¿Cómo Se Dice ‘Opportunity’?
Nine hundred billion dollars. That’s the estimated buying power expected of the Latino market within the next five years. Today its buying power is $500 billion here in the United States, and it is considered the 12th largest economy in the world. Information like this can be found on www.SpanishBookMarket.com—a Web site built and maintained by Mark Wesley of Rosa + Wesley, a development firm specializing in graphic design, book production and Spanish translation located in Wheaton, Ill.
For those in any business, such numbers are enough to make one’s head spin. Yet some in book publishing are just now waking to this reality, and, slowly, doors are beginning to open. Some also suggest that it won’t be long before the Latino and Hispanic book markets produce a steady and significant impact on the industry.
Spanish or Latino?
Before anyone goes rushing out to package and produce books for the Spanish market, it is important to know one thing. Spanish, Hispanic and Latino are often terms interchanged a little too loosely. Johanna Castillo, senior editor of Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, says there are important distinctions.
“The Latino market generally includes books reflecting the voice of Latinos and are written in English,” she says. “For this market, authors typically were born in the U.S., but write about Latino culture. Then there is the Spanish market, which includes books in Spanish. Either they are books brought over from Spanish countries into the United States or they are translations of popular English books into Spanish-language books.”
Hispanic, on the other hand, is an American word created as sort of an umbrella term that lumps 21 nationalities of Spanish-speaking countries together. To make things a little more complex, some Hispanics are so acculturated to American way of life they are considered buyers of the general market—the market serving mainstream Americans.
So where should one turn to gain leverage in the market? Simon and Schuster put its money primarily on the Latino market. In fact, its Atria Books imprint is releasing a brand-new Latino line of books in order to bring greater Latino voice to market and, ultimately, into the mainstream. Its headlining title is “Malinche” by Laura Esquivel.
“All of the books in this line are [published] in English, with some also being published in Spanish,” says Castillo.
Also popular in the Latino and Spanish markets are nonfiction, practical books on subjects such as how to buy a house in the United States, how to fix your credit and how to obtain citizenship.
“Self-help books are a popular trend,” says Castillo. “So are memoirs and novels from well-known European or Latin American authors. For instance, ‘Like Water for Chocolate,’ also by Esquivel, was a New York Times Best-Seller.”
Castillo reports that Atria is publishing 33 books this year for the Latino and Spanish markets.
Michael Norris, editor of the weekly industry newsletter, Book Publishing Report, and trade analyst for the industry market intelligence company, Simba, reported on the Hispanic market in a book titled “Emerging Trends in Publishing: The Hispanic Market.” He agrees that self-help is an extremely popular genre for this population, as are mystery and religion.
“Some might be surprised by mystery, but this is a genre that is huge and popular in just about every market,” he says.
Another segment where sales are almost guaranteed is education. Wesley was instrumental in developing Me+Mi Publishing—a publisher of bilingual books for children.
“I know a majority of Spanish-language books are sold into the education market because it’s a captive market. A lot of teachers need books to help kids transition to English, and educators found the best way to do that is to start with the language of familiarity and connect known terms to English translations.”
Though the Hispanic market may be full of possibility, there also is a bit of a breakdown in communication. More specifically, distribution channels and some retail stores have not yet caught up with the fact that, according to Castillo, there are 50 million Hispanics in the United States representing a 12.4-percent demographic. The African American demographic comes in slightly under at 10.2 percent.
While Castillo says the distribution channels haven’t been a problem for Atria Books’ Latino publications, Wesley says it is the No. 1 challenge for many publishers attempting to reach Hispanics requiring Spanish-language books.
“Distributors carry less than 10,000 Hispanic books compared to 100,000 general market books,” says Wesley. “When trying to sell through distributors, one must deal with them not having [Spanish-speaking] reviewers to review the product. Then we have problems at the book store level, where there are few if any Spanish-reading employees to read and handle Spanish-language books.”
According to Wesley, books for the Spanish market are just not top priority right now.
“There are just so many hurdles to jump over from a systematic point of view,” he says. “Until there are more Spanish-speaking people on staff in libraries, distribution companies and retail, it will be difficult.”
Norris reports, however, that retailers are expanding their Spanish-language sections.
“It is a huge problem for those who speak Spanish to walk into chain stores and find the help they need, but those stores have made a point to employ bilingual individuals where the Hispanic community is large,” says Norris. “For instance, 690 Barnes and Noble stores and 485 Borders stores are projecting to have new or expanded Spanish-language sections to serve this market.”
An Expanding Market
Despite problems in distribution, growth and long-term security are promising in the Hispanic market. Wesley says every year since 2002 demand increases for his business.
“We’ve also added trade shows, more products and services, and continue to receive more
requests. For instance Me+Mi Publishing (www.MeMiMa.com) services the pre-K and K market, yet we would get requests all the time for adults and middle school-aged Spanish-language books, which we didn’t have the ability to produce all at once.”
Wesley also sites astounding growth rates in Georgia, Arkansas and North Carolina, where buyers are hungry for Spanish books. Also interesting, says Norris, is that a number of publishers from Spain and Mexico recently opened warehouses in the United States to develop a strong presence here and better handle purchasing and returns.
“It became a problem that books purchased from overseas Spanish publishers could not be returned,” he says, explaining that as sales have increased, so have the number of returns.
Castillo draws attention to the expanding Hispanic outlets available in the United States today. She says Simon and Schuster’s Atria Books is taking advantage of all things Spanish in order to better reach potential buyers.
“We have our own publicity department with bilingual employees who are reaching out via English and Spanish media,” she says. “We have people spreading the word through Spanish TV stations, radio, newspapers and everything Spanish.” BB