- How do I get started writing children's books?
- How does SCBWI membership benefit me here in Japan?
- I have written a children's story set in Japan. Where and how should I try to market it?
- How can I get my English-language book translated into a Japanese edition?
- Where can I find lists of Japanese publishers and literary agents?
- How should I approach publishers in Japan?
- As an illustrator do I need to be able to read/speak Japanese to work with Japanese publishers?
- I've heard that Japanese Publishers dislike making contracts for illustrators. Is this true?
- Where can I get legal advice for book contracts in Japan?
- Where can I find English language children's Books in Japan?
- Are there any galleries in Japan that specialize in children's illustration?
- Can you recommend some books about writing and illustrating for children?
1. How do I get started writing children's books?
Visit the SCBWI Publications page of www.scbwi.org and read 10 FAQs About Children's Book Publishing as well
as From Keyboard to Printed Page: Facts You Need to Know. Both of these free publications will give you a wealth of information and answer many
of your questions.
See the other SCBWI publications, too, and explore the SCBWI list of Links.
2. How does SCBWI membership benefit me here in Japan?
The Tokyo branch of SCBWI holds regular monthly meetings
in Tokyo featuring guest speakers, manuscript and illustration
exchanges, workshops and other activities related to the
writing and illustrating of children's literature.
based in Japan receive reduced entry fees at these meetings,
which present opportunities to network with other members
and supporters of SCBWI and to hear the words of published
authors and illustrators and industry specialists. Visit
the Events page on the SCBWI Tokyo
website for a list of current SCBWI Tokyo activities and
see Carp Tales, the SCBWI Tokyo
newsletter, for coverage
of past events.
Across the country SCBWI Tokyo maintains a nationwide network
for members to share information, advice and support through
the e-mail listserv and the online critique group. In addition,
all members based in Japan are invited to display their work
(published books, illustrations) and services (presentations
for schools, libraries and other organizations) on the SCBWI
Tokyo website. We also encourage members outside the Tokyo
area to set up groups in their local regions in order to
increase the range and scope of support we are able to give
members throughout Japan.
Membership in SCBWI Tokyo is included as part of membership
in SCBWI worldwide, a major international society with more
than 18,000 members across the globe. Those able to attend
the range of conferences in New York, Los Angeles, Bologna
and elsewhere benefit from unique networking opportunities
with not only other writers and illustrators, but also editors,
designers and other professionals in the field of children's
Each year SCBWI Tokyo can nominate a member to be considered
for a scholarship to attend the Los Angeles summer conference.
SCBWI produces a range of publications aimed at supporting
its members. Some of these can be downloaded from the main
others are available to members only.
Although some SCBWI publications are written with the U.S.
market in mind, much of the material is equally valid for
those who live outside North America. The International Market
Report is SCBWI's guide to international publishing (available
to members). In addition the bi-monthly SCBWI Bulletin received
by all members is full of market news, features and important
Through the main SCBWI
members from anywhere in the world can participate in the
highly regarded Discussion Boards, where they can interact
with other members online through various Posting Forums
and share current marketing, craft and business information.
Numerous critique groups, organized by genre, are also available
Finally, SCBWI members are eligible for discounts for rental
cars, writing supplies and book orders from Amazon.com. See
the Benefits page of www.scbwi.org .
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3. I have written a children's story set in Japan. Where and how should I try to market it?
The hard fact is there is no real market for publishers of purely English-language children's fiction in Japan. Nowadays most publishers who
deal with children's English-language fiction that has a Japanese subject-matter are to be found in North America, the United Kingdom,
Australia and other countries with large English-language populations. Bear in mind that to be successful, your book set in Japan should have universal appeal.
Writers may have better luck in first approaching a publisher in North America or the U.K. that deals in world or Asian interests. See the
SCBWI Publications Guide to Writing and Illustrating for Children and the International Market Report (both available to SCBWI members) for lists of publishers,
agents and more.
Writers should also keep in mind the children's magazine market. Many
children's magazines seek stories set in countries around
the world. The SCBWI Publications Guide to Writing and
Illustrating for Children (available to SCBWI members)
includes a magazine markets guide with contact information
for more than 50 magazine publishers.
Many Japanese publishers will only consider a manuscript if
it is written in Japanese, so if your manuscript is in English you will
need to produce a Japanese language synopsis before submission.
Some Japanese publishers do publish bilingual children's
books with text in both Japanese and English.
