Author: It’s Never Too Early To Think About Your Chinese Name

July 26, 2019


I heard the best-selling author David Baldacci say it’s never too early to learn about one’s business. He advised authors, even first-time novelists, to not sell world rights to an American publisher. He sells rights separately to each individual country so he doesn’t have an American publisher as a buffer between him and his works in other languages. This practice allows him to negotiate better deals around the world.



My additional advice to you is this:


If you’re an author, your book can be sold to publishers in Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong—three separate but sizable Chinese markets. If you negotiate with them individually, you might get opportunities to tour and speak in these places with the expenses paid by the publishers. Not that you can’t get similar arrangements through an American publisher, but sometimes the direct personal contact makes a big difference.


Taiwan and China are the two largest Chinese-language book markets, but they are separate so your book is usually translated to two Chinese versions, not necessarily identical, by two publishers . . . unless you go so far as to have your own Chinese translation done and have the two markets publish the same Chinese text.


If you go the first route, having two or three different Chinese translations of your book, you will likely also have two or three different Chinese book titles. Even if you do this, you should at least be in charge of your Chinese name so all Chinese book translations use the same Chinese characters for your name; otherwise different publishers might have their own idea of what your Chinese name should be and you will end up with two or three different Chinese names.


You should be the one who decides what your Chinese name should be. Have one great name decided by you, not two or three mediocre ones that were quickly transliterated without careful consideration of how they sound or what they convey.



So, author: Get your Chinese name right before you enter the Chinese-language market. Don’t rely on your publisher, who may be really good at the Chinese language but is typically not a naming expert. You want a name that stands out, not a transliterated name that is ordinary and may be difficult to say and hard to remember. You must do everything you can to bolster your career and your chance of success in China. Having a carefully crafted Chinese name that stands out is one simple thing many authors don’t even think about that gives you a great advantage.


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