Ahead of FIL, U.S. publishers in the religion category say the Spanish-language market is rich with business opportunities. This is in part due to younger readers who want more books published in Spanish that feature faith-based content.
“As more educated immigrants come to the U.S. for better career opportunities or improved stability and quality of life, and as more and more second- or even third-generation Hispanics desire to read Spanish for myriad reasons, we see a greater appetite for diverse voices and perspectives dealing with increasingly complex issues and stories,” says Cris Garrido, v-p and publisher of HarperCollins Christian Publishing’s Spanish division. “Also, as more people see the value in their children being exposed to different perspectives and language opportunities, we also see an appetite for Spanish or bilingual children’s titles, regardless of their ethnic background or primary language.”
HCCP releases more than 80 books and Bibles per year across its three Spanish-language imprints: Editorial CLIE, Editorial Vida, and Grupo Nelson. Bestsellers include Spanish versions of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life and Charles Stanley’s The Gift of Forgiveness, as well as a Spanish original, Inquebrantables (The Unbreakables) by Daniel Habif.
While there is no reliable data on how much of the U.S. Spanish-language market consists of religion books, HCCP appears to be the largest publisher. Lifeway Christian Resources, which has been publishing Spanish-language books for several years, follows closely behind, with output currently totaling 60 books annually.
“About eight years ago we realized that the need for Spanish Christian books in Latin America is huge and the market is growing rapidly,” says Giancarlo Montemayor, v-p, global publishing for Lifeway. “We believe that the Hispanic market is changing in its reading habits with the new generations.”
Lifeway publishes a number of original works in Spanish, as opposed to books translated from English, due to demand from customers. “We are probably the only Christian publisher that is investing heavily and intentionally in Spanish-speaking authors,” Montemayor says. “Investing in original authors is harder than just translating resources, but I believe that we owe it to the Spanish-speaking world. We have very talented writers in Spanish that with a little bit of help from our expertise are ready to add important contributions to our literature.”
Editorial Portavoz, the Spanish-language publishing division of Kregel Publications, releases 25–30 books annually, the majority of which are licensed works from English publishers such as Crossway, Moody, Zondervan, and many more. Jackie Saldana, acquisitions director at the press, says the Spanish-language book market is “strong and varied,” and she has noticed a shift in interest toward specialty Bibles and conservative books on biblical teachings and biblical womanhood.
Tyndale House strives to meet the needs of today’s Spanish-language readers by publishing “books with solid content from trusted authors,” according to Bill Gibson, international Spanish sales manager at the press. Looking at the year to date, Gibson says Tyndale’s sales of books in Spanish have already surpassed those of both 2019 and 2020. “We are on pace to finish 2022 just 5% below our record-high 2021 net sales,” Gibson adds, noting that Tyndale’s backlist titles are selling more this year than in previous years.
To Gibson, there are distinct opportunities, challenges, and tastes for books in the domestic and international Spanish-language markets, but supply chain shortages and economic strains are impacting both equally. “It’s a challenging time, but our distributors and booksellers are adapting, and books keep selling,” he says.
Plough, the publishing house of the Bruderhof, a movement of Christian communities in the Anabaptist tradition, first started publishing books in Spanish in 1990 due to Spanish-speaking readers’ interest in writings by Bruderhof elder Johann Christoph Arnold, including Why Forgive? (Setenta veces siete) and Seeking Peace (En busca de paz). Today, the press features 13 Spanish titles in its catalog, all translations of books that Plough has previously published in English. These include the recently released El testimonio de la iglesia primitive (The Testimony of the Early Church), an essay on early Christians by Bruderhof founder Eberhard Arnold.
“We publish one or two Spanish titles a year, and are seeing a growing interest in the market,” says Trevor Wiser, marketing director for the press. He notes that Plough’s distributor, Ingram, has been requesting sales material for Spanish titles due to greater sales to wholesale accounts. “We’re happy to see this kind of interest, and we will continue to pursue opportunities in the Spanish-speaking market.”
While only a few U.S. religion publishing professionals will be in Guadalajara this year, many acknowledge the fair’s value as an international rights center and a networking hub. Lifeway is bringing novelist Emanuel Elizondo, who will discuss his latest book, Cornelius, during the event. Further, “we use this time to strengthen our relationships with our distributors,” Montemayor says.
“FIL is the world’s largest gathering of Spanish language book publishers, distributors, and readers,” Garrido notes. HCCP subsidiary HarperCollins Mexico takes the lead for the company on FIL, but Garrido may attend and says that Gabriel Aviles, HCCP’s v-p of marketing, Spanish publishing, might as well.
“It is a great opportunity to survey the market and see what’s best connecting with people,” Garrido adds. “It allows for networking with authors—current or potential, agents, colleagues, distributors, etc. We will have book presentations and author signings. We’ll also receive proposals and licensing opportunities. Lastly, it’s a gathering around and a celebration of literature from around the world.”