Silvia Matute is the president of the U.S. division of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial. The company, which is based in Miami, has been undergoing a transformation over the past several years, particularly as demand increases for books that reach more diverse audiences. We caught up with Matute recently to talk about PRHGE’s growth.
How did PRHGE fare through 2021, and how are sales in 2022?
Last year was a record year for PRHGE, and Q1 of 2022 is still showing very strong demand for our titles, creating double-digit growth versus Q1 of 2021. During the pandemic, we were busy transforming the company. In the last two years we have grown our sales two-fold, doubled the team, and increased our distribution and publishing program in the U.S. to 1,000 frontlist Spanish-language titles a year. We are very pleased with our local publishing program, which generates one-third of our sales. We have focused on the juvenile and religious categories, with complementing strong titles in fiction by Latinx authors as well as celebrity-driven nonfiction.
Are you launching any new lines, or seeing strong growth in existing lists of books?
We recently launched two wonderful new lines. First, the Molino imprint, which features bestselling series for children and YA readers like Jeff Kinney’s Diario del Wimpy Kid [Diary of a Wimpy Kid], with new translations in Latin-American Spanish; Rachel Renée Russell’s Diario de una Dork [Dork Diaries]; Suzanne Collins’s Los juegos del hambre [The Hunger Games], and titles like Casey McQuiston’s Rojo, blanco y sangre azul [Red, White & Royal Blue].
Second, we have just started distributing Roca Editorial. Roca publishes bestselling authors like Nicolas Sparks, Michael Connelly, Philip Pullman, and Cressida Cowell, and popular series like La selección [The Selection] by Kiera Cass.
We are seeing overall organic growth as well, which is especially strong in our Christian living and Bible line under our religious imprint Origen. We are rather new to the religious scene, and we have found a very receptive audience, especially during the pandemic. We just published Jennie Allen’s Encuentra tu gente simultaneously with the English edition, Find your People.
What titles do you see as being especially important to the U.S. market, and why?
Ruth Behar’s Mi Buena mala suerte [Lucky Broken Girl], which was the winner of the Pura Belpre award, is one notable book. La casa en Mango Street [The House on Mango Street] by Sandra Cisneros was just relaunched with a new translation by Mexican author Fernanda Melchor. This is probably the most widely read Spanish book in U.S. high schools. Fluir para no sufrir [Flow, Don’t Suffer] marks the return of Ismael Cala as an author with a timely book on how to make things happen in one’s road to happiness and is especially relevant as we navigate this era of social distancing and mental health challenges. El miedo nos hizo fuertes [Fear Made Us Strong] is the moving memoir of Cuban artist Alexis Valdés, who despite suffering abuse never lost his joy of living. Violeta is the first novel by Isabel Allende that has been published around the world simultaneously in English and Spanish. And Gabriel García Márquez’s Cien años de soledad [One Hundred Years of Solitude] is being published in a commemorative edition. This is the last version that the author personally reviewed and corrected of this contemporary classic.
Are there trends or surprises emerging from this year’s sales data that you feel booksellers and libraries should know about?
According to several studies, Hispanics are the single most entrepreneurial group in the United States. They start companies at a rate faster than any other group, and I believe this trend has accelerated after the pandemic. This may explain why we continue to see great sales for titles in categories like personal finance, time management, and personal success in business. There are some evergreen titles that never leave the bestseller lists but are now being read more than ever: Robert Kiyosaki’s Padre rico, padre pobre [Rich Dad, Poor Dad] series; Dale Carnegie’s Cómo ganar amigos e influir sobre las personas [How to Win Friends and Influence People]; and Robin Sharma’s El Club de las 5 de la mañana [The 5 a.m. Club] are some examples.
Additionally, the surge in children’s and YA book sales that started when schools closed in 2020 has left a higher base level for this category. We have been pleasantly surprised by the success of Jeff Kinney’s El número uno [The Big Shot] and of Andrea Beaty’s Aaron soñador ilustrador [Aaron Slater, Illustrator]. Also, the YA fiction books propelled by influencers and the BookTok community can reach unexpected levels in sales. Some great examples here are authors Flor Salvador and Ariana Godoy.
What are the prospects for the market for Spanish-language books in the U.S.?
The U.S. Spanish-language market is robust. Last year was a record year for Spanish sales, and it is important to note that even in 2022, the demand is holding up, with growth of 2% over 2021 so far and 43% over 2020, according to NPD Bookscan. With this growth, the Spanish-language market is outperforming the English-language mainstream market, and the reason is clear: the Spanish-language market is underserved in this country. There is much more interest in reading and learning through books than there are titles and copies of those titles available throughout the U.S. There is still opportunity for significant growth. Some of our customers are seeing great results expanding their Spanish-language collections and focusing their attention and resources on getting more titles for their Spanish-speaking audience.