Nonetheless, see below for a list of literary
agents in Japan who
promote new manuscripts and translations rights to Japanese
publishers. For nonfiction there is a large domestic market
for educational English-language teaching books for children.
Writers interested in developing their work for this market
should approach publishers that specialize in education
and English teaching textbooks.
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4. How can I get my English-language book translated into a Japanese edition?
SCBWI Tokyo thanks the Finnish
Institute in Japan for the following
A literary agency handles most of the translation rights
publications. It also acts as a negotiator between the
copyright holder or foreign publisher and the Japanese
publisher. The agencies are always in search of promising
books, which they send to Japanese publishers in hopes
of having them published. Thus, the agencies regularly
ask for books, new title information and other useful information
from foreign publishers. The literary agency then sends
the book or the synopsis to an appropriate Japanese publisher
When a book is sent to an agency, a synopsis in Japanese
or at least in English must be attached. If the synopsis
is in Japanese, the agents can see the translator's style
of writing, and this is naturally valuable information
The following is the recommended procedure when a copyright
holder (i.e. an author or publisher) wants to publish a
book in Japan (= sell translation rights to the publication):
A. If you use a literary agency
Picture books In the case
of picture books, when the illustrations speak for themselves,
it is possible to send only a copy of the picture book
directly to the literary agency or even to the publisher.
A synopsis in Japanese or English is not absolutely necessary
in this case, however it is always recommended.
Other genres In the case of any other book, a synopsis
Japanese should be attached. A translation can be seen
as a very good investment and an assurance that the Japanese
publisher will not ignore the book. The literary agency
will then see if another agency has an exclusive agreement
with the book's publisher or possibly the copyright holder.
If not, the agency contacts the appropriate parties and
gets permission to handle the rights. It then negotiates
a contract between the Japanese publisher and the copyright
After a contract has been negotiated, the Japanese publisher
pays a royalty advance, from which the tax has already
been deducted, to the agency. After deducting a 10 percent
commission, the agency remits the balance to the foreign
copyright holder or publisher.
B. If you go directly to a publisher
A copy of the book concerned and a synopsis in Japanese
or English should be sent directly to the Japanese publisher.
However, be prepared for the fact that the publisher may
never respond. At minor publishing houses, this may be
due to the lack of staff with knowledge in English. At
bigger publishing houses, the lack of translators specializing
in foreign languages other than English may be the problem.
Note It is, however, advisable to act through a literary
copyright holders are usually able to get better terms
for the translation rights this way. The literary agencies
have the appropriate contacts and know the procedures and
the process will be more likely to work out smoothly.
The following is the standard procedure when a Japanese
publisher wants to buy rights to a foreign book:
In the case when a Japanese publisher takes the initiative to
negotiate translation rights for a foreign publication,
they either proceed through their own channels or contact
a literary agency for assistance. The literary agency then
finds out if another publisher has already bought the rights.
If not, the agency checks if another literary agency has
an exclusive agreement with the book's publisher or the
copyright holder. If that is not the case, the literary
agency contacts the appropriate parties, gets permission
to handle the rights and negotiates a contract between
the Japanese publisher and the copyright holder. Only rarely
are translation rights obtained by direct communications between publishers.
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5. Where can I find lists of Japanese publishers and literary agents?
SCBWI Tokyo has compiled a list of Japanese children’s
book publishers. Click here for a PDF file of the list:
List of Japanese Children’s Book Publishers—Jan.
The Japan Book Publisher's Association has an English-language
list of all its member publishers. The list includes all the major children's publishers
in Japan. See also the website for the Publishers
Association for Cultural Exchange, Japan (PACE) (1-2-1,
Sarugaku-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0064, Tel: 03-3291-5685
At the time of writing the English pages on their website
were being re-organized, however PACE has produced English-language
guides on publishing in Japan which are available from their office.In
Japanese the Toshokan
Ryutsu Center (Library Retail Center)
site has a thorough list of publishers in Japan.
