This past summer, publishing veteran Cristóbal Pera was named publishing director for Vintage Español, taking over from Jaime de Pablos, who left after almost a decade with the imprint. Pera has a background in many aspects of Spanish-language publishing.
After earning his Ph.D. in Latin-American literature from the University of Texas at Austin, where he later taught, Pera started his publishing career at Galaxia Gutenberg in the 1990s and later moved to Random House Mondadori in Spain. In 2006, he was hired as editorial director of Random House Mondadori Mexico, where he edited works by Gabriel García Márquez, Andrés Oppenheimer, and Laura Esquivel. Two years ago, he moved to New York to help launch the Wylie Agency España, where he added more than 20 Latin-American authors to the roster.
“It was a project that excited me very much,” he says of his time at Wylie. “It was an incredible experience to be on the other side of the editorial world, to have an agent’s point of view, to be closer to authors and their needs.” Pera says he learned a lot at Wylie, but when the opportunity to head Vintage Español arose, he felt he had to take it. He says this new endeavor is a challenge: “It’s about deciphering the enigma of Spanish-language publishing in the United States.”
About his plans for Vintage Español’s lineup, Pera says, “I would like to publish more books specifically for the Latino audience in this country.” Topics will range from literary and commercial fiction to self-help, YA, and books by high-profile authors, such as those previously published by Penguin’s Celebra, which stopped acquiring new titles in the fall of 2016.
Pera believes 2018 will be “a year of transition,” with only eight to 10 titles scheduled so far, and hopes that by 2019 he will debut his “ideal [editorial] list.” He would like to publish 20–25 books in Spanish, and he hopes in English as well.
“The greatest challenge [about publishing for U.S. Hispanics] is that there is no uniform audience,” Pera says, adding that Spanish readers in the U.S. hail from anywhere in Latin America, and that there are socioeconomic differences to take into account as well. While the numbers reveal how much the Spanish-speaking population in the U.S. continues to grow, he thinks a greater challenge is making the books widely available, because many Spanish-language readers do not shop at Barnes & Noble, for example. He acknowledges, however, that demand must be created before outlets stock more Spanish-language titles.
Pera notes the same difficult task U.S. editors of Spanish-language books have faced in the past—finding original works in Spanish by Hispanic-American writers. There are many great literary agents in Spain, such as Antonia Kerrigan, Casanovas & Lynch, and Raquel de la Concha, for example, but there is still a large void in the U.S., one that the Wylie Agency España and Indent Literary Agency are trying to fill.
“It’s true,” he says, “that [U.S. literary agents] are paying more attention to Latin-American authors, such as Alejandro Zambra, Valeria Luiselli, and Mariana Enríquez,” but that only results in the publication of English translations. Pera is grateful for the response Spanish-language authors garner, citing all the independent and nonprofit publishers that have published new or contemporary writers in English, but he hopes this piques the interest for “big U.S. publishers” to also publish their works in Spanish.
“All I want is to edit works in Spanish by high-quality writers who are also published in English, so that they reach readers in both languages. Even if I’m not the one publishing them in English, I don’t care,” he says. “That’s the evidence of the power of literature beyond language.”
Soon after his move back to PRH, Pera was asked to join the board of translation magazine Words Without Borders. “It makes me hopeful because working on translations is like being on the bridge between two cultures,” he says. Pera worked closely with the magazine’s editor, Eric Becker, on the September 2017 issue on Colombian literature. “I am happy to be on that bridge with translators, with good content, good quality—whichever language it may be.”