Suddenly Spanish is in. And after decades of touch and go, when Spain's publishing trade sought to extend its reach to Latin American communities across the seas, only to founder on a series of economic crises, the market's potential is raising hopes again, and Spanish America is very much part of the growth strategy of the largest groups in mainland Spain. Statistics released by the Spanish Federation of Book Chambers indicate that exports have risen for three consecutive years, notably to Argentina and Mexico. Improved prospects both abroad and at home have resulted in a steep hike in domestic title output to more than 60,000 titles in 1998, with average printings up 10% (to 4,246 copies).
This is not to say that all is well in the book trade. Publishers confide that it's not easy to make money with fiction and general nonfiction sold through bookstores (unless you're a high-profile literary house with an unfailing track record like Anagrama or Tusquets). The largest and most successful houses hedge their bets with textbooks, business and management series, practical and travel lines, or they count on installment sales of multi-volume reference sets and newsstand partworks.
The rights market -- the market for big books from the U.S. and other favorite suppliers -- remains stable, due in part to the higher prices paid for sure-fire authors in slow seasons. Gloria GutiÃ©rrez of the Carmen Balcells agency has the same difficulty selling midlist that people have everywhere else, but for a book with proven bestseller potential, or an author sure to bring prestige to a list, the sky's the limit.
For a time the Balcells agency was able to split rights between Spain and Spanish America, even splitting again between Argentina and Mexico (say). Today, with the expansion of Spanish investment in the Western Hemisphere, mainland houses increasingly insist on acquiring world Spanish rights, either to republish via their overseas affiliates or simply to export copies from Spain. Isabel Monteagudo, who runs Barcelona's International Editors (in partnership with the Buenos Aires agency of the same name) reports increasing competition for her roster of foreign representations from Spanish authors, who had been a negligible factor during the Franco years and for nearly two decades after.
Leaders in Literature
Spain is perhaps unique in Europe in its ability to nurture small publishers whose flair and outreach makes overseas colleagues forget that they are small. It would be difficult to rank the top 10, but bantamweight Anagrama will turn up on anybody's shortlist. Publisher Jorge de Herralde and co-director Lali Gulben (his spouse) celebrated Anagrama's 30th anniversary this year in Madrid, in Barcelona, in Buenos Aires and in London -- where the house is known for its "British Dream Team," featuring the likes of Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Malcolm Bradbury, Douglas Adams, Irvine Welsh, Vikram Seth and Arundhati Roy.
Like the other houses that saw the light of day in the twilight of the Franco era, Herralde's startup was leftwing and combative. It became the Spanish home of Jack Kerouac and fellow beatniks, Norman Mailer, Raymond Carver, now of Richard Ford and Paul Auster. But it also translated Vladimir Nabokov and Truman Capote; in nonfiction the list follows the successive works of Harold Bloom, Oliver Sacks, Robert Hughes.
Anagrama d s 75 new titles a year, two-thirds of them fiction. Translations represent 70% of the list, and English is usually the source. But Herralde will look elsewhere for what he calls his modern classics, which include books by Albert Cohen and Georges Perec from French, Roberto Calasso and Claudio Magris from Italian. And Herralde manages to sell them.
The contrast with Tusquets, another product of the cultural war against Franco, is striking. Tusquets has also made quality pay, but likes to show it; its headquarters at the northern edge of town is a millionaire's villa. Publisher Beatriz de Moura and her companion and managing director Antonio LÃ³pez Lamadrid preside over a catalogue of some 60 new books per annum, upscale and literary. They had published eight titles of John Irving to great reviews but moderate sales, and only now have an Irving bestseller with A Widow for One Year (which should reach 100,000 copies by the time this sees print). Tusquets is also the house of John Updike (10 titles), Thomas Pynchon, Alice McDermott, Annie Proulx. And Milan Kundera, Andrei Makine, Marguerite Duras, Czeslaw Milosz.