Following are the major literary agencies and agents
dealing with children's literature in Japan:
The Asano Agency
Mr. Kiyoshi Asano
4-44-8 Sengoku, Bunkyo-ku
Specializes in non-fiction
The English Agency (Japan) Ltd
Ms. Noriko Hasegawa, agent of children's literature
Sakuragi Bldg., 6-7-3, Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku Tokyo 107-0062
Japan Uni Agency
Ms. Tatsuko Nagasawa, executive director
Ms. Yuki Katsura, agent of children's literature
Tokyodo Jinbocho Dai 2 Bldg., 1-27,
Kanda-Jinbocho, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 101-0051
Motovun Co., Ltd. Tokyo
Ms. Mari Koga, President
Co-op Nomura Ichibancho
103, 15-6 Ichibancho, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 102-0082
Mr. Yoshi Iwasaki, Executive director
Dai ichi Fuji
Bldg., 2-15, Kanda-Jinbocho, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo, 101-0051
Japan Foreign Rights Centre
(NB! Concentrates on selling foreign rights to Japanese works)
Ms. Yurika Yoshida, agent of children's literature
2-27-18-804, Naka-Ochiai, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo 161-0032
The Sakai Agency
Ganshodo Bldg., 1-7-12, Kanda-Jinbocho, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo
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6. How should I approach publishers in Japan?
The following is from a talk given by Akiko Beppu of
Kaiseisha for SCBWI Tokyo in February 2004.
Phone calls really are the way to make first contact.
If you are unsure whom to ask for, you may call the editorial
department. Since everyone tends to specialize, your
call will be routed to the appropriate person.
Authors/illustrators are usually asked to send a copy
of the manuscript, or a color copy of artwork. If interest
is there, an editor meeting will be arranged.When you
visit a publisher, be sure to leave them with your address,
phone number, and if you have one, web site information.
Even if your current project may not be right at the
time, they may wish to contact you later.
If an editor says 'keep in touch,' they mean it. Be sure
announcements, invitations to exhibitions, holiday greetings,
etc. Maintain the contact.
For illustrators, Japanese publishers may find you as
they are always on the lookout for talent. Exhibitions
could be a good way to attract attention. Many galleries
specialize in children's illustrations, and publishers
often visit these galleries (see gallery
Send postcards to publishers. Even if they can't make
it to the show, they will keep the postcards they like
and may call you at a later date. Maintaining a website
is also a good idea.
The trend for picture-books may be that publishers are
seeking illustrators who can write their own text, but
some editors are seeking artists willing and able to
illustrate existing texts. In high demand are illustrators
able to produce good pen drawings; if you are an illustrator
interested in working on such projects, you should make
yourself known. Editors like to see copies of work in
both color and black and white, and in different mediums.
Be careful about choosing too many different styles,
however. The editor will not be able to see what your
real direction is.
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7. As an illustrator do I need to be able to read/speak Japanese to work with Japanese publishers?
It is generally essential for someone around you to speak
and read Japanese, as few publishers outside English Educational publishers
have bilingual staff. This could be a coordinator, partner or artist's
agent. However, depending on the project, because illustration is a visual
communication, it is sometimes possible for artists to
work with publishers without a deep knowledge of Japanese.
Even if you do not read Japanese, if your portfolio is
strong enough, publishers are often prepared to work
(Alas, the same is not true for writers. Many houses
do not work with English language authors at this time.) Even so, it is
highly advisable to have a bilingual Japanese national
you can rely on to explain contracts and briefs and if
necessary participate in meetings as this helps avoid
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8. I've heard that Japanese Publishers dislike making contracts for illustrators. Is this true?
This is a common problem that illustrators face when
working with some smaller Japanese publishers. Although
companies are not obliged to write contracts for book
illustrations, it is in the interests of the artist to
ensure they do. Normally with larger publishers this
is not a problem, but many smaller houses are not accustomed
to writing contracts for illustration work. The onus
therefore is on the illustrator to provide an estimate
of costs (mitsumori) before beginning work on a project,
stating exactly what terms they will agree to. Legally
the publisher must provide a contract If requested, however,
any document, even an estimate, will stand up in law
if it is stamped with the publisher's seal (hanko).
Copyright law in Japan generally follows internationally accepted
standards, so in general what holds goods in the West can be said
to be the same here. It should be noted that most contracts
with Japanese publishers only cover domestic rights within
Japan. International publishing rights to artwork are
by default held by the illustrator, however you may like
to have this clarified in writing.
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9. Where can I get legal advice for book contracts in Japan?
this time, SCBWI Tokyo cannot offer legal advice for
artists or writers directly. However most town or Ward
Offices in Japan offer a free weekly or bi-weekly consultation service known as
horitsu sodan (in Japanese). They would be able to advise
you where to find legal help specializing in publishing
In English you may find some of the links on this site
run by the Tokyo-tonai
Sonota no Sodan Madoguchi useful.
