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Where do foreigners in China typically go to purchase Chinese textbooks?


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Friday

I am quite close to being ready to publish some books designed for students learning Chinese.

 

I plan to self-publish on Amazon. Would that limit my audience to students living in the US/UK/Canada/Australia? What is your suggestion for making sure the books are still available to those foreigners studying within China? Since the books target intermediate-learners, I suspect my largest market is living in China.

 

I know when I lived in China, I always purchased through Bookuu, on-line or in-person, however, I'd rather not try working with a Chinese publisher, which is I suspect the only way to get books into those stores.

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kanumo

What kind of material are you going to publish? Textbooks or graded readers or something else?

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Friday

Kanumo, the first in my series is workbooks focused on helping students learn more vocabulary.

 

I've started work on some graded readers too, but they are considerably further away from being ready to publish.

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roddy

If you can do the marketing, by all means self-publish. But self-publishing without marketing is basically throwing your book down a well and hoping there's a frog down there who'll read it and mention it on his podcast. 

 

There are small publishers and sites that might be worth looking at - Tuttle, Purple Culture.

 

 

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Was thinking that too. I have no idea what backing you have, or what business model you have prepared. Have you considered and actioned all these things? Who have you sought advice off?

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Friday

I've just been focused so far about having a product that is done. And now I'm really close to that. The first book is less than a few weeks away from being done, by that I mean I'll be thoroughly proofreading it and product testing it on students to see what issues they have. The second in the series might need a few weeks after that one is done. Then the next 20 books in the series can possibly come out in the summer.

 

My belief is, if it is on Amazon, and I advertise it on places like here, Reddit, or where ever else people are, people will start buying it. If it proves a product people like, it will gain popularity in Amazon and grow by word of mouth. Also, I think it is hard for Chinese students not to notice a series of 20 books aimed at intermediate students, because so few intermediate study resources exist.

 

But I guess I will look into seeing what options exist for publishing. I do know someone who writes books for a Chinese publisher; just I'm weary of trusting a Chinese publisher. I just notice groups like Tuttle only sell to the US audience, I've never seen their books on Chinese bookshelves. Is Purple Culture a publisher or just a distributor?

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xinoxanu
22 hours ago, Friday said:

My belief is, if it is on Amazon, and I advertise it on places like here, Reddit, or where ever else people are, people will start buying it. If it proves a product people like, it will gain popularity in Amazon and grow by word of mouth.

 

Are you talking about actual, real ads? Or the "I am an aspiring rapper, please check my YouTube channel to help me grow" kind?

 

23 hours ago, Friday said:

workbooks focused on helping students learn more vocabulary

 

Anki? Skritter? Pleco? Why a textbook when SRS systems are the best solution for that?

 

Are we perhaps talking about learning vocabulary by exploring specific situations, as in conversations, newspapers scraps and whatnot? But then again, an intermediate learner is already reading books and consuming native media and extracting vocabulary from them.

 

22 hours ago, Friday said:

 

But I guess I will look into seeing what options exist for publishing. I do know someone who writes books for a Chinese publisher; just I'm weary of trusting a Chinese publisher.

 

Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

 

So many people would kill for a contact like that so they wouldn't have to resort to what Roddy mentioned above with self-publishing. I wouldn't worry so much about trusting a Chinese publisher if you still haven't got through the door and had your product professionally evaluated. Sure, they rejected Rowling's manuscript more than once and Harry Potter turned out to be amazing, but at least get a free review from a publisher on whether your product is marketable. Start planning from then on.

 

Also, what's so bad about Chinese publishers? I don't get the hate. I don't particularly like the person that cuts my hair but they do a good job regardless and I don't have a better alternative. Is self-publishing on Amazon better for your? It took forever for AllSetLearning to release their Chinese Grammar Wiki BOOKs on Amazon and they only did so after building the most comprehensive grammar website out there, for free and after many hours of hard-work... and who knows if they are even breaking even!

 

Newcomers are not really welcome anywhere, sadly.

 

22 hours ago, Friday said:

Also, I think it is hard for Chinese students not to notice a series of 20 books aimed at intermediate students, because so few intermediate study resources exist.

 

They perhaps will, but they probably won't care if they are already settled on an app routine and use proven-to-work textbooks such as the HSK ones or Road to Success ones... if they need them at all, because the last thing an intermediate Chinese learner needs is an actual textbook. Textbooks are the pinyin of native content, and the only thing one should keep drilling at that point is vocabulary (taken from actual native content), pronunciation and native-sounding like structures. 

 

I am aware that right now I am the biggest ass on site, but I've had crazy ideas like these in the past and I am lucky that someone was harsh with me so I'd think things through. I also know first hand about the frustrations of being a writer, so it's better to get smacked on the head as soon as possible. It goes without saying that I don't really get what kind of product are you trying to put out, how is that beneficial to intermediate learners and what's your endgame... so I think we all really need more information.