The active backlist at Tusquets shows that the young publishers reached back pretty far to make sure that the best of 20th-century foreign literature found its way to post-Fascist Spain. It's an eclectic list whose only common denominator seems to be quality (Georges Simenon, Sue Grafton, T.S. Eliot, Malcolm Lowry, Gertrude Stein, George Steiner). On a growing list of young Spanish talent, their star is veteran anti-Franco exile Jorge SemprÃºn, who returned home to become a Minister of Culture.
Tusquets has also done wonders in nonfiction, with one of Spain's most admired series of biographies and memoirs, another on contemporary history (notably with Timothy Garth's History of the Present). Some original publishing is done out of the company's affiliates in Argentina and Mexico (eight to 10 new titles yearly in the former, 15 in the latter).
Edhasa is an old logo as Spanish logos go, but it's also one of the country's newest publishing ventures. Founded by the owners of Argentina's Sudamericana in 1946 to distribute and eventually to publish in mainland Spain, it was not acquired by Bertelsmann when the German group took majority control of parent Sudamericana, but remains in the original publisher's family (principally, Gloria Lopez Llovet de RodriguÃ© and husband Jaime RodriguÃ©). Edhasa had a long and distinguished history as the satellite of prestigious Sudamericana, publishing 15 Nobel Prize winners and hundreds of translations of contemporary classics.
Now the RodriguÃ©s have recruited a first-class publisher to build a track record for a stand-alone Edhasa. He is Daniel FernÃ¡ndez, a professor of literature who entered the trade with his own Catalan-language publishing venture, going on to become publishing director of the Grijalbo Mondadori group. Based on past experience, FernÃ¡ndez was convinced that a small company can survive if it controls its distribution. In three years he has upped Edhasa's production from 25 new titles per annum to 80, establishing new lines and reviving a paperback venture.
In trade publishing, FernÃ¡ndez is moving into new fields for Edhasa such as history and biography, and -- now a must for survival -- new Spanish fiction. Importantly, he thinks that the small size of Edhasa allows him to innovate. "There is lots of room in the trade for publishers who can do a thousand copies or two profitably." In his list new authors and golden oldies co-exist, Graham Greene with J.P. Donleavy, Mika Waltari, Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre with Paul Theroux, Joyce Carol Oates with Allison Lurie.
It isn't easy to follow the career of pugnacious Mario Muchnik, for he says what he thinks, and he has fought with the best of them. During PW's tour, Muchnik was publishing his memoir of 30-plus years as a maverick under a title that translates roughly as "Author's Aren't the Worst Part of It." After setting up an eponymous imprint in Barcelona and losing it to the group that bought him out, Muchnik joined forces with Madrid's Anaya, publishing as "Anaya & Mario Muchnik"; now he works from home under the imprint Del Taller de Mario Muchnik ("From the Workshop of MM"); he says he's never been happier. His French-born wife, Nicole, helps out, and the rest of the staff is a Power Mac. "You're working the way we'll all be doing in the 21st century," a colleague recently told him.
That means a sale of 80,000 copies can take you very far (such was the case with KenizÃ© Mourad's sequel to On Behalf of the Dead Princess). But it also allows the Muchniks to do slim books of essays in 96 to 128, sometimes 208 pages, by an Elias Canetti or a George Steiner. "For 30 or 40 years we've had 3,000 serious readers -- meaning book buyers -- in this country. That d sn't change." Muchnik clearly intends to go with the 3,000, but d sn't eschew the books that might attain five figures, for he launches at least half a dozen of them every year.
Market Leaders, Quietly
Some of the Spanish world's biggest companies are hardly household words, even in Spain. Take Grupo SM (for Santa Maria), hidden behind high convent walls at Madrid's southern rim, and which publishes schoolbooks and -- originally as an offshoot -- one of Spain's most successful children's lists. Here PW's envoy meets Juan de Isasa, president of the book group, with publishing director JosÃ© Antonio Camacho; nonfiction publisher Jose Luis CortÃ©s Salinas; AndrÃ©s Conde SolÃ©, publisher of the adult imprint Acento; children's editor Maria Castillo. Together they are responsible for some 300 new titles annually, of which 75 come out under the Acento imprint, and include travel guides (the principal moneymaker for the line), gardening and decoration, and general essays.
