Book fairs have become much more aware of the purchasing power of the Hispanic population in the U.S. Among the important literary events with a focus on Spanish-language publishing this year are BookExpo America; LéaLA, also known as the Los Angeles Spanish-language Book Fair, organized by the University of Guadalajara Foundation USA; and Expolit, a Christian conference held in Miami.
For Steve Rosato, BEA event director, the Spanish-language book industry in this country has become more mainstream and less niche. “It is much more a part now of the publishing structure,” says Rosato, at the helm of BEA since 2010.
Rather than having separate sections and treating Spanish-language books as a totally different entity at BEA, these publications are now included in the exhibitors’ booths with mainstream titles. And according to Rosato, this is a current trend throughout the industry, following years in which U.S. publishers launched their own imprints of books in Spanish, such as Rayo, only to see them fizzle. Many of those divisions were absorbed back into the publishing houses.
“Whether it’s someone like HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, or small publishers, if there’s a market for Spanish language, they will serve it,” states Rosato.
Los Angeles’s popular LéaLA Spanish-language book fair returns to the city this May (15–17), after skipping 2014. In 2013, some 85,000 people attended, almost triple the amount of visitors at the 2011 inaugural edition.
This year, the fair expects to increase that number, with a special program that has been put together for librarians and academics. Also, school children from the Los Angeles area will be visiting LéaLA on Friday, May 15.
The addition of librarians to LéaLA follows the success that FIL, the Guadalajara International Book Fair, had last year with the program; the University of Guadalajara, which sponsors LéaLA, decided to do a similar project, explains Marisol Schulz, director of both fairs. “LéaLA is a sister fair, with the purpose of developing something very particular to Los Angeles, as well as reaching the Southern California Latino population.”
After Mexico, the second largest concentration of Mexicans from the state of Jalisco (the capital of which is Guadalajara) is in Los Angeles, and so there was also a component of strengthening ties with the community of Jaliscienses, Schulz says. “There is a sense of a social responsibility with the people of Jalisco in Los Angeles,” she continues. “It is our commitment to bring education and culture to them. And part of culture is language. Spanish is the second most spoken language in Los Angeles County and in the United States.”
For Schulz, it was crucial that LéaLA provide access to literature in Spanish to the area’s Latinos. “There is a lot of popular culture, but access to reading in Spanish has been very limited,” says the director. “When anyone asks me, ‘What is the market for Spanish-language books in the United States?’ I reply, ‘There isn’t just one market. It’s as diverse as the population of Hispanics in this country.’ What happens on the East Coast does not reflect the West Coast. I don’t think we can generalize.”
A third fair where books in Spanish have become more important is Expolit, which focuses on the growth and development of the Christian literary and music industries in Spanish. Held in Miami for more than 20 years, the trade and consumer event features media and production companies, performers, ministries, authors, and publishers, including SEPA, the Spanish Evangelical Publishers Association. Among the activities scheduled this year is a sales conference for booksellers and a workshop on how to promote books.
April 30–May 3
Doubletree Hotel/Miami Airport Convention Center
LéaLA Book Fair
Los Angeles Convention Center
Javits Center, New York
Juan Carlos Pérez-Duthie is a bilingual journalist and translator.