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Friday

As someone who does use Anki for study...been using SRS for 8 years, I still see the value of studying in textbooks. Heisig was popular. I see my product as serving the same purpose, but for more advanced students, and not just 3 volumes but 20. I see SRS as a great tool for maintaining knowledge, but I don't see Anki as the most efficient tool for acquiring new vocabulary.

 

I wasn't thinking of paying for ads, but if I can find every community of on-line learners, post a post and sample pages of my book here and there, I think a large portion of my potential readership will see it, then it can move its way up the rankings in Amazon if it is worthy of that. If not, it will disappear and just be my own tool...since I've found it has boosted my own vocabulary, the value to myself has already been found. Only serious students are going to be interested in these books...and serious language students have a minimum number of sites to hang out in to learn how to actually learn.

 

My concern for Chinese publishers, having lived in China for years, is I've learned that foreigners will always be outsiders. When it comes to a legal dispute, non-Chinese will nearly always loose in a legal battle with a Chinese citizen. Though I know someone who works in a Chinese publishing company, focused on producing material for education, and trust them, I still am not inclined to trust the company they work for.

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xinoxanu
32 minutes ago, Friday said:

but I don't see Anki as the most efficient tool for acquiring new vocabulary.

 

Anki is just an electronic pen & paper. Nothing more, nothing less. How do you expect to acquire vocabulary without drilling it? Only kids can actually learn by osmosis, but once they learn how to read and write they still have to drill, drill, drill... It doesn't matter whether we are talking about frequency lists or pulled-from-media words, with most of them you'll have to do rote memorisation for them to stick. SRS is just the most convenient way to do that.

 

32 minutes ago, Friday said:

I wasn't thinking of paying for ads, but if I can find every community of on-line learners, post a post and sample pages of my book here and there, I think a large portion of my audience will see it, then it can move its way up the rankings in Amazon if it is worthy of that.

 

Yeah, no. The internet is so distracting nowadays that only the most interesting stuff sticks to our short attention spans, it doesn't matter if it's free or not (and Amazon already offers that preview functionality regardless). 

 

Go on Reddit and check the Chinese Learning and other Language learning communities. Every day there's a post from someone claiming that they have unearthed the best way to learn Chinese or that they have designed the most efficient app. Count the upvotes and check the actual engagement: zero, nothing of value. You know what works? Cuties, sob stories and circle-jerking, not actual language-learning. Maybe if you are lucky you get the casual beginner who is in the "just-started-learning" high and is bookmarking all available resources like crazy, but then again that's not your target, is it?

 

32 minutes ago, Friday said:

My concern for Chinese publishers, having lived in China for years, is I've learned that foreigners will always be outsiders. When it comes to a legal dispute, non-Chinese will nearly always loose in a legal battle with a Chinese citizen. Though I know someone who works in a Chinese publishing company, focused on producing material for education, and trust them, I still am not inclined to trust the company they work for.

 

Yeah, I agree with you... but that's how it is. Do you want to be someone that published a book and then got pulled-in on all that bullshit (if it actually, ever happens) or do you want to be someone that didn't publish anything at all? It's not a bad mindset to plan for the worst outcomes, but that shouldn't stop you from living life... besides, we are not talking about the kind of juicy legal dispute a Chinese scammer would embark in to make millions, right?

 

32 minutes ago, Friday said:

If not, it will disappear and just be my own tool...since I've found it has boosted my own vocabulary, the value to myself has already been found.

 

That's actually the most positive thing out from this whole endeavour, and I am glad your hard-work has paid off for you! You can always create a free blog with all those resources and live off from advertising and partnerships, you'll probably make more money out of it and, not so ironically in 2021, you'll reach more people than the other way around.

 

Really, talk to your friend, talk to the publisher, send your copy to literary agents and publishing houses. If they have a mailbox, do spam them. If it's worth it, they'll get back to you. If it doesn't work, self-publish. If that doesn't work either, go the free route. And print your books for your family members regardless, they'll appreciate your work more than anyone else!

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艾墨本
On 1/22/2021 at 6:41 AM, Friday said:

...

Sometimes this is the most appropriate response.

 

As to what you should do, a lot of the advice you get here is too abstracted because you aren't sharing the specifics of your product. "Foreigners who study Chinese" seems like to broad a category. Either way, a Chinese forums probably isn't the best place to search for marketing advice, especially since it takes awhile to learn the personalities of all the frequent posters here so you can sort through each of our personal biases and know where we have actual experience to share.

 

As to the question of how we should learn, while I have strong opinions on what a successful studying Chinese regiment might look like, I also have students who have access to all of these SRS system and other learning tools but still prefer pen, pad, and a textbook. Just because there are more "efficient" ways of doing something doesn't mean people like doing it in that way.

 

Back to your original question, where do I go to buy my Chinese products? If it is a book, I almost exclusively use Dangdang. My friends that are learning Chinese but don't have the ability to use a Chinese app seem to mostly passively wait for some learning materials to be brought to them. Amazon seems rarely used. Taobao is used often, even by friends who don't speak Chinese just because Taobao is kinda everything here.

 

Maybe a sample of your book would help us understand what you are working with?

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