The structure of Spain's publishing business seems more paradoxical every time you look. On one hand, three or four megagroups, each with its panoply of imprints, appear to dominate the market as in no other country. And then there are all those small houses, some of them run by husband-and-wife teams or even singletons, that often lead the pack.
Imagine. Here in Barcelona you find Salamandra, very literally run by a mom and pop. But they bagged the Harry Potter books, and now feast on them. Another mom-and-pop enterprise, the literary beacon called Anagrama, splurges on translation rights for some French bestseller (such as The Sex Life of Catherine M.) whenever it needs a shot in the arm. Then a publisher you've never heard of, Quaderns Crema, turns out to be the Catalan publisher of the newest Nobel winner, Imre Kertész. Houses you're just beginning to hear about, like RBA, Alba or the array of logos in Grup 62, have become choice markets for American and British authors.
But of course some houses are bigger than others. On one of his Barcelona days, PW's visitor clocked five-and-a-half hours talking to publishers at Planeta, Spain's and the Spanish world's leading book group. In another part of town, a Bertelsmann headquarters building houses both the Random House Mondadori trade group and the giant Círculo de Lectores club. Or the large press and magazine combine called Zeta gives shelter to one of the country's leading commercial imprints, Ediciones B.
Mainland Spain's publishers—who by default are almost always the leading publishers in every country in which Spanish is used—released an impressive 62,525 titles in 2001 (55,738 of them new). Another statistic gleaned from the Spanish trade journal Delibros: of the grand total of new and reissued books, 48,500 were published in Spanish/Castilian; 6,669 in Catalan and related regional tongues.
Two-thirds of the country's book production takes place in Madrid and Barcelona, the former stronger in school and reference titles, the latter in general trade books.
Seen from Spain, the market for Spanish-language books in the United States remains "insignificant"; despite the major players involved, such as New York's Random House or the Barcelona imprint Urano in Miami, it is considered "a market in the making." Henceforth, those who are making it will have the help of a Barcelona-based training program on "Global Publishing in Spanish" sponsored by the Association of Bookseller and Publisher Training Organizations, headed by Jordi Nadal, formerly in charge of coordination of mainland Spanish and New World publishing at Bertelsmann (for information: email@example.com).
Small Is Powerful
In Western Europe at least, there doesn't seem to be another book city with as many small and medium-sized publishers whose vision shapes their production, with little or no interference from bankers or other backers, as Barcelona enjoys.
Salamandra is the textbook case already cited, a pocket-sized house founded by Pedro del Carril, then one of the family owners of Argentina's large general trade publisher Emecé. Indeed, in its first year, as a minority partner with his father and brothers, he published under the logo Emecé España. More recently, when the Argentine company was acquired by Spain's Planeta group, Carril was able to buy the balance of the shares of the Spanish affiliate, and promptly rechristened it Salamandra.
It seems as small as it ever was but now packs a punch. Last time PW's correspondent visited Carril and his wife, Sigrid Kraus, who serves as publisher, they were just getting ready to put the first Harry Potter on the market; now they've done all four (totaling five million sales—probably the most copies ever sold in so short a time in Spain). So they aren't complaining, despite Planeta's purchase and closing down of the family house back in Argentina.
Has success spoiled the Carril-Kraus team? "Our philosophy is to use hand-craft, knowing every book we publish," replies Pedro—who designs his own jackets. One book a week is the tempo. At Salamandra, 95% of the list is translated, but not always from English. Indeed, the year's bestsellers—about 70,000 copies each—were fiction by Hungarian Sandor Márai and Chinese Dai Sijie. Zadie Smith's White Teeth did upward of 20,000 copies. The couple is also doing well with the detective novels of Boris Akunin and the successive novels of Andrea Camilleri. Nicci French is in a new series for the youngest adult generation, and they also do Pauline Gedge, Maeve Binchy, Nicholas Sparks and Rosamund Pilcher.
The house almost never loses money on a book. "We love this job," Pedro del Carril says. He expects 90% of publishing to fall into the hands of groups but hopes to be one of the remaining 10%.
