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E-books, the recession, a decrease in immigration, and the closing of Borders have all affected the Spanish-language book industry, but this nimble sector has been able to adapt to the changing landscape. PW spoke with some of the publishers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, and librarians who service this market to find out how they are managing the challenges and opportunities of the marketplace.

Who Is the Market?

According to the 2010 census, there are 51.6 million Hispanics in the United States, with a purchasing power expected to reach $1.5 trillion by 2015, which would rank that demographic as the 13th largest economy in the world. Hispanics are also the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S., but this growth is no longer coming from new immigrants but from U.S. births—1 in 4 children being born today are to a Hispanic mother. More Hispanic women are going to college today than ever before and this, along with the population growth, is contributing to their fast-growing purchasing power. These shifts are aiding the growth of the "middle," the percentage of Hispanics that are bilingual-bicultural, which accounts for an estimated 65%–70% of Hispanics. The number of Spanish-only Hispanic consumers has decreased, but not to the benefit of the English-only as one might expect. The majority of Hispanics are proud of their cultural duality and strive to communicate in both languages and not favor one over the other as in the past. Therefore a growing number of second and third generation Hispanics are seeking to learn Spanish and make certain their children grow up bilingual.

There are several common themes that were mentioned throughout the interviews when it came to who makes up the market for Spanish books: most prominent was the observation that the Spanish-reading consumer is more sophisticated, less price sensitive, better informed, and more affluent than in the past, and the books that appeal to this consumer have changed. The typical Spanish-language book consumer is no longer the newly arrived immigrant looking to improve his or her life and more likely to purchase simple how-to books and an entire slew of immigration texts. Now, Hispanics are looking for ways to send their children to college, purchase a home, and improve their health. This was echoed by Todd Stocke, v-p and editorial director of Sourcebook: "We have an advisory committee of college students that tell us what they need, the type of information that would be helpful to them and their parents, and based on their suggestions we are publishing books that meet their necessities. We are publishing these books in English and some in Spanish, but we are exploring doing some original works in Spanish—there is an authenticity in that." And that young Hispanics tend to favor the smartphone holds out considerable promise for e-book consumption.

Although self-help and spiritual books remain big sellers among Hispanics, fiction is enjoying a surge in sales. This is partly attributed to the shifts taking place among Hispanics but also as part of a national trend where bestsellers in fiction become a worldwide phenomenon. Another reason, explains Ernesto Martínez, manager of Spanish Products & Programs at Bookmasters: "Hispanic consumers are becoming more demanding of the content of the books they purchase. Before, consumers didn't have many choices and the only books available were through importers. Publishers are doing a much better job in selecting authors that are relevant to U.S. Hispanic readers."

The Publishers?

Most of the books in Spanish available in the U.S. continue to come from Spain and Latin America, but a growing list of U.S. publishers are finding opportunities for growth with bilingual and Spanish-language books. Editors have also expanded their definition of who the consumer is for these books, and this wider definition has resulted in a greater range of books having appeal to Spanish-language book readers. As Jaime DePablos, editor of Vintage Español, points out, "The reader of books in Spanish has become a bit more sophisticated and this has resulted in a growing preference for fiction. I am not certain that a few years ago the Fifty Shades trilogy would have made it to the top three sellers in Spanish." Aside from publishing 15–20 titles of adult fiction and nonfiction per year, Vintage Español imports an additional 40 titles a year from Latin America and Spain through its partnership with Random House Mondadori. Vintage Español also offers YA books that are often bestsellers in English, such as Oscuros (Fallen) by Lauren Kate and La pirámede roja (The Red Pyramid) by Rick Riordan. In May of this year, Edward Benitez joined Random House as their director of Spanish-language sales. Benitez points out, "Our sales efforts have expanded to include pharmacies, airports, small bodegas, a wide range of small retailers, and we continue to work with mass market retailers."

Atria is no longer the only imprint at Simon & Schuster publishing in Spanish, as several other S&S editors have made their English-language bestsellers shine in Spanish. Atria publishes 8–10 titles in Spanish annually, and an additional half-dozen titles are published by other S&S imprints. Similar to previous years, about 60% of the Spanish-language sales come from nonfiction and 40% from fiction, with digital constituting 15%–20% of sales—a 10% increase from two years ago, according to Johanna Castillo, v-p, senior editor at Atria. "In the next couple of years, Spanish-language e-books will continue to grow, but when books become available via mobile is when it will really take off among Hispanics. Latinos are the major buyers of smartphones and often bypass computer ownership," comments Johanna Castillo, v-p, senior editor, at Atria. She cautions, however, that digital books will make it easier for foreign publishers to enter the market. How they will price their books and what it will do to the market remains to be seen. Castillo also points out that the biggest challenge the market still faces is a deficiency in points-of-sales and the decreasing coverage by the media, but she adds that books in Spanish have a much longer shelf life than books in English.

