This year’s Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL), which ran November 25–December 3, drew 857,000 attendees, up from 807,000 in 2022 and 828,000 in 2019. While the fair always attracts several hundred U.S. librarians, who attend to buy Spanish-language titles, more U.S. publishers went to the fair this year than in past years—a sign that business between the U.S. and Mexican markets is growing.
In June, Princeton University Press announced a partnership with Planeta, the largest privately held Spanish-language publishing company, which reopened its U.S. office in 2021 under the direction of Christobal Pera. The collaboration has already resulted in the forthcoming publication of Puerto Rico: A National History in English from PUP and a Spanish-language edition from Planeta, which will be sold throughout the Americas starting in April 2024. PUP has attended FIL for several years and has participated in several panels hosted by the Association of Latin American University Presses (EULAC).
“This year’s presentations included sharing our experience revitalizing backlist titles,” said PUP director Christie Henry. PUP took six employees to this year’s FIL, where it also had a stand. “It was magical,” she added. “Time together at FIL with staff and people at Planeta gave us a chance to plan for the future of this series, as well as other licenses and partnerships.”
Mauricio Velázquez de León, founder of Baltimore-based nonfiction children’s publishing house Duopress, is another veteran visitor to FIL. He participated in the rights center, where he discussed the January publication of José Feeds the World by David Unger, a picture book about José Andrés, the chef, food activist, and founder of World Central Kitchen. “After missing FIL for a few years, it was great to see that the fair has only grown in energy and scope and continues to be such an important event for publishers all over the world,” de León said. “We see a lot of opportunities in this event, and we are planning to come back in 2024 and beyond.”
Eunice Rodríguez Ferguson was attending FIL for the first time. She was there representing Sundial House, a new press founded in the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University and distributed by Columbia University Press. Sundial was launched in February 2022 with the goal of publishing four to five bilingual English-Spanish titles from Latin America per year. The press has published three books so far, including Negras by Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro and Ice for Martians by Claudia Ulloa Donoso. Forthcoming works include a translation of Chilean Nobel Prize winner Gabriela Mistral’s Desolación.
“I was delighted to see so many young people, and it was gratifying to observe the enthusiasm among a new generation of readers,” Ferguson said. “Teenagers seemed genuinely excited as they entered the FIL and truly engaged as they browsed books inside.” She cited her several visits to Impronta, a popular literary cultural center, bookstore, and publishing house in Guadalajara, as a highlight of her time at FIL.
Katie King, who translates books from Spanish to English, was another FIL first-timer. “My only point of comparison is the London Book Fair,” King said. “FIL compares quite favorably. Like many, my book fair attendance is focused on networking. One highlight was meeting reps from different government institutions in different countries who help fund translation publishing. It was extremely useful to learn about new opportunities for grants, awards, and residencies.” King’s next translation is Clavícula by Marta Sanz, forthcoming from Unnamed Press in fall 2024.
For this edition of the FIL, the European Union was the guest of honor, with representatives from more than two dozen countries appearing. FIL organizers felt it was a great way to expose the Mexican public to a broad range of contemporary European authors and publishing, and in turn to expose a broad range of Europeans to the FIL. Benas Berantas, founder of the Book Smugglers Literary Agency in Vilnius, Lithuania, remarked, “I have met many new publishers and editors from Iberoamerica who I haven’t met before in Bologna or Frankfurt.” Attending the fair helped him expand his network, and he said he is considering returning to FIL to develop deeper ties with Spanish-language publishers.
Next year’s FIL will take place November 30–December 8, with Spain as the guest of honor.