Then there is this college professor who can't keep away from books, especially the ones he can acquire and publish: meet Jaume Vallcorba of Quaderns Crema (Catalan for "Beige Notebook"). Actually, like so many Barcelona publishers, he publishes a Spanish list as well. Both the Spanish and Catalan companies are resolutely literary, the former doing more young authors, the latter more international stars (Tolstoy, Jakob Wassermann, Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth, Imre Kertész). Vallcorba founded the Catalan house in December 1979, its Spanish sister 20 years later, and all his choices are personal picks. His translations are more likely to come from German or French than from English, because the former titles are easier to buy.
There are 45 new books a year at El Acantilado, not much more than 15 at Quaderns Crema, for Catalan books don't sell as well as they did in the early post-Franco years. An original title can break even with a run of 1,000 copies; translations call for somewhat more than that. If half the Spanish list is translated, only one in five at Quaderns is, because Catalans, when they read, want to read their own authors.
Tusquets is another textbook case. At least twice in this reporter's memory, it sold half its equity to a larger publisher—only to buy it back again. The partners, CEO Antonio López Lamadrid (with 60%) and publisher Beatriz de Moura (with the balance), seem to do best when they're on their own. "Maybe it won't work forever, but it gives us peace now," says Toni López. "We're building a catalogue of authors who really belong to us," adds de Moura, thereby revealing the house secret. A name that appears in the catalogue will be repeated many times (John Irving, for instance). While the visitor was in town, the house was expecting visits from two of its well-known American authors, Arthur Miller and Woody Allen.
It's not a small, but a medium-sized house, headquartered in a charming villa in its own large garden at the top of the city; apart from that extravagance, Tusquets earns good money but doesn't throw it around. Spain is not a bad market nowadays, López says. Spanish America is not so good, "but you don't give up, because Spain isn't big enough." His summing up of the situation might have been delivered by any of the publishers interviewed in Barcelona, for none of them was about to write off Spanish America.
There are some 65 new titles a year at Tusquets, 70% in fiction, and that's the way its customers want it. One change here is that Spanish originals now do better than translations, and so three books in four are by native writers. (There was a time when 80% of the list was translated.) A recent bestseller list features three Tusquets authors—all Spanish—in the three top positions. Note that the Spanish authors in vogue are all from mainland Spain; the great generation of Latin Americans—including García Márquez, Vargas Llosa and now Isabel Allende, seems to be ending with them. Tusquets operates companies in Argentina and Mexico, the former downgraded to a simple distributor of the Spanish list. You can sell up to 3,000 copies of a book in Argentina now; a bestseller in Mexico can do 25,000.
Anagrama is another smallish house with a colossal reputation (75 new titles per annum, plus 25 paperback reprints). Fiction and nonfiction come in equal proportions. Publisher Jorge Herralde is a publisher of authors; when he acquires a new one, he hunts down backlist titles like a gumshoe. He shows the visitor proofs of Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex, won in a tough auction, for he had earlier done the author's first novel, The Virgin Suicides. Herralde began publishing Patricia Highsmith late, but managed to translate 22 of her books, and now he has been given the opportunity to pick up the 11 earlier titles he had missed.
Among English-language authors, he follows Paul Auster from book to book, does Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Richard Ford, Raymond Carver; in nonfiction, Oliver Sacks, Harold Bloom. Two-thirds of the list is translated, and two-thirds of the translations are from English.
Herralde, a familiar figure in international publishing circles, is an optimist about the market, possibly because he is one of the independents who is prospering despite a certain atmosphere of gloom abroad. Overproduction—in every genre—is a malady of our times, thinks he. For Anagrama, this year was one of the two best in the company's history.
In the beginning, Sylvia Lluis was working in her father's Oceano group, Spain's and Spanish America's giant reference publisher, when she decided that she would go it alone, publishing biographies of women; she chose the logo Circe (for Homer's wicked lady who turns men into swine). Her very first pick is now a house standby: a biography of Frida Kahlo. After a number of such books, including biographies of Jane Bowles, Sylvia Plath and Colette, she broadened her horizon, adding biographies of members of the other sex (Jackson Pollock, Fellini). The next swing brought in quality fiction. One of her early choices was Don DeLillo.
Today Lluis does no more than 15 titles a year, but they are still the cream. Among recent releases: Don DeLillo's The Body Artist and his essay on 9/11 from Harper's Magazine; the Carl Rollyson-Lisa Paddock bio of Susan Sontag; Carole Seymour-Jones on T.S. Eliot's wife Vivienne.