Marina Tristán, assistant director of Arte Público Press, notes a growing demand for intermediate bilingual chapter books in a flip format. She says that librarians and universities are requesting adult titles in this format due to the growing number of non-Spanish readers learning Spanish. In order to increase their overall offering of adult titles, Arte Público launched a joint publishing program with the Universidad de Alcalá, Instituto Franklin of Spain. "Our clients continuously ask us for a greater number of adult titles and yet when we look at doing translations, the costs are quite high. We are thrilled for this partnership; it will allow us to publish a greater number of adult titles in Spanish," comments Tristán. Arte Público has also been offering its books in an e-book format and has seen its sales of digital books grow dramatically, but the press admits that its biggest challenge is converting older titles into new digital formats. As for the decreasing number of book retailers and resources that provide book reviews, Tristán says, "Both of those factors are affecting the Spanish-language book industry, but Spanish and bilingual books will continue to grow because, as a society, we are increasingly valuing those who are bilingual and multilingual."

Spanish Publishers is a hybrid between a publisher and a distributor, but it is a model that has been working for 10 years, with Lucía Laratelli as its president. It offers select titles in an extensive catalogue representing six different publishers from Latin America and Spain. Although some of the publishers offer titles in e-book formats, they do so directly but aren't aggressively promoting their digital titles in the U.S., although Laratelli points out that they are selling more digital in the U.S. than in Latin America. So far, e-book sales in the U.S. have not impacted the sale of print books, according to Laratelli. When it comes to printed books, Spanish Publishers has seen about a 13% over last year for the same period, with a slight increase in the demand for books on health and alternative medicine. Laratelli says that Who Moved My Cheese, published by Urano, "continues to provide us with permanent sales along with books by Nicholas Sparks that have made it onto the big screen. Working with authors that are U.S.–based and work to promote their books, such as Sharon Koenig of Los ciclos del alma, published by Obelisco, has a significant impact on the sale of a title." In June of this year Spanish Publishers launched a series of award-winning children's books (k–2) by Amalia Low from Urano Argentina. Each title is based on a world-famous person, and Spanish Publishers will be importing about 20 titles per year.


Since the industry can no longer rely on readers being attracted to books while browsing at a bookstore, publishers have had to take new approaches to reaching the consumer. Silvia Matute, director, general book division of Santillana USA, says, "We now have to substitute part of that [bookstore] experience with online marketing, social media, etc. Marketing has also moved online, and while there are some success stories of campaigns that go viral and become enormous, the truth is that it is now harder to spread the word about a regular midsize author." Santillana USA currently publishes around 40 titles per year and imports approximately 160 titles from its sister companies in Latin America and Spain. Its import catalogue comprises nearly 60% nonfiction (children's and adults) and 40% fiction. However, 90% of what is published in the U.S. is nonfiction, with children's books primarily nonfiction. Santillana USA's total sales in dollars (children and adult) have dropped 7% from 2009 to 2011, but much of the spike in 2009 was attributed to Stephenie Meyer. Currently, sales are down 2%, but much of that is a result of the lower prices for e-books. Further expanding into digital, Santillana USA has launched "My e-books," an online children's literature library for schools with more than 200 e-books and will soon include more than 50 interactive digital books with audio, comprehension tests, educational activities, and games.

In 2008 Penguin Group launched Celebra, spearheaded by publisher Raymond Garcia; the imprint has been dedicated to publishing books by and about Hispanic personalities. C.A. Press, under the leadership of publisher Carlos Azula, was launched in January 2011, publishing a wide range of commercial titles in trade paperback that includes current events, biographies, astrology, cooking, fiction, health, self-help, reference, and original children's titles. To further expand its reach into the Hispanic market, in April 2013 C.A. Press will start publishing a select number of trade paperback translations into English, with the potential to cross over into the general market. Overall, Penguin publishes 50–60 Spanish-language and bilingual titles a year, including adult and YA. Approximately 70% of the Spanish-language books are nonfiction and 30% are fiction with all titles being available in digital format. Erik Riesenberg, who is associate publisher of C.A. Press, says, "Although the digital revolution has not really arrived yet to the Spanish-language marketplace, it is only a matter of time. We are already preparing ourselves by offering all of our Spanish titles in digital versions."

Children's and YA

Lectorum and Scholastic continue to expand their Spanish-language book offerings in children and YA. Lectorum first opened its doors over 50 years ago, and for 36 years it was led by Teresa Mlawer, who retired from Lectorum in August. One cannot say that Mlawer has fully retired, as she is already working with publishers, in the U.S. and abroad, who want to enter or expand their penetration into the Hispanic book market. Mlawer is also working with public libraries and schools, offering her expertise in the field of children's literature—so there's more to come from her.

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