Over the past several years, there has been a shift among distributors and wholesalers of books in Spanish in the U.S. Distributors such as Baker & Taylor no longer purchase inventory from publishers outside of the U.S. due to the expense of returning unsold titles. Other distributors/wholesalers have become much more selective in what they offer, again due to returns, as shipping books back and forth is a significant cost.
One company that has been successfully supplying Spanish-language books to the U.S. for 17 years is Spanish Publishers. The company has its roots in a failed effort by Ediciones Urano, a mid-size publisher in Spain that tried to run an office in the U.S. at the end of the 1990s to distribute its books here. But the costs of a warehouse, personnel, and other expenses became too great, and the management team looked for a different way to reach American readers interested in Spanish-language books. Recognizing that other independent Spanish-language publishers were also looking for a model that would allow them to enter the U.S. market, Ediciones Urano joined in 2002 with three other Spanish publishers to create Spanish Publishers. Based in Miami and now run by Lucia Laratelli, the consortium distributes more than 6,000 Spanish-language titles to the U.S. and adds about 100 new releases a month.
In addition to Ediciones Urano, the other founding partners of Spanish Publishers are Ediciones Obelisco, Editorial Sirio, and Roca Editorial. The business created by the group allows publishers to enter the U.S. market with their entire catalogue and not a handful of titles selected by a distributor. To this partnership, 11 more publishers, mostly from Spain but with a few from Mexico, have become members, but not owners, of Spanish Publishers. In total, Spanish Publishers offers the entire front and backlist titles from 15 publishers across a wide number of categories.
PW spoke with Laratelli, who explained how the Spanish Publishers model works. There is a set of fixed costs that each publisher shares according to their percentage of sales throughout the year. If a publisher’s sales fall in one year, the company will pay less and be able to survive a difficult year. In addition, publishers pay for their own expenses, mostly marketing and import costs. Each company keeps the profit produced by the sales of their titles, minus their own expenses and shared expenses. Spanish Publishers operates as an LLC in order to facilitate the way it distributes the company’s profits, Laratelli says. “Our combined sales shows growth year over year and does not match the chart of the individual publishers as they might have ups and downs depending on titles published that year,” she says.
This model gives libraries, bookstores, and other book buyers access to the entire catalogue of 15 different publishers from one seller, one sales rep, and through one combined catalogue. According to Laratelli, Spanish Publishers has been able to garner a “decent share” of the Spanish-language book market in the U.S. for its participating companies, which lets it compete with the larger players when it comes to negotiating terms with distributors and booksellers.
At present, Laratelli is happy with the size of Spanish Publishers. While publishers are constantly reaching out to join the group, Laratelli is careful in expanding so as not to dilute the service publishers receive.