Most Acento books are translated -- travel from France's Gallimard and Touring Club Italiano; some of the serious monographs come from the likes of Oxford and Cambridge, but the editors find that most of what they want must come from Spanish authors.
PW's visitor chose a seat at a polished boardroom table to hear JosÃ© Lluis Monreal describe the global reach of Oceano, one of Spain's top five publishers, and absolutely number one in Latin America. Its strength is multi-volume reference sets sold door-to-door (which today means via phone, meetings in schools and places of business, mailings and booths at malls). Already over a third of units sold by the firm are non-print, although when possible multimedia and paper books are bundled together.
Lluis Monreal isn't afraid to try new things -- like a joint venture with Germany's Langenscheidt in dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries and language training, or with Argentina's Losada, to co-publish fiction and philosophy. For the new wrinkle there is publishing for the general trade, both in Spain and Spanish America.
In fact, the first trade imprint at Oceano was an in-house creation. PW visits another office in the attractive and functional Oceano headquarters in a posh Barcelona neighborhood to talk with JosÃ© Lluis Monreal's daughter Silvia Lluis, publisher of her own list, Circe, set up nearly a dozen years back to do biographies of women, but also contemporary fiction by both men and women. (The latest catalogue includes both Don DeLillo's Underworld and a book by Paul Auster's companion Siri Hustvedt.)
It was the visitor's first call at the RBA Group -- although it has been a successful business for some years now on the fringe of the book world. The initials stand for Ricardo Rodrigo, today president and principal shareholder, and his former partners, Carmen Balcells and Roberto Altarriba, who together set up the company in 1981 to do editorial packaging for major publishers who required more reference projects than they could manage in-house.
In the absence of Rodrigo PW met his v-p, Miguel Angel Senen, who described RBA's move into the world of books, starting in 1997 with the acquisition of Integral, a publisher of practical books (with self-help, nature, health, you-name-it); it became the core of RBA Libros, which recently acquired 50% of that crown jewel, Tusquets. Most recently RBA Libros set up a new imprint, RBA Actuel, for serious nonfiction and practical books. In fiction, Senen sees some of the books developed by the group going into the Tusquets catalogue; others (not conforming to Tusquets's image) will come out under RBA colors. Rodolfo Gonzalez, publisher for RBA Libros, will be buying more foreign fiction and practical books for the list -- just which books or how many per annum is under study.
The Major League
While it should already be clear that not all of the innovative publishing in Spain comes from groups, their hold on the market is nevertheless impressive. The biggest of all is Planeta, still a family affair, but a leader in every area -- trade, mass market, direct sales (still the chief money-earner), partworks and multimedia -- with publishing and distribution subsidiaries throughout Latin America. In Barcelona, seat of the group, PW met with Ymelda Navajo, managing director of the book division, which publishes some 1200 new titles annually under a dozen imprints.
Navajo's division includes the literary lines of Destino and Deix Barral, university-level social sciences under Ariel and Critica, general books -- and particularly Spanish originals -- from the flagship logo Planeta, Martinez Roca and Temas de Hoy, with a mass market division including spin-offs from Disney and others. In fact, she is the first to point out that the big money at Planeta still comes from door-to-door sales of multi-volume reference sets and partworks both in Spain and Spanish America; trade sales account for only 15%-20% of total revenues.
But expansion is part of her writ. Both Lisbon's Don Quixote and Barcelona's Critca are recent acquisitions (Planeta bought 90% of the former and 70% of the latter), as is the Catalan trade publisher Columna (300 titles per annum), which edits a distinguished list for the regional language, including the latest by Tom Wolfe and Don DeLillo.
Andreu Teixidor, president of Destino, describes his upscale imprint, which publishes both in Catalan and Castilian, and d s 80 to 100 books a year in literary fiction and art, plus a small list of high-end children's books. Translations represent 40% of production here and the percentage is rising. It's the Spanish imprint for Doris Lessing and Saul Bellow, and Teixidor makes it known that he's looking for younger writers from English.
