Sanzini. Sanzini, in Korean, refers to a kind of hawk that inhabits the forest and can fly at the highest altitude for a great distance. Publisher Sanzini is an all-round publisher that produces books of various genres, and is a local publisher that represents Busan, Korea. Regardless of its big fanbase, it sometimes faced limitations as a local publisher, but with deliberate efforts and ambitious spirits, it managed to fly higher with stronger wings. Currently, the books of Sanzini are being translated and published in nine countries. Following is the interview with publisher Sanzini, who is flying freely into the world.
Please introduce us to publisher Sanzini.
Publisher Sanzini is a local publisher based in Busan. We aim to be an all-round publisher that covers various genres, including humanities, society, literature, children, and practical fields. We have published more than 600 titles since 2005. While maintaining our value of embodying the ideas and culture of our region as a local publisher, we are trying to publish books as diverse as possible for all readers across the globe. Recently we are expanding our business into e-books and audiobooks, and also putting effort into exporting copyrights to meet overseas readers. Now our translated books have spread into Russia, Japan, China, Thailand, Taiwan, Mongolia, Hongkong, Malaysia, and Vietnam, and we have also won the grand prize for business administration and sales from the Korean Publishing Science Society.
While perpetrating our unique color as a local publisher,
Sanzini strives to provide books of various genres to all our readers.
Is there a specific standard you have when it comes to choosing authors and works to publish?
Publisher Sanzini thinks that good books and writings are those that request readers to think about those marginalized in our community and how to make our world a better place to live. So, texts that make you mature and better understand others would be considered as fine works. In regards to choosing authors and works, what we prioritize is whether the book can be read ten or twenty years later. Good sales performance might be important in the short term, but books that provide various viewpoints toward our society must be published. And if there’s any writer that is ready to cooperate with the publisher to make such books, they are more than welcome.
Publisher Sanzini is a representative “local publisher” in Busan. What was the reason Sanzini started the business in Busan, and what do you think is the strength that local publishers have?
Most of our members are from Busan. It is a sad reality that to publish books, you are suggested to leave your hometown and move to the capital area. We thought that you should be able to, and in fact, can publish in other regions, too. For us, it was Busan. We wanted to give it a go. Of course, there are limitations in cooperating with printing houses and so on, but it is the unique strength of Sanzini that you can discover and reinterpret the meaning of regional culture and art, and manifest the differentiated content of the region in books. In this regard, it is a natural outcome that our main authors and researchers are based in Busan and Gyeongnam. This is the strongest competitiveness of Sanzini.
If you could recommend our readers three of your books, what would they be, and why?
1. <Taste Busan>
Written by journalist Park Jong-Ho from Busan Ilbo, a media outlet in Busan, <Taste Busan> is a cuisine guide introducing must-try foods when you come to Busan. Even though traveling to other countries is strictly controlled due to the pandemic, Busan is one of the most frequently visited tourist destinations in Korea. When traveling, trying the local food is very important as you can understand the region and experience its culture. This food introduces Dwaeji-gukbap (pork and rice soup) and Milmyeon (wheat noodles), which are like soul food for Busan residents. With its publication rights exported to Japan, it was translated into Japanese and has met many Japanese readers.
2. <Happy Local Publishing>
I think anyone that likes reading books might wonder what the publisher of this book is. This book is a compilation of Sanzini’s busy, eventful stories starting from the day we began to prepare for its establishment. From the day when we went from bookstore to bookstore to promote our first book, to the day when we first exported publication rights, experienced a printing accident, and went bankrupt. These episodes are described in a humorous but sad voice. It’s a story that candidly shares the various experiences of a publisher that survived to thrive, tracing the history of local publishers. The supplement, <Weekly Sanzini> allows you to take a sneak peek at the daily life of our members in the office, which is another thing you don’t want to miss. This book has been translated for the Taiwanese market.
