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Publishing Industry


A Call for an Evolutionary Level of Imagination:
Replacement of Dominant Species

Current status of author management in Korea





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Korea’s Greenbook Agency (CEO Toni Shi-Hyoung Kim) was one of the earliest adopters of the concept of author management. It was originally founded in 2006 as an agency specializing in the international trade of publishing rights. All of its executives, including CEO Kim, are former publishing professionals or translators, and the company has completed more than 1,000 copyright deals. In 2017, the company launched its author management business by signing an exclusive contract with Kim Bo-Young, a major Korean SF writer. Since then, it has signed award-winning fiction and non-fiction writers such as Bora Chung, Djuna, Park Seo-Ryun, Kim Hyun-Jin, Shim Wan-Sun, and Kim Joon-Nyung, and has been representing them in the global content media industry. Currently, the company is the exclusive representative of its 26 member writers, and its services include contract management, IP commercialization, and overall career management. Since expanding its scope to the author management business, the firm has introduced Booker Prize nominee Bora Chung to 23 countries and concluded copyright deals, exported more than 100 translated titles, signed more than 30 IP deals, including domestic and overseas animated webtoons, collaborated with Korea’s largest entertainment company on the development of the worldview of idols, and signed contracts for screenplays. In October 2023, the company signed an “8-year exclusive” contract with writer Bora Chung, which made headlines.


* K-Book Trends Vol. 57 – Go to the interview of writer Kim Bo-Young


* K-Book Trends Vol. 47- Go to the interview of writer Bora Chung


Korea is in the early stage of author management. Unlike in the West, where management has a long history, the concept has only recently taken hold in Korea after the rise and success of celebrity management companies. As such, there is a lack of awareness of author management. Some people even perceive it as “a company that interferes with writers’ contracts and makes them uncomfortable.” However, Greenbook Agency did a very impressive promotion of their writer, Bora Chung, when she was nominated for the Booker Prize. This should help us change our perception of the need for “author management.” Writer Chung’s novel, Cursed Bunny (Rabbithole), was longlisted as one of the 13 finalists for the International category of the Booker Prize in March 2022, and was later shortlisted as one of the six finalists in April. Interestingly, two years later, many readers still think that Bora Chung won the Booker Prize. When they think of Cursed Bunny, the name “Bora Chung” pops up almost as a reflex. Even though Bora Chung didn’t win the Booker Prize that year, her name and the title of her work have become cemented in people’s memories.
This is the first time this has happened in Korea. We can find the answer in the role of Greenbook Agency. They didn’t wait for the final winners to be announced - in April, when it was announced that Bora Chung was among the final 6 on the shortlist, they held a press conference on April 14. Korean media then wrote about the story for about a month and a half until May 26, when the winners were announced. The keywords “Bora Chung and the Booker Prize” got to the top of everyone’s mind in Korea. Just think about it. What other writer in the world would hold a press conference before winning a prize? It was a promotional strategy that would have been nearly impossible without a management company. As such, if you just take a closer look, you will see what an author management company can do. There’s a saying that a book is a business card, just larger. This deconstruction, reorganization, and expansion of the meaning of books is partly the reason why 70,000 titles are published every year in a country with only 50 million people who speak the same language.