Small, Specialized, Niche Markets
Formerly the mainland Spanish base for the prestigious Sudamericana group in Buenos Aires, Edhasa remained in family hands when Bertelsmann took over the Argentinian company. PW sits down with publisher Daniel Fernández, publisher and minority partner in the now-independent firm. All of the news PW hears from Fernández sounds good, with constantly rising sales of a list strong in popular history and historical novels, many of them translated from English (Bernard Cornwell, C.S. Forrester, Allan Massie, Zoé Oldenbourg), but also a growing list of young Spanish literary authors. Edhasa also does well with hardcover reprints of classics old (Emily Brontë) and contemporary (Steinbeck, Lampedusa, Arthur C. Clarke), books that many publishers no longer bother with in the rush to flood the market with new titles.
Edhasa is now a partner in a new grouping of independent houses—the others being Anagrama, Tusquets, Grup 62 and Salamandra—producing their own paperback line called Quinteto, although each partner puts its own logo on the title page and back cover. The hope is that, with aggressive marketing, the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. For Daniel Fernández is convinced that despite the proliferation of megagroups, unaffiliated smaller houses still have a long life ahead of them. This year, Edhas released 85 new titles. At the moment three-quarters (or more) of the list comes from other languages, a proportion that will change as Edhasa develops its own Spanish list. This is the most difficult part of his job, he adds, because the big groups are now fighting for the Spanish authors who sell.
Paidos was set up in Argentina 57 years ago—at the height of Spain's Franco-Fascist era—by two professors of psychology; they gave the imprint an image of seriousness it has never abandoned. A Spanish branch was opened at the time Argentina fell prey to a military dictatorship of its own. The present publisher, Enrique Folch, joined the company in 1979 in Barcelona, later opening a third branch in Mexico. An earlier Argentine financial crisis all but put an end to doing business in that country, and Mexico collapsed soon after that. The Spanish company endured. Today the Argentine branch survives largely on handouts, releases 40 to 50 new titles each year to Barcelona's 150 to 160; another 20 come from Mexico.
Quality nonfiction remains the name of the game here; Enrique Folch claims market leadership in his specialties. He puts his faith in American scholarship, American social science; his benchmark is Harvard University Press. A typical Paidos product is a translation of Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy by John Rawls (from Harvard). As he speaks to PW, Folch removes one massive tome after another from the shelf to make a point; soon the table groans with the load. The books of Naomi Klein (including No Logo), Arthur C. Danto's After the End of Art. Seven books in 10 here are translations, and half the translations are from English.
Folch's wife, Norma Fenoglio, set up Oniro five years ago to do books on parenting and brain games for child development—but also on Eastern philosophy and religion, health and natural therapy; there are series on science made simple and medical self-help. Fenoglio produces between 50 and 55 new books a year, with parenting accounting for up to 15 of them. It's a translated list, 95% of it from English, so Fenoglio found it amusing that so many orders comes from the United States—from libraries filling their shelves with Oniro's productions—serious, but easy to read. (She found 25 American librarians at the October Spanish International Book Fair called Liber.)
Then the Omega group, although CEO Antonio Paricio prefers to see it as a collection of independent publishers: Omega itself, for science and nature; Ediciones Medici for child care and development, as well as practical books; Iberia, which, in fact, was at the origin of the company 80 years ago, for Greek, Roman, and Spanish classics.
Omega itself used to be known for university textbooks, until it was "killed by photocopying," explains Anna Dexeus, co-editorial director of Omega (and 50-50 partner in the Medici imprint). It now publishes "everything except contemporary fiction."—about 60 new books a year, some of them major scientific works representing a couple of years of investment and adaptation. And then there is Omega Infante, an upmarket line drawing its inspiration and raw materials from houses such as Walker in New York—but also from the U.K.'s Barefoot Books (My Very First Book of Pirates).
Anna Dexeus's Medici publishes 30 titles annually, much of American origin (where parenting is king). She shows her Spanish editions of What to Expect When You're Expecting and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.
