In 2005, when Penguin opened their first China office, there were no other foreign trade publishers in the country. Books had never been branded, good literary translators were scarce, and the government maintained a tight control on the publishing industry. This was unfamiliar territory for a Western publisher, and those seeking to get a foothold would need a careful and unconventional approach.
Jo Lusby was Penguin’s appointed scout, employed initially for a scoping mission and later to run the Penguin China office. Lusby’s first move was to publish the Chinese bestseller, Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong in English, a book that went on to win the Man Asia Literary Prize and earn Penguin China a reputation both within China and internationally.
Since then, Lusby has made Penguin China an integral part of China’s publishing industry, building the relationships and making the investments necessary to make joint-publishing with China viable. While last week’s post looked at the globalisation of Chinese literature, this week’s looks at the globalisation of its publishing industry, in an interview with a pioneer.