The majority of Spanish-language children’s and YA books imported into the U.S. are from large publishers located in Latin America and Spain. But a growing number of independent publishers are now doing business in the U.S. Most of the publishers are relatively new, but their books are finding success around the globe. In the past, the U.S. market was not a priority for many independent publishers, as they often found the market too difficult to navigate. Now they are finding distributors who are willing to partner with them and be selective about the titles that will likely do well in this country.
Part of the reason that distributors are willing to offer those titles is because of the changes publishers have made in the dialect used in the books. Many of the children’s books from Spain used a Spanish that often proved challenging for the U.S. and Latin American market. Since the economic recovery in Spain has been slow, the U.S. and Latin America have become more important markets for publishers, making them more willing to make the necessary changes in the dialect. PW spoke with the editors of six publishing companies and found that all of them had taken the time and effort to understand the language and illustrations that are acceptable in the U.S. market. They also found the right distribution partner to work with for their company.
NubeOcho, a Madrid-based publishing company, was established four years ago. It publishes 10–12 titles per year, and its U.S. distributor, Consortium, brings almost all of NubeOcho’s titles to the U.S. Most of its books are in Spanish, but a few are bilingual. Luis Amavisca, co-owner and editorial director, explained, “Although our books are made in Spain, we are very careful to not do them in a Spaniard Spanish. We only use Spanish from Latin America, as we are also growing in [the Latin American] market.”
NubeOcho’s titles are primarily picture books that deal with universal themes such as diversity, inclusion, and competitiveness. Its goal is to showcase values, emotions, and feelings to help children deal with and overcome issues they face at home, school, and elsewhere as they grow up. Amavisca emphasized that “our books promote respectful attitudes towards all types of diversity. They are also a playful medium that makes it easier to engage in first experiences and feelings that the little ones may not easily understand.”
Since the themes of its books are global, NubeOcho’s plan for 2017 is to publish books in Spain and the U.S., in English and Spanish, at the same time. In 2016, six titles will be released in the U.S. this spring and summer, and six more in the fall. One of the books that is seeing a healthy number of preorders is Los miedos del capitán Cacurcias (The Journey of Captain Scaredy Cat).
Patio Editores, the new children’s imprint of Plataforma Editorial from Barcelona, has taken a different approach to publishing children’s books in Spanish. Editorial director María Alasia explained that “we started with translations into Spanish of well-known foreign writers. We did this as a way of positioning ourselves in Spain, and now we want to begin publishing original works in Spanish.”
With the help of its U.S. distributor, Lectorum, Plataforma entered the U.S. market about a year ago with Eric Hill’s Spot series. Although Penguin Random House has the Spanish-language rights for many of the titles, there are others that are only available from Patio Editores. For now, Patio Editores is just publishing ¿Donde esta Spot? (Where’s Spot?), but additional titles are planned for later this year. The relationship with Lectorum is not new; prior to launching Patio Editores last year, Plataforma Editorial was working with Lectorum on its YA imprint, Neo.
Patio Editores publishes 10–12 children’s titles per year and hopes that a good number of them will be available in the U.S. market. One of Patio Editores’s most successful titles in a number of markets, including the U.S., is Gente (People) by Peter Spier. Although it is not a new book, Alasia credited its success to its topicality. “The book talks about cultural diversity, and that topic is very relevant today in Europe and the U.S,” she said. Another title that is having great appeal to very young readers is ¿Quién se esconde? (Who is hiding?) by Hector Dexet, author and illustrator of numerous children’s books.
Nine-year-old publisher Apila Editores from Zaragoza, Spain, started working with Lectorum at the end of last year and has about a dozen titles available in the U.S. The company was started by Eduardo Flores and Raquel Aquirre, who are both artists and professors at Zaragoza’s School of Art. Flores, who is now editorial director, said one reason they started the press was to provide an outlet for illustrators who were considering book publishing as a career option. Two of Apila’s books, Monstruo Rosa (Pink monster) and Los zapatos de Fred Astaire (The shoes of Fred Astaire) were among the winners of the International Original Picture Book Award at the Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair in 2013. Monstruo Rosa is also the company’s top-selling book; rights have been sold in six languages.
Apila’s books had been available in Latin America for several years, and Flores said he felt that the time was right to enter the U.S. In preparing to enter the market, Apila worked closely with Lectorum to make sure its books met their standards and those of their customers. Apila currently publishes four to five titles per year and about a dozen in total are available in the U.S. One of its most successful books in the U.S. thus far is Mamá quiere volar (Mom wants to fly); one forthcoming book is Spider Cat (the title is in English, but the book is in Spanish), the company’s first book about superheroes. Flores described Apila’s books as “stories that are relatable and have global appeal, such as being scared or falling in love. We want to entertain children, not necessarily teach something.”
Patric de San Pedro launched Barcelona-based Takatuka Ediciones in 2008 and was selling into the U.S. via a Latin-American distributor. San Pedro soon realized that he needed to have a stronger presence in the U.S. and signed with Lectorum in November 2015. Takatuka publishes a dozen titles per year, of which 40% are original works in Spanish and 60% are translations. San Pedro said the more experience he gets publishing for the U.S., the better he understands what works in the market. “We have over 80 titles, but only about 25 of them are available in the U.S. They don’t all work in that market, but the ones that do work very well,” he said.
Takatuka’s books have been translated into several languages, including English, German, Danish, Korean, and Portuguese. Some of its most successful books in Spanish are the translation of Peter Brown’s The Curious Garden, called El jardín curioso, and an original book in Spanish, ¿Dónde me escondo? (Where do I hide?) by Argentinian-born and Spanish-raised Estela Antín.
Cristina Uribe Ediciones was established in Bogota, Colombia, in 1991 by Cristina Uribe and entered the U.S. market a couple of months ago. Uribe is a photographer and graphic designer and has published more than 30 titles. Her list comprises her own titles, plus books from other authors. “Our passion is nature and how global warming is hurting our planet,” Uribe said. “We really wanted to do this for children and show them that we must care and protect our beautiful planet.”
Uribe Ediciones’s push into the U.S., where Lectorum is its distributor, is the company’s first foray into the international market. Among the titles available in the U.S. are Orugas en mudanza (Molting caterpillars) and ¡Las aranas somos sensacionales! (Spiders are sensational!).
Madrid-based Mil y Un Cuentos (M1C) signed with IPG earlier this spring for distribution in the U.S. The company was started seven years ago and has published more than 30 titles for children and young adults. Its books look to help children develop their emotional intelligence by stimulating their imagination and creativity.
M1C is currently working with IPG to select the titles to be distributed in the U.S. One of the titles they are both excited about is Alejandra: La Guardiana del Sueño (Alejandra: The Guardian of Sleep) by a young writer from Barcelona, Irene Cano Rodríguez. Another book that M1C and IPG believe will do well is Antonio Machado para Niñas y Niños (Antonio Machado for boys and girls), a children’s book about the childhood of one of Spain’s most famous poets, Antonio Machado.