3. <The Afternoon is the Future for Those Who Live in the Morning>
We are living in a world where information can be easily obtained from a mobile device in your hand, rather than books. When we meet publishers from other countries at International Book Fairs, we can recognize that the drop in the reading rates is a common issue. The city of Busan is running a reading campaign, which is called “One City One Book.” Every year, a “One Book One Busan Book” is chosen, and citizens have discussions about it. Writer Lee Kook-Hwan’s <The Afternoon is the Future for Those Who Live in the Morning> was selected as the “One Book One Busan Book” last year, which was widely enjoyed by citizens throughout the year. It is a soothing book that ruminates on the meaning and values of life for modern people exhausted from feeling anxious, sad, and in pain.
<Taste Busan>, <Happy Local Publishing>, <The Afternoon is the Future for Those Who Live in the Morning>
We heard that you had signed a contract through a video conference with Patriots Publishing in Malaysia. What does this contract mean to Sanzini, and what achievement have you made through the contract?
Our relationship with Patriots Publishing goes back to 2019, when the Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea (KPIPA) hosted the 2019 Visiting Korean Book Fair in Malaysia. We met the editors from Patriots Publishing at the fair. As our field of interest – humanities, and society – overlapped, we began to exchange emails until we met again at Frankfurt later that year. This provided the foundation for our <Independence Fighter in Paris, Seu Ring-Hai> to be published in Malaysia in 2020, and also introduce Patriots Publishing’s <Chronicle of Great Malay Kings: The Legacy of Old Malacca> and <World Without Walls: II> to Korean readers. The contract we signed is meaningful in that we have expanded our potential to become a “publisher of Asia” from a “publisher of Busan.” We hope that readers from both countries can continue to meet books that help widen their viewpoints toward the world going beyond Western-centered views.
<Independence Fighter in Paris, Seu Ring-Hai>, <Chronicle of Great Malay Kings: The Legacy of Old Malacca>, <World Without Walls: II>
Publisher Sanzini has been the first local publisher to be producing and distributing audiobooks since November last year. What drove you to begin the audiobook service, and how are things going nowadays?
In fact, Sanzini has been conducting market research about the whole production process since seven or eight years ago with great interest in audiobooks. You can easily realize that the environment surrounding the media market would transform rapidly when you look at the overseas publishing trend. However, the conditions for producing audiobooks in Korea were poor. The market was not ready for it. Several years have passed, and now, the e-book and audiobook markets are rapidly growing with a greater number of supporting programs for them. It provides us an opportunity to join the trend. We thought that if you don’t have experience in something, you need to earn it. So, we took the most Sanzini-style approach that we are most confident of by making authors read their work at a local recording studio or cooperating with local artists and hiring actors and actresses from Busan as voice actors/actresses.
Publisher Sanzini will become a publisher that incorporates various voices of people worldwide
and reaches out to global readers through our stories.
What kind of publisher does Sanzini pursue to become, and what are your future plans?
“Sanzini” refers to a type of hawk that lives in the forest and is capable of flying at a high altitude over a long period of time. Just like the bird Sanzini, we hope to become a publisher that constantly makes books that our readers need for a long time. As a local publisher, we will continue working on dismantling the boundary that separates what’s central and peripheral. In this sense, we will once again produce the magazine <Literature/Thoughts> which began last year this year too, embracing various voices from across the world and reaching out to global readers. It’s a little hint – this year’s <Literature/Thoughts> will also be published in English.
Vol 1, 2 of <Literature/Thoughts>
Last but not least, please leave a message for our readers.
We heard that more overseas readers are interested in Korean culture and books thanks to the great popularity of K-Pop and K-Drama. When we go to an international book fair held in other countries, we get to meet many foreigners that speak Korean. Some even said that they began to learn Korean as they became a fan of a K-pop singer when they were young. But, there are various local cultures in Korea along with Seoul, and local publishers that make books in various regions. We believe that if you pay some attention to those books, you will be able to get a three-dimensional understanding of the diverse cultures in Korea.
Organized by Lee Ji-Hyeon