With increasing attention and acknowledgment of the importance and power of Spanish-language readers in the United States, it’s not uncommon to hear about companies experimenting with new lines of books in Spanish. Somewhat rarer is hearing of a company that, finding success in Spanish, is considering bringing a new category into English. But that’s the case with Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, PRH’s Spanish-language division headquartered in Miami, which is now planning to publish its Bible editions in English.

“We have published more than 60 Bibles, many of which have consistently ranked at the top of bestsellers charts,” says Silvia Matute, president and CEO of PRHGE, describing the plan as a “strategic move aimed at entering a competitive segment within the English-language market.”

It’s just one sign of the increased confidence of PRH in its Spanish-language divisions’ capacity for growth in the U.S., which has been paced so far by religion books. Matute says sales of religious books have been growing approximately 40% year over year for PRHGE. Bestsellers include Amir Tsarfati’s Revelando el Apocalipsis and Mario Escobar’s La marca. In addition, the company started distributing religious publisher Casa Creacion/Nivel Uno and saw Buenos días Espiritu Santo by Benny Hinn land on the bestseller list as well. “Global conflicts and uncertainties are leading readers to seek solace in religious content,” Matute explains, “resulting in increased interest in Bibles and religious books.”

As a publisher, PRHGE is somewhat atypical, operating on what Matute describes as a hybrid model. The company curates a list from some 3,000 titles published each year by Penguin Random House’s subsidiaries in Spain and Latin America, from which it selects 1,200 titles it will either import or print in the U.S. It also has a native publishing program, which commissions and publishes an additional 80 titles a year. “Our local publishing program accounts for nearly 40% of current total sales,” she notes.

Generally, the Spanish-language market in the U.S. follows trends that begin in English, Matute says. Romantasy, for example, has been a top-selling category for PRHGE, which publishes translations of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series.

Increasingly, however, there are opportunities for original Spanish-language titles to fuel attention, and sales, in English, Matute explains, such as with the publication of a new novel by Isabel Allende or the recent release of the posthumous novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, En agosto nos vemos, which Matute calls “the most significant literary event of the year.”

Another area where PRHGE is making its mark is in audiobooks: for four years in a row, a PRHGE title has won the Audie Award for best Spanish-language audiobook, including taking the 2024 prize for its full-cast production of El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. As it has in English, the audiobook category has seen sustained double-digit growth over the past several years, Matute says.

Still, the challenges facing Spanish publishing for the U.S. market are myriad, not the least of which is how to ensure authentic representation and diversity. “Spanish-speaking audiences in the U.S. are not monolithic and come with linguistic, cultural, and demographic factors,” Matute notes. This impacts everything from how a book is edited for diction and colloquialisms to the production of digital metadata and marketing strategies.

The care required to effectively publish Spanish-language books is most apparent in children’s publishing. “It is arguably the most competitive and least understood segment,” Matute says, adding that the evolution of language preferences for children, from the early years of infancy to high school graduation, “is a complex process.”

Matute notes that while 2023 “was a record-breaking year” for sales of children’s books at PRHGE, driven in part by a program in the Chicago Public Schools to purchase bulk titles in Spanish to support a new curriculum, she does not expect a repeat performance in 2024. Among the bestsellers in 2023 were David Bowles’s Me dicen Güero: Poemas de un chavo de la frontera, Margarita Longoria’s Más allá de la frontera, and Celia C. Perez’s La primera regla del punk.

Meanwhile, PRHGE is not the sole division of Penguin Random House publishing books for the Spanish-speaking community in the U.S. “In the last three years, as we’ve seen a rise in bookseller and customer demand, we have been intentional about expanding our Spanish-language publishing program,” says Jocelyn Schmidt, executive v-p and associate publisher at Penguin Young Readers.

To that end, five years ago Penguin Young Readers launched Kokila, an imprint that publishes bilingual and Spanish-language editions for readers from board books to chapter books. “Kokila is the Sanskrit name for the koel bird, a harbinger of new beginnings that sings before the monsoon comes,” says Joanna Cárdenas, associate publisher at Kokila. “From the beginning the focus has been on bringing stories to underserved audiences.”

Cárdenas echoes Matute, acknowledging the challenges in publishing for children, but says, “I believe more and more families are seeing the benefits of being bilingual.”

Kolika’s first published title was a Spanish translation of My Father Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña and translated by Andrea Montejo, and it remains one of the imprint’s top-selling titles. Among the company’s bilingual board books are two focused on things one might see in the Bronx: Bronxtones and Bronxshapes, both by Alex Rivera, examples of books that were born out of a Spanish-language community in the U.S.

Like PRHGE, Kokila is dedicated to addressing the diverse experiences within the Spanish-speaking community. This includes translating books that may not be by Latinx authors but whose subject matter resonates with Spanish-speaking readers, such as El mooch de Laxmi, the Spanish translation of Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Anand, illustrated by Nabi H. Ali and translated by Rossy Evelin Lima—a picture book about a young Indian girl who embraces the unique beauty of her body hair. “We saw how meaningful it could be to share this book, as it addresses something that many young Spanish-readers can relate to,” Cárdenas says.

Looking ahead, Cárdenas, like PRHGE’s Matute, says she sees a point where Spanish-language publishing will no longer be as ancillary to the English-language business and can lead on its own terms. “I would love for our industry to operate from a place that understands that demand exists,” Cárdenas says, “and move the conversation forward from there.”