In the run-up to the 2011 Hong Kong Book Fair, which opens this week, Blacksmith Books is featured in a Hong Kong Trader story about publishing in Asia.

Hong Kong has always been viewed by the publishing world as a place to print books rather than to have them published. That’s changing due to shifting global focus on Asia. At Blacksmith Books, bestsellers are tales of a not-often seen Hong Kong. Triads and opium dens, decrepit squatter villages, deities and mythological gods fill works of non-fiction.

“It’s the true stories of Hong Kong people that sell like hotcakes,” says Pete Spurrier, Blacksmith’s founder and publisher. And it isn’t just Hong Kong people reading his publications. He breaks even selling to the local market. His profit comes from overseas.

A writer and editor by trade, Mr Spurrier set up Blacksmith in 2004, when three friends had ideas for books and no house to publish them. All three sold out their initial print runs, and despite a brief sales blip during the 2008 financial crisis, some 70 per cent of titles at Blacksmith regularly sell out. About half are sold in Hong Kong and half to the rest of the world, including Southeast Asia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, where titles are available in mainstream chain bookstores.

Mr Spurrier believes content is key. Blacksmith’s list of Asia-centric materials grows alongside global interest in the region. “We are very lucky that China is always in the news across the world,” he says.

Read the full story, involving other local publishers MCCM Creations, ThingsAsian, P3 Publishing and Chameleon Press, here.