During PW's visit, Planeta was making news in another domain, with the launching of bol.com, a joint venture
with Bertelsmann to sell Spanish books on the Net -- already it's the world's largest virtual bookstore in that language, offering 125,000 titles. Reacting to rumors, Planeta's CEO JosÃ© Manuel Lara admitted that Bertelsmann would have liked to go a little further and buy into Planeta, but (so Lara told Delibros) no Planeta shareholder was ready to sell.
A Visit to Madrid
In Madrid, PW's envoy visited Espasa Calpe, one of the country's traditional academic and reference houses, now 100% Planeta-owned. New managing director Rafael GonzÃ¡lez CortÃ©s has a mandate "to change everything," and indeed he is doing that, with a gratifying hike in sales and profits thanks to better marketing. He is doing over 200 new titles a year, up to 30 of them in the eternal Austral classic series (which includes living authors who deserve it). As part of the upgrading, GonzÃ¡lez CortÃ©s has been producing more contemporary fiction, including a rare new work by Nobel winner Camilo JosÃ© Cela. The bulk of sales come from dictionaries and encyclopedias, still largely sold directly. A small chain of bookstores is expanding rapidly.
Translation never amounted to much at Espasa (except in the classics line) but this, too, is changing. The ratio is still only one book in 10, but when the editors can hook a Roddy Doyle or David Leavitt, they do. The real forte of Espasa is nonfiction, also heavily Spanish, although the house will do a potentially big book from abroad when the occasion arises.
PW also drops in at Planeta's impressive Madrid branch headquarters to visit Temas de Hoy, whose publisher, JuliÃ¡n LÃ©on, and editor Ana Rosa SemprÃºn provide an update on this house known for general nonfiction targeting a broad public, with books ranging from serious history to self-help. Most releases are of Spanish origin and commissioned, with between 50 and 70 new titles a year. On a recent bestseller list Temas books occupied four of the top 10 spots.
Barcelona's Santillana is another giant, Spain's number two in the trade, allied to one of the country's most admired media groups. Its showcase imprint is Alfaguara, home of upmarket fiction, nonfiction and children's books by Alfaguara Juventud (with Altea as one of its logos).
All told, editorial director Juan GonzÃ¡lez is responsible for 250 to 300 new books each year. Alfaguara d s 80 to 100 of those, and two books in 10 here are translations. Over the past decade, foreign input has declined spectacularly as Spanish writing comes into its own; the bestsellers are more often than not Spanish originals -- and Mario Vargas Llosa is the star, although during PW's survey the Alfaguara translation of Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha was riding high on bestseller lists.
Juan GonzÃ¡lez is one of the publishers concerned about Spain's enormous annual title output, way out of line considering the size of the market, and which is reducing shelf-life of new releases to a fortnight. His group is determined to reduce its own production by 10% next year. One safeguard for Alfaguara is the Latin American market, served by 18 Santillana companies.
Don't forget Ediciones B, another of the country's top-ranking publishers, which has become an international group with the acquisition of Argentina's trade imprint Javier Vergara, whose imprint appears on jackets both in Spain and Spanish America. Here PW is received by publisher Blanca Rosa Roca, along with managing director Pere Sureda; Susanne Theune, publisher for illustrated and children's books; and Enrique de HÃ©riz, in charge of the general list.
Some 230 new titles a year here represents a 20% reduction in output to reflect the state of the market, although B's sales have risen steadily from year to year. Some 70% of the list is fiction, and eight books in 10 are translated. It's the Spanish residence of John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell, Stephen King and Tom Wolfe. But the editors like to mention that Ediciones B also d s Toni Morrison and Nadine Gordimer.
There is also a strong nonfiction thrust here, with memoirs, biographies and a travelers series that features Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild and Robert Kaplan's An Empire Wilderness. In lighter fare, one finds Dilbert, the Simpsons, Calvin & Hobbes; there is a Disney license for noveliziations, and a line of R.L. Stine.
All in all, 80% of the B catalogue is translated, although thanks to a bestselling Spanish author (Francisco IbaÃ±ez) the sales ratio is not the same. Indeed, HÃ©riz speaks of the growing list of Spanish originals, which was launched with new and young writers -- changing the house's profile overnight.
