Nubia Macias, director of FIL (the Guadalajara Book Fair), the largest Spanish-language book fair in the world, sat with PW to discuss the U.S. participation at this year's show. Macias, who has been director since 2003, is the face of FIL in Mexico and around the world. With over 2,000 publishers participating this year--a figure up notably from last year--the focus has been Latin America. Another change is that FIL, known as a Spanish-language book fair, has placed a greater emphasis on the participation of countries where Spanish is not the native language. It has also been trying to lure more authors, and not just publishers, to the fair.
"We wanted to give the fair a more Latin American flavor, so we have publishers from all over the continent, along with over 200 high quality writers from Latin America," said Macias. Chile, this year’s host country, brought more than 100 writers as part of its delegation. Macias said this has been highly appealing for U.S. librarians, distributors, and publishers, as many look to meet the needs of a very diverse Hispanic book reading population in the U.S. To that end, the rights center is an area where the fair has had significant growth in the last few years, as publishers from the U.S., France, Italy, the UK, and Asia look to Latin America for fresh, new voices. It is, as some at the fair say, proof that a Latin American "boom" is under way.
Historically, rights for Spanish-language books were primarily managed by Spanish publishers, which had outposts in Latin America. But a growing number of Latin American publishers are now managing more of their author's literary rights. With that shift, FIL has become a focal point for rights negotiations. This is not only changing the Spanish-language book industry, it's also allowing for more translations of works by Latin American authors.
The growth of the fair isn’t just coming from Latin America, either. Since Brazil is not a Spanish-speaking country, it is often excluded from the Spanish-language book industry. This year, however, the country has significantly ramped up its presence at the fair. Brazil, looking to be a significant player in the Latin American publishing boom, no longer wishes to be considered just a Portuguese market in the Americas. As Europe’s financial struggles linger, and Latin America continues to see economic growth, this trend is likely to continue. There is also a noticeable increase in the presence of publishers and agents from the U.S. and Asia, as Macias points out. "Asian publishers are discovering this market, whereas U.S. publishers are rectifying [it]."
For all the the change, FIL is not looking to be clumped in with other major international shows, like Frankfurt and London. Nor is it looking to compete with these events. Macias puts it this way: "FIL wants to be a party where book readers and writers come together, and for the fair to be a place where the publishing industry can get to know writers. We want to facilitate the match between quality content and the business world."