The current international economic gloom did not seem to affect the sunny skies over the 16th annual Guadalajara Book Fair (Feria Internacional de Libros, or FIL), held November 30—December 8. Attendance figures beat all previous shows. Professional attendance exceeded 14,000, including 60 agents; 32 countries were represented as well as more than 1,300 publishers (102 of them from the U.S.). Fair organizers were particularly gratified that, despite the difficulties in Argentina, 65 of that country's publishers were at the fair.
Antonia Kerrigan, one of Spain's top literary agents, spent a full week at the show. She expressed a view echoed by many others: "Guadalajara is the Frankfurt of Latin America. It is the best of all the Latin American fairs." Kerrigan also attested to the strength of Mexican publishing and said that agents "must be aware of Mexican and Colombian authors." Kerrigan's own client list includes many authors from Mexico. She emphasized that these books have worldwide appeal: "Many writers published in Mexico are imported into Spain and are translated into several languages. I represent Jorge Volpi—his In Search of Klingsor has sold into 18 languages."
For several years, FIL has worked with the American Library Association to bring U.S. librarians to the show. The number attending grew to over 200 this year. Yolanda Cuesta, a consultant to libraries on Spanish-language collection development, said that librarians who are serious about serving Spanish speakers need to come to the fair to purchase books they cannot find in the U.S.
Diana Martinez Calice, Spanish-language book buyer for Borders/Walden, a five-year veteran of the show, comes because she finds that getting what she needs through distributors can be problematic. She needs to "touch base with the publishers in Mexico from whom we buy directly, to straighten out any problems and to discover trends." The major trends she identified were more self-help and kids' titles.
Prominent among the children's offerings was the translation of Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng (Macmillan, U.K.; Ediciones S.M. has the Spanish rights for Spain, Latin America and the U.S.). Buzz on the floor was that this title is the "next Harry Potter." Also strong was Isabelle Allende's young adult title, La ciudad de las bestias (Harper Rayo). Among adult books, the top title was Gabriel García Márquez's Vivir para contarla, with Mexican publisher Diana showing its edition (Knopf released the U.S. Spanish-language edition on December 3; see News, Nov. 25). Mexican-born Jorge Ramos, who anchors Univision's news from Miami, was mobbed for signings of his bestselling memoir Atravesando Fronteras at Griljabo's booth.
Hot new literary titles included the Nobel-winning Portuguese author José Saramago's latest novel, El hombre duplicado (Santillana), and bestselling author on the Críticas list Arturo Pérez Reverte appeared to promote his new novel, La reina del sur (Santillana).
One note of dissatisfaction came from the smaller Canadian and U.S. publishers who had been accustomed to exhibiting together in one section of the hall. This year, they were scattered around the floor. This, combined with very confusing booth numbering, made many of them difficult to find.
Avid Public Participation
Even show veterans were astounded by the public attendance. More than 420,000 people jammed the aisles when the fair opened to the public in the evenings and on the weekend. This was an impressive increase—up nearly 40,000 from last year. David Unger, FIL's U.S. coordinator, explained that the number of bookstores in Mexico is very small. With the show falling during the Christmas shopping season, many Guadalajarans took advantage of the show to buy gifts. Technical books are particularly difficult to come by in Mexico, so many came in search of them in particular. In addition, a very active program for the schools brought over 70,000 kids to the fair.
A further draw was a full schedule of literary and cultural events for the public, many of them focused on Cuba, which was the fair's Guest of Honor this year. In addition, FIL debuted two daylong sessions for professionals at the fair. Speaking at one of the sessions about sales of Spanish titles in the U.S., Rueben Martínez, owner of Libreria Martínez in Santa Ana, Calif., attested to the growing market. His store has been so successful that he enlarged it this year and is thinking of opening branches in other cities.
Guadalajara '03 will be held from November 29 through December 3. For more information and registration, go to www.fil.com.mx.