BEIJING-Drinks, cheers, and applause. It's the world's biggest book fair. The Frankfurt, in its 70-year history, has never hosted a themed event dedicated to a Chinese author, until a few weeks ago.

Mai Jia, China's Dan Brown, brought his spy thriller "The Message" to the event, where copyrights for more than 15 countries were sold or agreed upon within hours. Previously, his "Decoded" has sold hundreds of thousands of copies in 33 languages - a hard-won success for Chinese authors, as Western publishers rarely put translated novels before their own bestsellers, according to Tan Guanglei, Mai Jia's literary agent. Matching a well-written, smartly-translated story with a top publisher is the key to success in foreign markets. In short, "it's all about picking up the right book and taking it to the right people," Tan said. Readers around the world have been captivated by John le Carre's "Cold War" mysteries and Ian Fleming's "James Bond" series. Mai Jia's novels are unique for adding a Chinese touch into the genre.

His "Decoded" is a legend about an orphaned math genius devoted to cryptography and deciphering, while "The Message" features a locked-room spy game set in China in the 1940s. Wang Dewei, a Harvard professor of Chinese literature, said the story intrigues readers with a riddle to solve.

Mai Jia attributed his popularity among foreign readers mainly to his books' translation. A good translation could give a novel a "second life," he said. Both his books were translated by Olivia Milburn, an Oxford graduate in ancient Chinese. English readers were impressed by the classic beauty and elegant taste of the language in "Decoded".

"This strange, twisting tale is told in fizzy, vivid and often beautiful prose," reads an Economist review, calling it a book "everyone should read" and Milburn's translation "a treasure." With Mai Jia's brand appeal and Milburn's strength in language, foreign publishers expect "The Message" to become another global hit. Mai Jia is not the only Chinese author who benefited from good translation. Liu Cixin's sci-fi epic, "The Three-Body Problem" translated into English by Ken Liu, garnered the Hugo Award, known as the sci-fi Nobel Prize.

Readers gave it four-and-a-half stars on Amazon's book review page, saying Ken Liu's translation "made incredibly smooth reading as if it were the original work."

Ken Liu, a Chinese-American sci-fi writer himself, said a translator would deliver the author's thoughts and emotions accurately "only if he could hear the author's voices in his mind."

The translation itself won't necessarily make a bestseller. A touching story that resonates with global readers is a must, literary critics said.

The London Book Review called the Three-Body trilogy "one of the most ambitious works of science fictions ever written." It created a brand-new world, picturing a universe far beyond the three-dimensional world and predicted catastrophic consequences of humanity's attempt to contact an alien civilization, the review said.

At the 2018 Frankfurt event, the German version of Liu Cixin's "Dark Forest", the second volume in the series, became the talk of the town.