They christened it "62," to commemorate that bold moment in 1962 when a group of Catalan patriots founded a company to publish world literature in the language scorned and feared by the dictator Franco. Edicions 62 grew rapidly, eventually benefiting from the autonomous region's cultural and linguistic policies; today it occupies a large headquarters building of its own. It publishes a trade list, as well as major reference sets for direct sales, and now also d s travel magazines.
Now Catalan can pay, and one of the group's recent acquisitions was an already established literary imprint in that language, EmpÃºries. In all, there are about 350 new titles a year, not counting multi-volume reference works.
Ranked as the fourth largest publishing entity in Spain, Grupo Anaya now belongs to France's Havas. But PW finds a familiar face at the helm -- JosÃ© Manuel GÃ³mez, who had accompanied Anaya's founder, GermÃ¡n SÃ¡nchez RuipÃ©rez, as he put together one of the country's most diversified book producers. The core of the new enterprise is books for the schools, reinforced by CÃ¡tedra for college-level humanities and annotated literary classics. In a second phase, SÃ¡nchez took to acquiring companies; the most prestigious was the literary and social science publisher Alianza. Now Anaya oversees 22 publishing companies for books and electronic products, two of them partnerships. The group d s 1,900 new books each year, of which 1,100 are destined for the general trade. Already GÃ³mez claims for his group the broadest range on offer in the Spanish-speaking world; if the group meet its goals it will become number one in volume as well. PW also talked with Luis SuÃ±en of Alianza, responsible for 400 new releases a year, with a growing number of originals. Upscale foreign writing is a specialty (with the likes of William Trevor, Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke and Derek Wolcott).
If Bertelsmann came to Spain sporting a low profile,that is no longer the case; it now has Grupo Editorial Bertelsmann, bringing together for the first time trade publisher Plaza y JanÃ©s (with more recently acquired imprints Lumen and Debate) and the book club CÃrculo de Lectores, whose success among Bertelsmann clubs is legendary. Put together, Bertelsmann companies are ranked third in Spain, after Planeta and Santillana.
PW began with a visit to Plaza y JanÃ©s, a logo for bestsellers even before Bertelsmann acquired it. Here Angel LucÃa, coordinator of book publishing, and editorial director Nuria Tey describe what is actually Plaza's modest program of 70 to 75 new books a year, a considerable reduction from earlier times -- but of course the point is to sell more of each title.
List-cutting is the rule, but so is upgrading. One product of the new thinking is AretÃ©, a line of well-packaged writers drawn from all three lists, launched last January with Isabel Allende's Daughter of Fortune, which sold 315,000 copies in trade and another 70,000 in paper. There are to be only five or six AretÃ© titles each year -- just enough to whet appetites.
Otherwise at Plaza, six books in 10 are translations, including as many blockbusters as the house can get -- among them Danielle Steel, Mary Higgins Clark, Stephen King, Ken Follett, Robin Cook. In nonfiction there is a growing list of instant books, practical gimmickry (a healthy-food cookbook). Contrary to what one might hear, P&J trade imprints do more than simply feed the club. Only about one book in four from Plaza g s to CÃrculo, one in 10 from Debate. But Plaza y JanÃ©s also has the country's number one mass market paperback line, with 200 titles a year, including p try and literary fiction. Under Bertelsmann's coordinator, Manfred Grebe, the group is reinforcing its operations in Latin America, via Argentina's Sudamericana, and a growing profit center in Mexico centered on Plaza y JanÃ©s.
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to call CÃrculo de Lectores an overachiever among Bertelsmann clubs. Fiction takes the lion's share of sales. There is also a considerable input of house-created complete works, of some decidedly upscale authors.
Albert PÃ¨lach reports a new development, with CÃrculo moving back to Argentina via the existing club of Sudamericana, the Libro Club owned by Sudamericana's RodriguÃ© family; the combined CÃrculo/Libro catalogue will henceforth serve 45,000 members in that country. About one in four selections in the revamped Argentina catalogue will come from the Spanish club.
