Grupo Planeta recently announced it will relaunch its publishing program in the U.S. Planeta, the largest Spanish-language publisher in the world, is based in Barcelona and first opened a U.S. office in Miami in 1994. While the Miami office still imports and distributes 600 titles a year, its U.S.-based publishing program closed in 2008 after operating for eight years.
In advance of the Guadalajara International Book Fair, we talked with José Calafell Salgado about the company and its operations throughout the Americas.
What is it we don’t know about Planeta’s operations in the Americas that you would like to let U.S. readers know about, particularly now that you are relaunching English-language publishing?
Grupo Planeta was founded more than 70 years ago and, since its origins, Latin America was at the core of our founder’s business strategy. Currently, we have seven regional operations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay. In January 2022 we will add a U.S. office to oversee our Spanish-language publishing in this territory. These offices allow us to distribute our books and content to readers in over 20 countries in the continent.
Do the markets in Latin America differ from each other or those in Spain? Or is there a single overall strategy?
When we talk about Latin America we are alluding to an abstract concept. On a daily basis, each market faces its own reality and very specific challenges. This means that we have to be very creative in developing a variety of strategies and that our publishing teams must be sharp, accurate, and have a thorough understanding of their countries.
Our business philosophy in the region doesn’t try to replicate the successful publishing model we have in Spain, since that model applies to a different market. Although we share best practices and common policies and strategies, we analyze the specific environment of each country and work hard to deliver the best books possible in each of them.
In that sense, our Latin American team looks to publish content that crosses country boundaries and is still relevant in many territories, proving that it is possible to connect different markets and readers, a goal coveted by many publishers in Spanish.
Are there specific markets that have proven challenging in the recent past?
I would mention two countries. First, Argentina, a country with a very tough economic forecast. I am very proud of the talent and commitment of our local team. They have proven to be a rock despite so many difficulties, always carrying on to serve one of the stronger and most loyal reader communities in the world. On the other hand, we have Brazil, where the publishing landscape is very competitive and retail is suffering tremendously due to the Covid crisis. There, we face a permanent challenge, but we are quite confident we will have an outstanding performance in the years to come.
Last but not least, I want to share with you and your readers a dream: we long to return to Venezuela and continue our long-time publishing project in the country. We had no option but to close our office there a couple of years ago. Still, we don’t forget our readers and authors there.
How do you see Planeta competing with your main rival in the region, Penguin Random House?
We focus our talent and commitment on bringing the readers the best and most innovative content. We also aim to be the best partner for our authors, clients, and providers. And to follow this path we need to compete not only with PRH but also with other international groups and with brilliant independent publishing houses that are doing an outstanding job. This competition is welcomed, not only because it makes our teams be more creative and efficient but also because it makes our professional lives richer and much more fun.