RBA Libros is one of Spain's newest publishers, although it preexisted as a packager and producer of partworks, and is the proud publisher of the Spanish edition of National Geographic (also of Playboy). It set up its trade imprint three years ago, originally to focus on health and self-help. A year later, it moved into general publishing, and for that recruited the top editorial staff of Grup 62 (profiled below). They include Oriol Castanys as publishing director, Anik Lapointe (a Canadian) as editorial director and Ua Matthiasdottir (an Icelander) as rights manager. Their writ: to do serious books. They began with a nice dowry—the National Geographic Society's publications, among them an Andes photo essay with a text by Mario Vargas Llosa.
There is a persuasive literary list (fiction and nonfiction both), coexisting with practical books (how-to, self-help), health, nature, alternative therapies. All this, with a general publishing imprint (La Magrana) for Catalan readers. All told, a yearly production of 130 new titles in Spanish, plus another 40 in Catalan. A full 80% of the total is translated.
What they are now looking for, Castanys tells PW, are first-class literary thrillers and quality fiction. Their own big book—sure to find publishers in English and German, at least—is The Photographer of Mauthausen. The photographer in question was Francisco Boix, a Catalan Communist whom the Germans used to take pictures in the camp. He smuggled out an incredible collection of scenes of daily existence, then recorded the camp's liberation with his camera.
And then PW enters into the mysterious world of Urano, founded back in 1983 to translate New Age and alternative medicine—"mind-body-spirit, as they say," explains publisher Gregorio Vlastelica. The visitor talks to him and to his editor Aranzazu Sumalla. The early lists sold well—until there was too much of the same thing on the market, some of it recycled. Urano then took a giant step in a new direction with romantic fiction. There were no spectacular results, but they earned a considerable number of faithful readers. From there into bestselling fiction and women's books. And although most of the big names were already accounted for, they did find authors good for the long haul.
The logo for the new direction is Umbriel. Its most recent catalogue leads off with The 25th Hour by David Benioff, Mail by Erik Bogosian, K-Pax by Gene Brewer, Kingdom of Shadows by Alan Furst. Sumalla describes a more recent series for young adults, with authors such as Philip Pullman and Sally Lockhart.
Meanwhile, Urano still works the mind-body-spirit genre. Among bestsellers and longsellers here: Louis L. Hay's You Can Heal Your Life, which has sold 400,000-plus copies in Spanish, and the same author's The Power Is Within You (270,000 copies). Then there's Harvey and Marilyn Diamond's Fit for Life (close to 180,000), Linda Goodman's Sun Signs (109,000). Eighty new releases per annum, more or less, including a new series of business books (imprint Empresa Activa), a series that grew out of the house's huge success with Who Moved My Cheese?
It's evident that almost everything here is translated, and from American English.That, however, will change; Vlastelica wants it to. He knows quite well that Spanish authors now dominate bestseller lists. Another plan is to do more serious titles in subjects that have grown in meaning to general readers—genetics, for example. In another new departure, Urano has opened an office in Miami to promote its books from a bilingual catalogue. The challenge will be to obtain Spanish-in-America rights from U.S. publishers who are now doing their own Spanish lists.
In an earlier report from Spain, PW described the beginnings of Alba Editorial, offspring of a local newspaper group, and originally dedicated to publishing out-of-print classics. Publisher Maria Antonia de Miquel explains some of the changes that have occurred since. For one thing, if the little logo was launched to do trade paperbacks, it is now publishing in pricier hardcovers, for this is what the market seems to prefer.. Last year Alba sent out 50 new releases. Joining the general trend to title reduction, the house will do only a few over 40 this year. Some will be part of a new line of literary fiction by Spanish authors.
Two buildings in Barcelona contain the world headquarters of Spanish publishing groups that largely determine what people will be reading tomorrow not only in Spain but in Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela, not to forget large swaths of Miami, Los Angeles and New York City. One of these buildings belongs to Planeta, Spain's leading book publisher, and a contender for first place in the publishing cities of Latin America as well. The other to Bertelsmann—shared by Bertelsmann Direct's astonishing Círculo de Lectores club (astonishing because it combines an upscale catalogue with a viable business) and the Random House Mondadori congeries of general trade houses.
Planeta is still a family company (100% of shares belonging to the founder's family), with separate divisions for reference and trade publishing, door-to-door sales and export. A joint venture called Planeta-De Agostini co-publishes with its Italian look-alike in such areas as illustrated encyclopedias, dictionaries, art books, partworks and magazines.