The kernel of Grijalbo was a Mexican company set up by a Spaniard who felt unfree in his own land. The company became an empire, eventually transferring its headquarters to Barcelona, and is now part of Italy's Mondadori. But Latin America is not forgotten, and Grijalbo Mondadori is present in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela and Colombia, the first three also doing some original publishing for their own markets. Here the visitor meets editors Cristina ArmiÃ±ana and Silvia Querini, with marketing director Daniel Corona. He describes the new strategy of publishing "globally," which means controlling world Spanish rights.
Here there are some 200 new books a year, 75% of them fiction, with most of the commercial fiction coming from abroad. These books get the Grijalbo label, while upscale fiction, much of it Spanish in origin, gets the Mondadori imprint. And today, notes ArmiÃ±ana, the top of the bestseller list will usually be occupied by Spanish-language writers. It wasn't always that way.
PaidÃ³s was another house born of voluntary exile, founded 55 years ago in Buenos Aires, adding a Spanish branch at the end of the 1970s, and a Mexican affiliate in 1983. Publisher Enrique Folch describes a list marked by the social sciences, business and management, with a tendency to expand the list of general but upscale nonfiction. About 140 titles originate in Barcelona each year, 40 more in B.A., 20 in Mexico (these last are aimed at Mexican readers).
Folch lets the visitor see how much he depends on the U.S. for his upmarket list -- on the university presses, but also on S&S, Harper, Norton, Putnam. Two of his recent successes were Kotler on Marketing by Philip Kotler (from Free Press), The Argument Culture by Deborah Tannen (from Random). Folch wants his books provocative and stimulating, and American intellectuals are the ones who can guarantee those qualities.
This year, Argentina's EmecÃ© was celebrating its 10th Spanish birthday, for the Barcelona imprint is a free-standing company run by a member of the del Carrill family, Pedro, with his wife and co-publisher, Sigrid Kraus. They explain an operation in which only five or so of the 50-odd new titles released each year for the Spanish market will come from the mother house in Argentina. If in Buenos Aires EmecÃ© has a no-nonsense commercial image, the Spanish company has been trading up from the beginning. Carrill notes that the Spanish market is both more solid than Latin America's and more competitive nowadays. He finds that some of his Spanish colleagues are dumping remainders into the Western hemisphere, spoiling that market for local publishers.
Sigrid Kraus explains how she will set her sights on the Harry Potter books, acquire world Spanish rights and divide territories with EmecÃ© in B.A. Eight books in ten here are translations, mostly from English -- Maeve
Binchy, Nicholas Sparks, Ethan C n and Ethan Canin.
Niches Large and Small
The logo EDAF stands for publishing and distribution, where JosÃ© Antonio Fossati runs a medium-sized house specializing in such subjects as natural health, New Age, Spanish and foreign classics (a mainstay from the beginning). EDAF was also the first in Spain to do gift books (most licensed from Exley and co-produced), with considerable success. Finally, there is a line of children's books done with Rizzoli. In the general list on natural health and New Age, three books in four are translations, mainly but not exclusively from English.
One can't be smaller or more independent than Kairos, a family enterprise now run by AgustÃn PÃ¡niker, son of the founder, who established the house to do Eastern philosophy, and moved into psychology, science and the philosophy of science, also self-help. And the publisher describes a still more recent venture, a literary line that began by reprinting backlist standards such as Arthur K stler's Bricks to Babel, the Paris Review author interviews and Mircea Eliade. Eight books in 10 on the small Kairos list (36 releases this year) are translations, mostly from English, This year's crop included Gita Mehta's Karma-Cola, Howard Gardner's Extraordinary Minds, Daniel Goleman's Working with Emotional Intelligence.
Editorial Alba is a relatively new house, an offshoot of the Moll newspaper group, where editorial director MarÃa Antonia de Miquel introduces it as a kind of hobby of press magnate Javier Moll, a line of world classics at acceptable prices. From that to contemporary classics, and last year Miquel launched a line of contemporary nonfiction; recent picks include Scorsese on Scorsese and a biography of Cole Porter by William O'Brien. There were 50 books this year and next year there will be 60. And translations will dominate this list, far into the future.