February 11, 2009

The Other Shoe Drops

Upon my return to the U.S. and a mere two days after watching President Obama’s declaration that we are in the midst of “a full blown crisis,” I have the unfortunate task of having to report on not one, but TWO major ways in which this crisis has dealt direct blows to the Latino publishing industry.

Many of you probably know about the first: CRÍTICAS, the magazine published by Library Journal that for the past eight years had been THE source for news on the Spanish language publishing industry in the U.S., and the biggest provider of reviews of Spanish language titles available in this market, was shut down by its parent company, Reed Business Information. On a letter to online subscribers, former Editor Aída Bardales cites “decreased ad support” as the reason behind the decision made by the company, and states that “plans are underway to continue coverage of the U.S. Spanish-language book market through sister publications Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.” It is not yet clear what form that coverage will take, but I will of course keep you posted. (To read Bardales’ complete letter, click here.) Adriana López, the magazine’s founder turned guest blogger, posted a nostalgic entry entitled “The Names and Faces Behind Críticas” that gives credit to those who have contributed their talents to the magazine over the years, and made me, for one, long for the days when the Latino industry felt like a budding enterprise full of promise, rather than another helpless victim of the current economic climate.

Which brings me to my second bit of news, as this one too, makes me long for better days, specifically, a time eight years ago, when HarperCollins Publishers’ former CEO Jane Friedman saw the potential of the budding Latino market and launched a new imprint called RAYO. Since then, Rayo’s titles have consistently ranked among the top-selling Spanish language titles sold in the U.S., and won numerous awards. But achievements no longer guarantee employment, and so, on Tuesday, February 10th, I read this article stating that Rene Alegria, Rayo’s Publisher has been let go, along with his fabulous editor, Cecilia Molinari, part of a wave of layoffs by HarperCollins that resulted in the complete dissolution of Collins, their non-fiction imprint, among other disasters. A note at the bottom of the article seems to suggest that Harper plans to continue publishing Rayo titles, although it does not explain exactly how that will be accomplished. Again, I will keep you posted.

A quick look at my bio will make it clear that both of these events weigh heavily on me personally, as I am friends with everyone formerly employed by these two businesses. And it is both in the spirit of friendship, and of “giving credit where credit is due,” that I remind readers that the folks affected by these news are trailblazers whose tremendous dedication and hard work have contributed to making this portion of the business the essential part of the general book market it has become, and that it should continue to be. It is with great sadness that I report on these developments, and that I appeal to you, readers, and ask that you support this industry in any way you can: by subscribing and supporting this blog, by purchasing books by Latino authors, attending Latino authors’ readings, writing letters to decision makers, and any other way you can think of. The sense of urgency I felt when I launched this blog has now reached unforeseen proportions. We should all be stunned, saddened, and outraged by these news, but most of all, we should take action. Do you part, whatever that is. And hold on to your hats, we’re in for a bumpy ride…


5 comments:

  1. Both of those items are sad news, but I'm a firm believer that books with Latino protagonists will continue to be published. There are many of us out there writing such books, both in imprints labelled Latino and in mainstream imprints. Readers enjoy these characters and I am hopeful that with hope and hard work we will survive the current storm.

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  2. Thank you Adriana for keeping us informed. You are right. Each of us needs to do something to alert the publisher that their Latino sections are not as disposable as they think. Thank you again.
    Jo Ann Hernandez
    http://bronzeword.wordpress.com

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  3. Thank you, Adriana, for this call to action. As the nation's fastest-growing ethnic group, Latinos have the potential to create a significant marketplace presence -- if we stand united.

    I should also mention the downturn in the economy has affected Latino booksellers as well. Rueben Martinez, the legendary barber-turned-bookseller in Los Angeles, has seen Libreria Martinez struggle in the last year. Rueben is much more than a bookseller. He has a foundation (LEAP) dedicated to spreading literacy among Latino youth. He is also a tireless supporter of Latino authors, something which I can vouch for firsthand.

    Anyone interested in showing support for the MacArthur "genius grant" recipient can join the Friends of Libreria Martinez. (http://libreriamartinez.blogspot.com) Please sign up and offer some suggestions or simply show your moral support.

    Action begins with awareness. Spread the word. Lend a hand.

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  4. Please let Rene know how much those of us whom he has encouraged along the way are affected by this news and that our thoughts and prayers--yes, actual payers--are with him. Camille Mojica Rey, CA

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  5. I owe so much to Rene Alegria and Cecilia Molinari. I consider them my literary padrinos. I am saddened by this abrupt change at Rayo but I am absolutely positive that I'll be working with them again in the future--somehow, somewhere. Latino voices aren't going anywhere, only growing stronger and more confident. Rene and Cecilia have been nurturing Latino writers and giving our words a loving home at Rayo. I hope they find an innovative new way to put those great instincts to work for all the terrific books that need to come into the world.

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