Imperial Academy. Image – iStockphoto: GDE Filip

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Classics and Tie-Ins
As we look at China’s bestselling books in September, put together with the help of Rainy Liu of Trajectory, we’re able to see the grip that the classic titles still hold in the market, particularly in fiction.

For example, Cao Xueqin’s Dream of the Red Chamber (a classic Chinese story from the 18th century) is at No. 17 in fiction, while Shi Naian and Luo Guanszhong’s Water Margin (another classic story that date back centuries) is at No. 23, followed by Luo’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms (a 14th-century novel) at No 25.

Paul Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist,’ new Chinese edition

A modern classic from the West, Paul Coelho’s 1988 The Alchemist, is out in a new edition released in China in December 2017—marketed as “a book that can change a person’s life”—and has entered the list this month at No. 22 among fiction bestsellers. The publisher of the new edition, Beijing October Art & Literature, has reason to be optimistic about the book’s potential: when originally introduced in China in 2009, the Coelho title was on fiction bestseller lists for four months.

And taken together, this gives us four new entries on the overall fiction list for September:

  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, at No. 22
  • Cry Me a Sad River by Guo Jingming, at No. 24
  • The Light in the Night (third volume) by Priest, at No. 26
  • Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en, at No. 30

There’s a film tie-in among that quartet of titles, too.

‘Cry Me a Sad River’

The screen treatment of Cry Me a Sad River had its release on September 21, and that, of course, is credited with putting Guo’s book back on the fiction charts. The book is no stranger to the bestseller ranks, however, having appeared on lists 52 times in various editions produced between 2007 and 2013.

The appeal? Nostalgia. Cry Me a Sad River is a book many Chinese readers first encountered as teens. They’re now revisiting its sentiments and Hunan Literature & Art Press is ready with a new film tie-in for those ready to reread it.

The single-named author Priest in the also mix. This is an “online literature” writer, one of the most successful of the self-publishing serial writers in China.

‘The Light in the Night,’ Volume 3

When The Light in the Night was released as a series initially in January, the uptake was slow enough in the market that publication of ensuing volumes was put on hold.

A newly produced online dramatization of the work, however, Soul of the Town, has been so popular that the book releases were put back on track, and what you’re seeing now at No. 26 is the release of the third and final volume in the Light in the Night series’ bound editions from Beijing Union Publishing, riding as a tie-in on the strength of the dramatization.

In OpenBook’s nonfiction bestsellers from September, note that Seeing Off by Long Yingtai now is at No. 3, has made 52 appearances on the charts and jumping from No. 10 in August.

‘Seeing Off’ by Long Yingtai

Liu reminds us, though, that in September, the dominant forms in nonfiction are essays and short stories, as well as history and biography. And the prolific Long is represented by four titles in those categories.

New to the nonfiction list in September are:

  • Time Difference by Wang Junkai, ranked No. 4
  • Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (full version in a new edition), by Gao Ming, ranked No. 7
  • Translation and Annotation of the Analects of Confucius, by Yang Bojun, ranked No. 13
  • Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk, by Lu Xun, ranked No. 28

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from June of bestsellers in fiction and nonfiction, followed by its lists of bestselling fiction and nonfiction in China by authors from outside the country.

At the end of our article, as always, you’ll find notes on how the lists are constructed.

OpenBook’s Overall Fiction Bestsellers in China, September 2018
August 2018 Ranking September 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787506365437 2010-06 To Live Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
5 2 9787530216781 2017-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumes) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
25 3 9787020008735 1998-07 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en People’s Literature Publishing House
22 4 9787530216774 2017-07 Ordinary Word Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
4 5 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
3 6 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 7 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
8 8 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
13 9 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
9 10 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
6 11 9787020090006 2012-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
11 12 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
10 13 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 14 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
23 15 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin,Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
12 16 9787530215593 2017-06 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 17 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
16 18 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
15 19 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
18 20 9787550024212 2017-09 Trespassers Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
14 21 9787020127894 2017-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 22 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 23 9787020008742 1998-07 Water Margin Shi Naian,Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 24 9787540475475 2016-05 Cry Me a Sad River Guo Jingming Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 25 9787020008728 1998-07 Romance of the Three Kingdoms Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 26 9787559622099 2018-08 The Light in the Night (3) Priest Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
27 27 9787506365680 2012-12 Chronicle of a Blood Merchant Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 28 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 29 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 30 9787100119696 2016-06 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en The Commercial Press Co.Ltd

