Thomas Nelson Publishers has opened a new division, Thomas Nelson Mexico. Officially launched August 1, a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new facility was held last week in Mexico City. The goal is to “improve our distribution of existing Spanish content, garner access to understanding of the marketplace, and sign local authors whose message intersects with the needs of the local market,” said Larry Downs, v-p and publisher of Grupo Nelson, the company’s Spanish-language division, who oversees the company from Nelson’s headquarters in Nashville. As the only major U.S. Christian publishing house in Mexico, Downs said the division is unique in that it changes the normal distribution model to the Spanish market. Previously, Nelson exported product to Mexican distribution companies servicing local bookstores.

The new division, Downs said, "allows us to work with distributors and booksellers alike by removing multiple impediments to the way Christian distribution has been done for the last 50 years. [Now we are] invoicing in pesos and giving bookstores and distributors the ability to return product." Thomas Nelson Mexico has five sales and administration staff on site, including general director Roberto Rivas, who reports to Downs. An outsourced warehouse there will offer 400 SKUs of Spanish product.

As it did in Brazil, Nelson will seek and acquire indigenous authors. Now, five years after Thomas Nelson Brasil opened, "Sixty percent of the Thomas Nelson Brasil revenue comes from indigenous authors, with the remaining 40%t of revenue from the American authors," Shuttleworth said. Thomas Nelson Mexico signed its first Mexican author, Alejandro Orozco, for a book on social issues, said Downs, and the company plans to sign another six local authors over the next 18 months. Thomas Nelson Mexico books will mainly be marketed in that country. "[We are] publishing Mexican books for Mexican readers," Downs said.

"We’ve been in Mexico for 50 years--it’s not like we’re new--but we’re now taking an active role in selling, distributing, and marketing locally," said Tod Shuttleworth, senior v-p and group publisher for specialty and global publishing. "We have strong distribution there already, but now we have a team on the ground to make it even stronger."

According to Downs, Nelson hopes for the same kind of growth in evangelical Christianity in Mexico it has seen in Brazil, where it launched Thomas Nelson Brasil in 2006 as a joint venture with partner Ediouro Publicacões. The Brazilian unit will continue to operate in that country. Brazil’s 2% evangelical Christian population two decades ago is now estimated at 18%, with projections to 25% by 2020, Downs said, adding that in recent years Mexico has grown from 4% to 5% evangelical Christian to about 9.8%. "The church in Mexico is currently where the Brazilian market was 10 years ago," he stated.