PW meets Jesús Badenes, in charge of the trade book group, which consists of 12 imprints in Spain and Latin America. He describes a just-completed reorganization of the company: once known as a book group, henceforth it is a communications group.The hope is to create synergies, say by converting Planeta books into Planeta movies. In trade books, Planeta's strategy is to attain critical mass in any language in which it undertakes to publish.
Although Planeta is a family company not about to go public (its challenger in the top echelon, Santillana, is public), Badenes assures the visitor that the group is as cautious in its operations as a shareholding corporation should be. He speaks of new strengths in Latin America—for example, its Colombian affiliate has caught up and passed Norma, previously that country's number one. Planeta publishes in Miami—even in English, notably with a series called Our Heroes (promoting pride in Latino civilization). The group believes that it has managed to obtain good coverage of the seven American states in which Spanish readership is significant—learning to publish differently for each of the Spanish-American reading publics "We want to make progress in the States and we'll push every possible button to do so."
Badenes confesses that with so many imprints going into the home market, some house rules have been laid down—for example, no competition inside the building; the first publisher to express interest in a title gets priority. PW took a closer look at trade imprint Planeta, the largest of the group, and the first historically, with 120 new titles a year in Spanish, 10 more in Catalan, divided equally between fiction and nonfiction (in the latter category, there might be 35 Spanish originals to 25 translations). Here the visitor talks first with Emili (Emilio in Spanish) Rosales, editor for Spanish fiction, an area in which the house goes for gold, doing some of the country's most popular writers. Planeta also bestows the country's most valuable award, judged on manuscripts submitted anonymously; the winner is sure to sell 300,000 copies (and sometimes 400,000), the prize serving as an advance.
Then Berta Noy, publisher of foreign fiction (using the logo Planeta Internacional), describes a program of translations that goes beyond the usual Anglo-American crowd: Paulo Coelho, for example, French Egyptologist Christian Jacq, Dominique Lapierre—and Tom Clancy, too, along with Mario Puzo, Nelson DeMille and a roster of thriller writers, many of them young and British. Joan Eloi Roca, nonfiction editor, points out that most of his authors are Spanish, for the subjects are Spanish (history, biography, popular science). Translations have to be really big books (such as George Soros on globalization).
Elena Ramirez Rico, chief editor of Planeta's Seix Barral, is a member of a new team put in place only in the last two or three years. She has been given responsibility for re-creating Seix Barral's literary past, reviving backlist even if she must renegotiate rights, going after the stars of the Latin American boom (such as Mario Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes) whom they lost over the years. Critics are helping out by treating the golden oldies as new books. Of the 50 annual titles, half are translations (Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections is in the latest catalogue, and they have recently taken on Philip Roth).
As for the Seix Barral makeover, it's been a long haul, and they're still a year away from profit. They do intend to respect the standards of the original Seix Barral—quality in subject and in writing (among recent choices: Sebastien Haffner's memoirs, Richard Webster's Why Freud Was Wrong, Sebastien Smith's Allah's Mountains: The Battle for Chechnya). In fiction, Destino will continue to be centered on the house's prestigious literary awards (like the Planeta Prize, judged on manuscript).
And so to Crítica, a prestigious nonfiction imprint that has been in the Planeta galaxy since 1998. Here PW speaks to founder Gonzolo Pontón (who continues to hold a 30% share of this gem of a house) and publisher Carmen Esteban; they describe a current program in history ancient and modern, archeology, science, philosophy and the Spanish classics including Cervantes. The staff of five manages to publish 115 new titles each year, up to 85% of them translations. "British historians often write better about Spain than our own authors do," Esteban explains. Crítica's greatest asset is its backlist.
Martinez Roca was another traditional publisher, in the family since its founding in 1965, acquired by Planeta in 1992. Laura Falco, present managing director, explains the imprint's transformation from a publisher of esoterica, New Age, science fiction and horror, to a general trade publisher. It's also a very eclectic one, with nonfiction ranging from biography to practical manuals.In fiction they haven't given up on horror à la Stephen King, and draw historical novelists thanks to an annual award. There is also young adult fiction (à la The Neverending Story).
