Author Paul French, whose wildly successful book Midnight in Peking was awarded the 2013 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime last night in New York, visited Asia Society Studios earlier this week to offer some advice for aspiring authors hoping to write the next great China book.
We've summarized French's five tips below, but highly recommend you watch his complete thoughts in the video embedded above.
Here are French's suggestions for getting your China book published:
1. Build your book around a specific topic, rather than China in general. "More depth, less breadth."
2. Focus on "bottom-up analysis," rather than the "3,000-feet view of China from the airplane." "People are much more interested in what people are doing on the ground."
3. Take a more nuanced approach, because China is not as alien to the average reader as it once was. "The idea that you can just do a book that's called Doing Business in China is probably passed now."
4. Write about Chinese lives. "Memoirs of expatriates and foreigners who lived in china … are just not selling."
5. Try rapid-response publishing. "China is always a fast-moving target. Waiting around a year-and-a-half or two years or more for a book to come out … just isn't the way things work anymore."
If you haven't already, you can pick up a copy of Midnight in Peking here or its companion e-book The Badlands here. He's also editor of the Asian Arguments book series for Zed Books and the China Monographs series for the Royal Asiatic Society in Shanghai.