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THe Society of Children's Book Writers and illustrators.

Frequently asked questions

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  1. How do I get started writing children's books?
  2. How does SCBWI membership benefit me here in Japan?
  3. I have written a children's story set in Japan.  Where and how should I try to market it?
  4. How can I get my English-language book translated into a Japanese edition?
  5. Where can I find lists of Japanese publishers and literary agents?
  6. How should I approach publishers in Japan?
  7. As an illustrator do I need to be able to read/speak Japanese to work with Japanese publishers?
  8. I've heard that Japanese Publishers dislike making contracts for illustrators. Is this true?
  9. Where can I get legal advice for book contracts in Japan?
  10. Where can I find English language children's Books in Japan?
  11. Are there any galleries in Japan that specialize in children's illustration?
  12. 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 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.

Members 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 books.

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 SCBWI website;  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 industry information.

Through the main SCBWI website , 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 to writers.

Finally, SCBWI members are eligible for discounts for rental cars, writing supplies and book orders from See the Benefits page of .

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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 information

A literary agency handles most of the translation rights to foreign
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 for consideration.

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 for them.

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 preferably in
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 holder.

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 agency. The
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:

PDF List of Japanese Children’s Book Publishers—Jan. 2009

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 Fax: 03-3233-3645).

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.

Literary Agencies
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 Tokyo 112-0011
Tel: 03-3943-4171
Fax: 03-3943-7637
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
Tel: 03-3406-5385
Fax: 03-3406-5387

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
Tel: 03-3295-0301
Fax: 03-3294-5173

Motovun Co., Ltd. Tokyo
Ms. Mari Koga, President
Co-op Nomura Ichibancho
103, 15-6 Ichibancho, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 102-0082
Tel: 03-3261-4002
Fax: 03-3264-1443

Tuttle-Mori Agency
Mr. Yoshi Iwasaki, Executive director
Dai ichi Fuji
Bldg., 2-15, Kanda-Jinbocho, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo, 101-0051
Tel: 03-3230-4081
Fax: 03-3234-5249

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
Tel: 03-5996-0321
Fax: 03-5996-0323

The Sakai Agency
Ganshodo Bldg., 1-7-12, Kanda-Jinbocho, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo
Tel: 03-3295-1405
Fax: 03-3295-4266

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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 to send
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 list below). 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 something out.

(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 misunderstandings.

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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?

At 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 Counseling Center.

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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
Tel: 03-3406-6409

Crayon House (Osaka Branch)
3-34-24 Tarumi-cho, Suita-city, Osaka
Tel: 06-6330-8071

5-41-5 Okusawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-3721-8186

Kids' Books
2F Kitamura 60-Kan 5-16-1 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150
Tel/fax: 03-5420-1504

Maruzen Books (Marunouchi branch)
2-4F Marunouchi Bldg. 4-1 Marunouchi 2,
Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 100-6304
Tel: 03-5220-7551

(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
Tel: 03-3-3995-0612

The Brian Wildsmith Museum of Art
9-101 Ohmuro Kogen, Ito City,
Shizuoka 413-0235
Tel: 0557-51-7330

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:

Pinpoint Gallery
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

Tom's Box
2-14-7 Kichijoji
Honcho, Musashinoshi, Tokyo 180-0004
Tel/fax : 0422-23-0868

Niji Garo
2-2-10 Kichijoji Honcho,
Musashinoshi, Tokyo 180-0004
Tel : 0422-21-2177
Fax : 0422-21-2166

Bartok Gallery
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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Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators  

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators is the only international organization to offer a variety of services to people who write, illustrate, or share a vital interest in children’s literature.

The SCBWI acts as a network for the exchange of knowledge between writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people.

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Tokyo branch offers members support, information, and education at a local level in mainland Japan.

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