Here, finally, PW discovers the new face of Emecé, long one of Argentina's leading trade publishers, a family company until Planeta acquired it two years ago, moving the Buenos Aires landmark into Planeta's own offices in the Argentine capital, then opening a Spanish-based imprint of the same name. Each operates on its own, sharing some authors but not all. PW meets Valerie Miles, CEO of Emecé Editores in Barcelona, who holds the same job at Ediciones del Bronce, relaunched this year as a general upscale publisher, with translations from just about everywhere.
Miles profiles the new Emecé for PW: some 30 titles a year, plus new volumes in the complete fiction of Jorge Luis Borges. At Bronce: another 18 books, including John Cheever, Richard Russo, Kawabata. An American transplanted to Barcelona, Miles finds it exciting to have joined this company, with its long and well-deserved reputation of publishing great and good writers, and is conscious that in pursuing the job, she will also be innovating.
Spain's German and Italian Connection
In the beginning was Bertelsmann, which years ago acquired a major bestseller imprint (Plaza y Janés) and ran with it, all the while developing its Círculo de Lectores into Spain's biggest and best book club. Mondadori, Italy's market leader, came later, using its own name to do upmarket fiction out of Madrid, beginning with a splash by paying top dollar for an upcoming work of Gabriel García Márquez, then buying up his backlist. It went on to take over Barcelona's Grijalbo, another bestseller specialist, whose strong position in Spanish America made it an eminently worthwhile buy.
The two media giants, Bertelsmann and Mondadori, were already working together in Italy (on the club scene, for example); then why not in Spain and Latin America? So Random House Mondadori was born.
The news is that the two groups have completed the integration of their assets, and Mondadori's Grijalbo has moved into what used to be called Bertelsmann group headquarters, joining its one-time rival and now partner Plaza y Janés.
Nuría Tey, publisher for commercial fiction and nonfiction of the merged houses, assures PW that the transition has been a smooth one. Each of these bestseller specialists will keep its own authors. Only when it makes sense will there be a merger of series. Tey is overseeing the changeover.
Of course, the merger upset booksellers and alarmed literary agents, for it represented a sea change in the Spanish book world. Tey's experience—17 years at Grijalbo before joining the rival Plaza y Janés—helped a good deal in the transition. She admits that the market has been unusually quiet for everybody this year. But that shouldn't prevent a powerhouse from showing its power, notably with the first volume of García Márquez's memoirs (which, according to trade magazine Delibros, cost the publisher "millions" of dollars).
PW's visitor also sat with Deborah Blackman, editorial director for Plaza y Janés and Grijalbo, which, she stressed, was henceforth a single entity inside the headquarters building while remaining two different publishers to the public. Silvia Querini's literary division is responsible for another 120 titles a year divided among four imprints. One of them, with 40 titles, is Mondadori—everybody's publisher in Italy, but an imprint for upscale publishing in Spain. Another (with 35 titles) is Lumen, a traditional literary house; and Debate (another 40) for literary classics. Last but not least: Galaxia Gutenberg, a publisher of fine illustrated and art books published by Hans Meinke, book-loving former director of the Círculo club.
It's a hop, skip, and a jump to call on Círculo de Lectores, the Bertelsmann book club that tries harder. Managing director Fernando Carro, who receives PW in the company of the club's program director Joan Tarrida, explains that the club is celebrating its 40th anniversary, to be marked by release of a superb newly illustrated edition of The Divine Comedy, which it is selling around the world. Círculo now counts 1.4 million active members (which means households), employing more than 5,000 commission agents who not only take orders but actually carry books to homes and offices (since the Spanish post office doesn't deliver packages).
The club sends out a new catalogue every two months and another at Christmas, offering an annual total of 500 new selections (in all categories, including children's). Twenty percent of them are exclusives—produced for club members. Since the club prints its own editions, it can set its prices (low, usually at 15%—20% off list). The club doesn't stress the value of its discounts, notes Carro; members know that they are getting a deal. But the lead title in the latest catalogue, García Márquez's memoir, does indicate that members will be getting it for 11% less than the retail price.
Joan Tarrida points out that the club is publishing an increasing number of selections simultaneously with the original publisher (something that French law, for example, doesn't allow). "We help each other; word-of-mouth from members brings more buyers into bookstores."
The Zeta Group is something of a Spanish Mondadori, with daily, weekly, and monthly periodicals, also producing and distributing CD-ROMs throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Its affiliate Ediciones B is one of the language's leading international players, with half a dozen subsidies in the key publishing centers of Latin America, and distributors in Miami and Puerto Rico.