Cursed Bunny

Cursed Bunny



MP3 is an audio codec developed under the leadership of the Fraunhofer Research Institute in Germany. It was first released in 1993 and made publicly available in 1997. The MP3 technology literally caused a sensation. It offered digital sound quality that was almost as good as CDs with a small data storage capacity. Korea was already a technological powerhouse in the 1990s. Just a few months later, in late 1997, it made MP3s available to the public by developing the technology to play them on portable devices. The Western countries began to popularize MP3 file sharing through Napster (an online music file sharing service) in June 1999, so Korea was about a year and a half ahead of the curve. At one point, Korea was so far ahead in this technology race that it once held nearly 90% of the global market share for MP3 players. Although it’s just a different way of listening to music, it was a change on a much different level than the evolution from LPs to CDs. The arrival of MP3s instantly changed the entire ecosystem of the pop music industry. The phenomenon in the Korean music industry was similar to the extinction of dinosaurs during the great explosion and subsequent ice age, when mammals survived and became the dominant species in the global ecosystem.
In the cultural ecosystem of pop music, record labels held absolute power before the advent of MP3s. At that time, records were almost the only way for singers to make themselves known to the public, and most of the public’s exposure to pop music was through records. Naturally, record labels were the dominant force in that ecosystem. However, times have changed, and the market has changed dramatically. The arrival of MP3s was a shock to the industry. The pop music industry collapsed in an instant. The record labels were helpless against the infinite reproduction and spread of MP3s on the Internet, and they responded by asking the government for legal regulations. The logic of the music industry at the time was, “If we go out of business, the Korean pop music scene will disappear.” But they were powerless to stop the evolution that had already begun, and most importantly, their prediction was completely wrong.
This is because although the Korean pop music industry went through a period of ups and downs after the record labels lost their hegemony, it managed to globalize after evolving into a system led by management companies. Today, Korean pop music is the driving force behind K-culture, creating a global influence. In contrast, record labels, which neither led nor adapted to the new environment in the Korean music market, have lost their position in the industry. The power in the pop music market that was once held by record labels has been taken over by management companies. Instead of focusing on the production of tangible products such as music records, those who focused on the production of intangible content such as popularity and image as well as the establishment of new distribution structures were the winners.


The publishing industry must also find a way to distribute the knowledge and information
that the age demands commercially.


This evolution in the pop music market has important implications for the publishing industry. Publishing today seems to be facing much the same choices as record labels had at the end of the 20th century. It is not that readers aren’t reading books, it is just that the physical form of books, printed on paper, isn’t being read. People today are “processing” or “consuming” a vast amount of text-based information and knowledge than ever before. It’s not that the demand for information and knowledge has disappeared, it is just that the publishing industry hasn’t yet figured out how to commercially distribute the kind of knowledge information that the times demand. At this point, the publishing industry should not only focus on producing a tangible product called books, but should also explore specific and diverse methodologies for commoditizing and facilitating the distribution of the core elements that make up books, namely the intangible “intellectual value,” in a much wider variety of forms.
However, this is not just about workarounds. If the publishing industry shifts away from the traditional structure of paperback book manufacturing and into the author management system, it will be easier to enter the secondary copyright market that begins with publication. The secondary copyright market can be unimaginably large, depending on the case and the level of the case. While most people think of secondary copyright income as income from renowned writers’ lectures or the sale of original rights to literary works that are adapted into video content, this is a very modest form of secondary copyright - in short, just a “little side income.” For example, if you succeed in branding the image of a chef based on a publication plan and utilize the chef’s image as trust capital, various promising businesses can be possible, from restaurant franchises to the production of various cooking utensils, or even shops specializing in safe food. In other words, the publishing industry would be able to create a second or third Paik Jong-Won, and participate directly in all the income generated from it. And, if the publishing industry succeeds in a project to make an artist famous through publishing management, the publisher would be able to invest in the artist’s work and pursue the results. In short, the publishing industry could become much larger than it is now if it were to leave the current structure of manufacturing.


The author management system will make it much easier
to tap into the huge secondary rights market.


Will media disappear if broadcast stations disappear? If all the newspapers go out of business, will the press disappear? There are certain things that don’t disappear unless human civilization does. Publishing is one of them. This is because publishing serves the function of translating the intellectual values of the time produced by humanity into language, distributing and storing them. However, the situation facing the modern publishing industry is not a simple recession that can be solved by just enduring it. I believe that we need to go deeper than that, into the fundamentals, to find a solution. In light of this awareness, let’s take a closer look at the concept of “author management” in the evolutionary sense of “the replacement of the dominant species following the great extinction.” It is an era that calls for enormous imagination.



Written by Sheen Kim (Publishing critic, and adjunct professor at Hanyang University)



Sheen Kim (Publishing critic, and adjunct professor at Hanyang University)

#Author management#IP#Secondary copyright#Publishing Industry
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