This column marks the start of PW’s monthly coverage of the Spanish-language book market in the U.S. As part of our kickoff, we spoke with Leylha Ahuile, who is spearheading PW’s efforts to provide the latest information about books in Spanish and the trends that are affecting the market.
What is your background?
I was born in Chile and raised in Chicago. My love for books started through audiobooks, as I found them to be a great tool for improving my pronunciation of English. I began my publishing career in the textbook business as a sales representative for Santillana. I went on to be the v-p of trade books and publisher at Santillana until I started my own consulting and marketing company, PromoLatino. For the past 20 years I have worked with companies in the U.S., Latin America, and Spain and have seen how the industry has changed. But the one constant that still needs to be addressed is obtaining a greater understanding of the U.S. Hispanic consumer. I think this is where the Spanish-language book market in the U.S. still has a ways to go, and my goal for this column is to provide a platform where new information and ideas can be shared.
Why start this column now?
For the past two years, PW has been publishing two supplements on books in Spanish per year, and these have been extremely well received. When we attended the Guadalajara Book Fair (FIL) in December, librarians, publishers, and distributors expressed their interest in ongoing, consistent communication. PW has always realized there is a need for more information about the Spanish-language segment of the publishing industry, but last year’s FIL was truly an eye opener.
What overall trends are you seeing?
Trade publishing in Spanish has always been dominated by how-to books, but they were mostly related to immigration, learning English, and navigating life in the U.S. As demographics have changed in the last few years—with fewer new immigrants coming to the U.S.—there has been an increased desire to read about how to improve other aspects of a person’s life. It is no longer about basic survival skills but about improving one’s life in general. Books on finance, health, marriage, parenting, acquiring or improving skills, entrepreneurship, leadership, and spirituality are all on an upward trend. With the greater accessibility of e-books, we are seeing quite a few publishers from Latin America and Spain entering the U.S. marketplace.
What are the most important things U.S. publishers need to know about the Spanish-language market?
The key is to know that the market is always changing and evolving. What sold five, or even three, years ago is not what is selling today. The U.S. Hispanic population is very young in comparison to non-Hispanic consumers; therefore their likes and dislikes are different from the general market’s. There is also a major demographic shift that has taken place: Hispanics no longer live in a few urban markets, so where they purchase their books has also been impacted. Instead, they are contributing to the population transition from urban to suburban areas that has taken place over the past 10 years.