At this year’s BEA the show’s international focus was put on Spain, with many panels on Tuesday about Spanish-language publishing.
Panels, such as “New Digital Technologies in Spain and the U.S.,” looked at the future of e-books and the anticipated launch of Libranda, a new digital platform created by several Spanish publishers, as well as on the publishing panorama in Spain, mainly fiction and children’s literature.
“Spanish Publishing: Distribution of Books in Spanish in the U.S.” consisted of a panel featuring several of the key players in the U.S. Spanish-language book industry. Moderator Silvia Matute, director of Santillana USA’s general books division, said her company’s sales had only a 1% drop in 2009 despite the recession. She said the company’s foundation of textbook sales and a focus, over the last four years, on publishing locally has resulted in overall growth. Meanwhile, Baker &aTaylor’s Queta Fernández conceded that libraries’ budget cuts and the close of branches across the country have had a negative impact on sales.
Panelists, including Spanish publishers’ Lucía Laratelli, Border’s Ernesto Martínez, Bilingual Publication’s Linda Goodman, and B&N book buyer Amanda Schilling, all agreed that more publicity and marketing efforts are needed from publishers to promote Spanish-language titles. Random House’s Carlos Azula, director of foreign language sales, said it often feels nearly impossible to generate the publicity needed for Spanish-language books, given their sales.
“Translations from Spanish into English: Overview, potentials and hurdles,” looked at the recent surge of successful translations of Spanish-language books. Esther Allen, translator and director Center of Literary Translation at Columbia University, moderated the panel, and began by saying she has “never felt so excited, so sanguine about the possibilities of bringing work from Spanish into English…both from Latin America and Spain.”
“It’s now ‘groovy’ again to read translations,” said New Directions’ Barbara Epler. “It’s the new generation that doesn’t care about anything,” such as whether it’s a translation or not, she explained. “They’re just really excited about somebody fabulous.” Epler said there’s now a difference in the way Spanish-language literature is being perceived in the U.S., and it’s reflected in the number of translations from Spanish published today. “It’s more than I’ve ever seen.”
Granta en español’s Valerie Miles noted that there is “an awakening of talent” within Spanish-language literature itself. Miles said an upcoming issue of Granta, The Best of Young Spanish-language Novelists, would highlight translations of works by young novelists under 35. Miles later noted it was important to steer clear of “blanket” labels, such as Latin American literature, because such tags don’t allow for the notion that each writer hails from a different culture and tradition.
Jesús Badenes from Editorial Planeta said one way Spanish authors measure their own success now, is by whether or not they’ve been published in the U.S. and, consequently, Spanish editors and agents are putting more of a focus on making that happen. He also noted that the U.S. is now more concerned about “world matters,” and thus open to reading—and publishing—more works in translation.
Finally, in “Selling rights into the Spanish language markets,” literary agent Diane Finch explained the different factors that must be considered when selling Spanish-language rights. An example she highlighted was the bestseller Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. That book was published in Spain, in Spanish, by new, independent publisher Cantolla, and by Ara Llibres in Catalán. In the States, the book was published in Spanish by Vintage en español in trade paperback and Roca Editorial in mass market. Finch credited her subagents in Spain for facilitating the deals.
Blanca Rosa Roca, director of Roca Editorial, repeated what’s been mentioned many times before—that Spanish-language publishers need to be more proactive about the marketing and promotion of their books and authors. Given that Mortenson and Relin don’t speak Spanish, Roca found other ways to promote the book, such as an author interview on video which was featured on the website. Roca also said that the problem with promoting U.S. authors in Spain wasn’t so much the language barrier—“we can easily provide interpreters”—but more that authors do not wish to go to Spain.