Asia in search of its own J.K. Rowling

Publishers and authors are looking for that little bit of magic that could see Asia produce the next J.K. Rowling.

The British writer's best-selling series about boy wizard Harry Potter found millions of readers in Asia, but no Asian author of children's books has made a similar breakthrough in the West.

With more than half the world's population, high literacy rates, increasingly affluent consumers and a rich storytelling tradition, Asia is a growth market, a publishing festival in Singapore heard this month.

But western authors continue to dominate bestseller lists in the region, and Asian writers often have to get recognised first in the United States or Europe before being appreciated back home.

"I have a feeling that the time now is quite ripe for Asian books to start moving," said Indian writer Anushka Ravishankar, who attended the Asian Festival of Children's Content in Singapore.

"People are opening up more to multicultural experiences. It's taken longer to work the other way, but it will," she told AFP, referring to the prospect of a breakout Asian children's author who will make it big worldwide.

Asian writers have made it to international bestseller lists include India's Arundhati Roy who wrote "The God of Small Things," and Japan's Haruki Murakami, author of "Kafka on The Shore," but the region has yet to produce a world-famous children's author.

More than 400 delegates, from writers to agents and publishers, took part in the Singapore festival, which was devoted to all forms of children's content, including videogames, films and music in English and other languages.

"Concepts like Hello Kitty, Doraemon and Pokemon all have crossed borders," said Phan Ming Yen, general manager of The Arts House, an exhibition and performance centre which helped organise the festival.

He was referring to made-in-Japan fictional characters that have taken world pop culture by storm, appearing on everything from lunch boxes to videogames.

"Then the question is - what else can we learn from other countries in Asia?"

Asians can draw inspiration from a non-western name in the New York Times list of top children's books - Jordan's Queen Rania is the co-author of "The Sandwich Swap" with established writer Kelly DiPucchio.

But - apart from the fact that being royalty helps sell books - the Asian children's book industry faces several challenges, including the lack of an integrated publishing infrastructure.

"We have not been promoting them. We do not have good distribution facilities and translation possibilities," said festival director R. Ramachandran of Singapore's National Book Development Council.

The Harry Potter books published by Bloomsbury have been made into six movies, with distribution in over 200 territories and translations in 67 languages, according to Rowling's website.

The world media market, which includes books, was estimated by market research agency Datamonitor at 755 billion US dollars in 2009.

Asia's share of the global media market is about a quarter of this, according to organisers of the Singapore publishing festival.

Trade magazine Publisher's Weekly sees Asia as a growth market for children's books, driven largely by China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, due to its increasing production of original titles and translations.

"The huge Asian presence at the Bologna Book Fair every year attests to the region's burgeoning children's segment and its appetite for deals, imports or exports," it said in a 2009 report, citing the world's largest children's bookfair.

Nury Vittachi, the Hong Kong-based author of "The Feng Shui Detective" series, who also writes children's books, said key elements for success were missing in Asia.

"The editors, literary agents, the distributors, the illustrators, the promoters, even the writers - all those elements in the chain have been missing," said Vittachi, whose books have been published in Europe, the United Sates and Australia.

He said ancient Asian fairy tales may need to evolve, citing the example of the box-office hit "Shrek" which turns traditional Western storybook characters on their heads.

"You see a lot of these books in Asian shops but they haven't been developed much. They're still in the shape they were 2000 years ago, but if you look at the example of Western fairytales, Shrek has moved on with parody and irony."

Ravishankar, dubbed in reviews as "the Asian Dr Seuss" for her "nonsense verse" writing style, said cross-translations have to be stepped up to promote Asian works and enlarge the market.

"We just don't have enough. We should probably be doing more translations from other languages into English and vice-versa. It's a matter of reaching that critical mass and then things will start moving," she said.

"We also need more stories about today's world and the problems that children face," said the English-language author, whose works have dealt with modern themes like conservation.

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvMartin Freeman’s casting is a stroke of genius

Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival

film
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

    The man who could have been champion of the world

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
    Didn’t she do well?

    Didn’t she do well?

    Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
    Before they were famous

    Before they were famous

    Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

    Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players