Since PW's last visit, Ediciones B has taken over one of the major Argentinian publishers, Vergara, maintaining it as a separate imprint for fiction and nonfiction, publishing illustrated and children's books under both imprints. Carlos Ramos, formerly in charge of Mexican operations, now deputy general manager of the group in Barcelona, speaks of the new strategy of publishing small lists in Argentina and Mexico using either the B or Vergara logo (a new logo was invented for local publishing in Chile).
Santiago del Rey, B's editorial director, unveils an impressive operation covering a broad range of adult books, while his colleague Susanne Theune does the same for the children's and illustrated divisions.
Marisa Tonezzer speaks for Vergara, source of an impressive catalogue of blockbuster and "serious" authors, again being made available to Spanish readers on both sides of the Atlantic.
All this adds up to 360 new titles per annum, not counting the 300-plus reprints. Its buying power allows the B group to splurge on Nadine Gordimer and Margaret Atwood, even as it fills bookshop windows with John Grisham and Michael Connelly. There are separate series for quality and commercial women's fiction, for historical novels, for science fiction, biographies and memoirs.
Overall, three books in four released by the group are translations, four out of five of the translations are from English, most of the English is American.
Another 40th anniversary is being celebrated—that of the 62 Group, the child of a group of Catalan patriots determined to publish in their language at a time (under Generalissimo Franco) when it was inadvisable to do so. Miraculously, the publisher survived, and became one of the prides of postwar Spanish democracy.
It's a group now—with Edicions 62 and Empúries publishing its lists in Catalan; Península, Diagonal and Aleph in Castilian. The flagship house covers the field, as it did in the pioneering years, with fiction and nonfiction, upmarket contemporary literature in translation, biographies and memoirs, poetry, theater and Catalan classics. In its early years, when the 62 group was virtually inventing a literature, it was able to choose from the best books of the whole world, many of them sorely needed in Catalan translation. Even today its backlist resembles a library of the best that was thought and said just about everywhere.
Here PW meets a new team, group editorial director Martina Ros, with Pilar Bertran, 62's chief editor. They outline a program handling 100 new books a year, half of them translations. English dominates, and is obviously strongest on the commercial side. This imprint translates John le Carré, as well as Amy Tan, Paul Auster and Saul Bellow, Günter Grass and Primo Levi, John Irving and P.D. James—also Stephen King.
One hitch: Bertran explains that her customers were so used to finding Anglo-American commercial fiction in Castilian Spanish translations that they acquired the notion that one should read a bestseller in Spanish rather than Catalan. But the group's other Catalan imprint, Empúries, through the voice of publisher Bernat Puig, would like it to be known that Catalan doesn't necessarily signify small printings. The four Harry Potter books have sold 300,000 copies here, Sophie's World 100,000, The God of Small Things 60,000.
The group's first Spanish-language imprint, Península, was founded only a year after the establishment of 62. The original purpose was to have a means of getting the kinds of nonfiction 62 was experimenting with into the principal national language. It was also, admits its publisher Manuel Martos, a matter of economics, for one couldn't imagine remaining solvent with books in Catalan alone. What happened was that Catalan book sales soared and Península remained on the ground. Today it's a successful publisher of high-level history and social science (but crime novels, too).
Juan Milá is the editorial director of El Aleph, a new name for Mario Muchnik's original eponymous imprint. That pugnacious publisher had sold his company and set up a new one within Madrid's Anaya group, creating some confusion when the original house continued to utilize his name. The rechristening (to El Aleph) reduced hard feelings everywhere, or should have. Milá's current list includes Margaret Atwood, James Salter and Michael Cunningham. It's very much a backlist publisher, too, with Bruce Chatwin, Jorge Amado and E.L. Doctorow. Some 60 new books a year, three-quarters of them translations.
Finally, Diagonal, whose publisher Camila Enrich describes a category publisher targeting ravenous readers in thrillers, and that category called "literary crime," also family sagas and commercial nonfiction. Obviously, she is competing with the very biggest Spanish trade houses, and she has Richard North Patterson, James Patterson, Elizabeth George, Fay Weldon and Robert Ludlum, not to forget voices from the past such as Eric Ambler and Horace McCoy, to help her do it.