Though final numbers are not yet in, this year’s Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL), which ran November 30–December 8, attracted some 800,000 members of the public, 2,300 publishing professionals, and 300 rights directors. FIL is the largest book event for publishers and authors in the Spanish-speaking world, and this year’s fair featured presentations on a variety of topics, including the rise of audiobooks and the importance of peer review for university presses.
As the fair’s guest of honor, India delivered a colorful and engaging series of presentations on topics ranging from Indian spirituality and yoga to literary classics and history. A special emphasis was put on works by Gandhi and his legacy and as a writer, thinker, and leader. There was also an on-site bookshop featuring Indian books for sale.
Among the nearly 200 Indian professionals, performers, authors, and publishers to make the trip to Mexico was Amish Tripathi, perhaps the bestselling author in India, whose novels about Indian mythological heroes have sold more than five million copies there and have been translated into 19 languages. Following his keynote talk at FIL, Tripathi told PW he already felt at home in Mexico, though he’d only been there for two days. “I love this country,” he added. “There is a commonality with Mexicans and Indians, as we are family oriented and our food is very spicy—many people even confuse me for a Mexican and come and speak to me in Spanish. Unfortunately, my books have not been translated into Spanish, and that is something that has to be remedied.”
Very few titles had been translated between Indian languages and Spanish prior to the fair. The National Book Trust, India, which organized the guest of honor program, is seeking to change that, beginning by commissioning 10 translations of children’s books specifically to sell them at FIL. “It seems like India’s participation at FIL has been such a success that it will mark the beginning of a long relationship between the two countries,” said David Unger, FIL’s international representative based in the U.S.
Americans at FIL
Several American publishing houses, including HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, hosted booths and tables at Guadalajara, and a number of American distributors of Spanish-language books, including IPG and Lectorum, had busy stands. Jenny Lizarraga, publicity director of Cinco Books, a Miami-based distributor of Spanish-language books to libraries, used FIL to celebrate the company’s 10th anniversary. “We like to use our stand here at FIL as a kind of showroom for our books, primarily for many of the American librarians that are here buying books,” she said. “We have an app for them that makes ordering simple: they pick what they want, then we purchase it here at FIL.”
Lizarraga pointed to a display of titles from Honduran author Maria López Vigil. “With all the migrants coming from Central America, we are finding there is a greater demand for titles from Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua,” she said. She added that the company is seeing an increase in orders from librarians in cities where many of the migrants who have been detained at the U.S. border have been relocated, such as Lincoln, Nebr., and Columbus, Ohio.
Michael Dowling, director of international relations for the American Library Association, said there were 150 ALA member librarians at FIL this year, from 21 states and Washington, D.C. Some were first-timers, others have been coming for many years, and all were at the fair to buy books, Dowling added. He noted that among the books librarians have been seeking are titles on refugees, adding, “Some of the librarians have even gone to refugee centers here in Guadalajara to take them books.” Spanish-language YA books, self-help, and graphic novels have also been sought after by librarians and their patrons.
Ines ter Horst, director of rights, contracts, and permissions at Princeton University Press, was attending FIL for the second time, this time with a booth. “We’ve had a lot of traffic: people are picking up the books and inquiring about rights availability,” she said. “And lots of libraries from Mexico have been asking for digital availability—they are asking for content they are somehow not getting.”
Horst, who is originally from Venezuela, said there are opportunities to grow sales in Latin America for the press, but she added that they are likely to be for digital products rather than physical books. There are also opportunities to sell rights, she noted, pointing out that three PUP titles have recently been released in translation by Mexican publisher Grano de Sal.
In the rights center, 29 U.S. companies took tables, including publishers such as Amazon Publishing, Cinco Puntos Press, Restless Books, and Scholastic. Publishers and librarians were not the only Americans at Guadalajara. Others in attendance ranged from the Agustin Agency and Liz Gately Book Scouting to Findaway, Netflix, and Scribd, as well as the Los Angeles Review of Books and Words Without Borders.
Chad Post, publisher of Open Letter Books, a press that specializes in translated literary fiction, returned to FIL for the first time in 15 years. He said that, compared to other events such as the Frankfurt Book Fair, attending FIL is “like entering another world” because “every meeting is enthusiastic and collegial, more representative of the overall ecosystem in a way that’s very positive for all the various stakeholders.”
Reflecting on his fourth FIL visit, Steve Rosato, international business development director for Rakuten OverDrive, said that though challenges remain for building bridges between the Latin American, Mexican, and American markets, forging business relationships has become easier over time. “There is growing demand in the U.S. for Spanish content,” he said, pointing to growing markets in Denver and Los Angeles. “And since there’s a need to do business, even if we don’t always speak the same language, we find a way. Coming here to Guadalajara, where the business environment is less intense than Frankfurt and people are more accessible, really makes a difference. It gets easier and easier to do business here each year.”