OpenBook’s Overall Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, September 2018
August 2018 Ranking September 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787020116133 2016-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow People’s Literature Publishing House
2 2 9787540487669 2018-06 You Are Bad Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
10 3 9787549550173 2014-01 Seeing Off Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
Not Ranked 4 9787513331029 2018-08 Time Difference Wang Junkai New Star Press Co.Ltd
8 5 9787201094014 2015-09 Six Records of a Floating Life Shen Fu Tianjin People’s Publishing House
3 6 9787544382052 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (3) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
Not Ranked 7 9787559620125 2018-05 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version)(New Edition) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
9 8 9787503561634 2017-08 Xi Jinping’s Seven Years as an Educated Youth Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
6 9 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
5 10 9787544382045 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
7 11 9787559418111 2018-04 30 Minutes of World History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
4 12 9787508692098 2018-07 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 13 9787101127867 2017-09 Translation and Annotation of the Analects of Confucius Yang Bojun Zhonghua Book Company
14 14 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
25 15 9787549550159 2014-01 My Child, Just Take Your Time Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
15 16 9787108042453 2012-09 We Three Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
Not Ranked 17 9787540484880 2018-01 The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo (Commemorative Edition) Lin Yutang Hunan Literature & Art Press
20 18 9787549564125 2015-04 Dear Andrea Long Yingtai,Andreas Walther Guangxi Normal University Press
13 19 9787540488079 2018-07 The Letters to Meijun Long Yingtai Hunan Literature & Art Press
11 20 9787535488473 2016-05 Walk Alone Freely Jia Pingwa Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co.,Ltd.
21 21 9787508086156 2015-11 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg Huaxia Publishing House
19 22 9787224127232 2018-04 Liangjiahe Editing Group for Liangjiahe Shaanxi People’s Publishing House
23 23 9787540482190 2017-08 I Won’t Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
18 24 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
29 25 9787530214787 2017-04 The Stories of the Sahara Echo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
17 26 9787201088945 2014-12 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
24 27 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal Cultural Development Publishing House
Not Ranked 28 9787201089140 2015-01 Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk Lu Xun Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 29 9787108063106 2018-06 We Three (Third Edition) Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
12 30 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers in China, September 2018
August 2018 Ranking September 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787208061644 20060-4 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini USA Shanghai People’s Publishing House
1 2 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 3 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 4 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
3 5 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall UK Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
7 6 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
6 7 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 8 9787550024212 2017-09 Trespassers Claire McFall UK Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
14 9 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Brazil Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
15 10 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
10 11 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 12 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
11 13 9787530218198 2018-07 The Clown of House Juji Higashino Keigo Japan Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
9 14 9787539971810 2015-04 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin USA Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 15 9787544760843 2016-08 Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte UK Yilin Press
20 16 9787539982830 2015-06 Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng USA Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
18 17 9787544258210 2017-10 Naoko Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 18 9787544760782 2016-08 Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift UK Yilin Press
Not Ranked 19 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787539967448 2014-02 The Godfather Mario Puzo USA Jiangsu Literature & Art Press

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, September 2018
August 2018 Ranking September 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787020116133 2016-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow USA People’s Literature Publishing House
1 2 9787508692098 2018-07 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
4 3 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen USA Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
6 4 9787508086156 2015-11 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg USA Huaxia Publishing House
5 5 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
7 6 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal USA Cultural Development Publishing House
3 7 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio USA CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
8 8 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking UK Hunan Science & Technology Press
10 9 9787301109489 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L. S. Stavrianos USA Peking University Press
11 10 9787301110522 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L. S. Stavrianos USA Peking University Press
9 11 9787508672069 2017-01 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
12 12 9787544768559 2017-07 Souvenirs Entomologiques Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre France Yilin Press
14 13 9787108009821 1998-07 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang USA SDX Joint Publishing Company
18 14 9787508650890 2015-05 Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson USA CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
13 15 9787514208788 2013-07 The Willpower Instinct (Hardcover) Kelly McGonigal USA Cultural Development Publishing House
20 16 9787544760850 2017-01 Michelangelo / Tolstoy / Beethoven Romain Rolland France Yilin Press
17 17 9787544292498 2018-04 What is There to Do in Laos? Haruki Murakami Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
19 18 9787535733597 2002-02 The Universe in a Nutshell Stephen W.Hawking UK Hunan Science & Technology Press
16 19 9787559407634 2018-03 Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things Jenny Lawson USA Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 20 9787544768511 2017-06 Three Days to See (New Edition) Helen Keller USA Yilin Press
Notes on the Charts

OpenBook is a privately owned industry-data research firm based in Beijing. It functions somewhat as Nielsen and NDP do from the West, and Nielsen Book Research International has worked with OpenBook in Asian operations. As an authoritative data and information resource in China, OpenBook offers consulting services to partners exploring the Chinese book market and hoping to identify suitable business partners in the Chinese market.

Trajectory, based near Boston, is an importer of Western-language ebooks and audiobooks into China. Trajectory is also helping China’s largest publishers export their books and audiobooks through a proprietary global ebook distribution network that includes hundreds of retailers as well as library and school distributors. Trajectory recently has added copyright services, both for content going into China and for exports from China to the rest of the world.

Up until July 1, the data behind these bestseller reports has been estimated by OpenBook to represent some 50 percent of the total sales activity in China. OpenBook draws point-of-sale data from more than 6,000 bookstores in China. Included in those reporting points are a total 3,496 physical bookstores in Chinese provinces and territories with the exceptions of Tibet, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. Physical retailers include:

  • Traditional bookstores
  • Supermarkets
  • Campus bookstores
  • “Professional” stores, said to be small stores with a specific industrial or trade focus
  • Airport stores

In addition, OpenBook is drawing data from online bookstores of three main types:

  • The “Tmall” stores of Alibaba (Tmall is described as a marketplace of companies that create storefronts online to sell products including books)
  • The “JingDong” Stores of JD.com (similar to Tmall as a marketplace of both individual companies and bookstores operated by JD.com)
  • Ten independent online bookselling retailers

China has some 500 or more publishers in operation today. Most of them, Trajectory CEO James Bryant clarifies, are government-owned. Private publishers are required to purchase ISBNs for their titles from a publishing company that is government-owned—which, in other words, creates a system in which all ISBNs are in one way or another registered through government channels. The government approves each book published in China.


More of China bestseller reports from Publishing Perspectives are here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.

Comments

  1. Tie-ins flourish again. So, in China, as elsewhere, we see people buying and enjoying the same stories in multiple formats. Synergy rather than competition. And that might benefit other books like those adapted for film and TV.

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