If serious legal advice becomes necessary the British
Embassy maintains a list of law firms on it's website.
Scroll down from "For British Nationals" to "Life
in Japan" to find a link on the Consulate page.
For free legal representation try the JLAA
(Japan Legal Aid Association). Also try the Legal
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10. Where can I find English language children's Books in Japan?
Following is a list of shops that contain a good selection
of children's books including imported titles.
Crayon House (Tokyo Branch)
3-8-15 Kita Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Crayon House (Osaka Branch)
3-34-24 Tarumi-cho, Suita-city, Osaka
5-41-5 Okusawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
2F Kitamura 60-Kan 5-16-1 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150
Maruzen Books (Marunouchi branch)
2-4F Marunouchi Bldg. 4-1 Marunouchi 2,
Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 100-6304
(other smaller branches around Tokyo and other cities – see list on website)
Kyobunkan - Narnia
6F Kyobunkan, 4-5-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku Tokyo 104-0061
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11. Are there any galleries in Japan that specialize in children's illustration?
Major exhibitions of well-known artists are often held
in department store galleries such as Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya.
There are also displays at the Japanese
Institute of Children's Literature in Ueno, and some large museum institutions sometimes have
shows by artists of international reputation.
Two well known permanent galleries of illustrator's work are:
Chihiro Art Museum (displaying the work of Chihiro Iwasaki)
4-7-2, Shimo-Shakujii, Nerima-ku, Tokyo 177-0042
The Brian Wildsmith Museum of Art
9-101 Ohmuro Kogen, Ito City,
Smaller displays of new books and their art can often be
seen in bookstores that have a substantial range of children's
literature, such as Crayon House in Aoyama, Maruzen in
Marunouchi or Kyobunkan in Ginza. These kinds of shows
are nearly always organized by publishers and other sponsors.For
exhibitions organized by artists themselves, often the
first places considered by non-Japanese speakers are the
many cafes/bars/restaurants that have exhibition spaces
for hire. We recommend, however that illustrators NOT exhibit
original artwork at such venues, as the venues often have
no insurance to cover damage or loss of your work, and
in a bar or restaurant almost anything can happen!
Although more expensive, there are many professional private galleries
available for hire with solid links to the professional illustration market
in this country. Following is a selection of Tokyo spaces specializing in illustration:
5-101,FutabaBldg.B1, Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo,107-0062
Tel : 03-3409-8268
Fax : 03-3498-5978
Gallery House Maya
2-10-26, Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan 107-0061
Tel : 03-3402-9849
Fax : 03-3423-8622
Space Yui 1F Hayakawa Blg,
3-4-11 Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo 107-0062
Tel : 03-3479-5889
Fax : 03-3479-1913
Opa Gallery & Shop
1F 4-1-23 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
Tel : 03-5785-2646
Fax : 03-5785-2647
Honcho, Musashinoshi, Tokyo 180-0004
Tel/fax : 0422-23-0868
2-2-10 Kichijoji Honcho,
Musashinoshi, Tokyo 180-0004
Tel : 0422-21-2177
Fax : 0422-21-2166
1F Imperial Blg, 2-12-5 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0031
Tel : 03-3567-0005
Fax : 03-3566-0150
Galleries outside Tokyo We hope to make additions to this
list and welcome suggestions of galleries specializing
in illustration by members across the country.
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12. Can you recommend some books about writing and illustrating for children?
Here are a few to get you started:
- ChildrenŐs WriterŐs and IllustratorŐs Market edited by Alice Pope (WriterŐs Digest Books).
- How to Write and Illustrate ChildrenŐs Books edited by Treld Pelkey Bicknell and Felicity Trotman (WriterŐs Digest Books)
- Writing With Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children's Books, by Uri Shulevitz (Watson-Guptill Publications, New York)
- Illustrating Children's Books: Creating Pictures for Publication, by Martin Salisbury (A & C Black Publishers Ltd)
- The Children's Writers' and Artists' Yearbook (A & C Black Publishers Ltd) for the UK/European market.
- Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul (WriterŐs Digest Books)
- The Complete IdiotŐs Guide to Publishing ChildrenŐs Books by Harold D. Underdown (Alpha Books)
- Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang (Chronicle Books)
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