The Latino Market: Tongue Twister
All of this makes it difficult for a publisher to determine the best course.
In 2000, HarperCollins launched the Rayo imprint in anticipation of an Hispanic population explosion. Well before the 2010 Census, projections estimated that the Hispanic population would reach 50 million, that Hispanics would comprise the nation's largest minority group, and that the Hispanic population would reach 30 percent of the nation's overall population by 2050.
HarperCollins was one of the first publishing houses to realize there was potential there, and Rayo did well out of the gate. In 2004, it even expanded its team to include some boldface Latino editorial names who would shake things up alongside wunderkind founder Rene Alegria. In 2008, Rayo launched the Esenciales series, offering superb, critically acclaimed books by famous Spanish-speaking authors. With Taíbo's work, for instance, the Rayo imprint collected his beloved series of heady detective novels from the 1980s and '90s and released them in one thick volume. He's a classic Mexican author, the kind of guy who gets lionized on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" even though the only news is that he's not writing anything new. The books were well-known, gritty, and now, in a nice package.
But simply because the population was growing in numbers didn't mean those numerous people would be buying books—or books of that kind. As of 2009, when Heather Fletcher wrote a Market Focus article for this very publication, it was titled "Inside the Hispanic Book Market: Publishers grapple with disappointing sales despite a booming population." Rayo certainly wasn't alone; the numbers just weren't adding up.
Publishing Perspectives' Emily Williams, in her piece "Whatever Happened to U.S. Spanish-language Publishing?" pointed to a Rayo editorial shakeup in 2009 as evidence of the industry's failure to succeed with Spanish-language publishing. The imprint as it was then known all but disappeared. Now the much smaller Rayo focuses mostly on the children's book market with some adult Spanish-language versions of popular English titles, like upcoming releases "How Did I Get Here," and "100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships." Rayo founder and one-time editorial guide Rene Alegria has referred in the press to Rayo's post-2009 strategy as "the Telemundo of book publishing." (Rayo declined to comment for this story.)