February 24, 2009

Sanity Makes a Comeback

I want to begin by stating that I echo your comments on the last post, and that I too know that Latino publishing is not going anywhere. It can't. A recession will not change the fact that we are the largest minority group in this country, or that our numbers are growing—exponentially. We all know this, but lately, with all of the bad news coming out of the publishing world, and from Latino publishing in particular, it may have become a little tough to remind ourselves of this very significant fact.

So let's leave it to Random House to do it for us: Today, the publishing giant announced that Vintage Español is expanding its Spanish language publishing program from 15 to 45 titles per year as a result of a new co-publishing agreement with its Spanish counterpart, Random House Mondadori. In addition to its usual 15 front list titles, Vintage will take advantage of RH Mondadori’s world-class backlist to publish titles by classics of Spanish literature such as Pablo Neruda, and Spanish translations of English language best sellers, such as John Grisham. To launch the new program, Vintage Español will reissue 50 of RH Mondadori's best selling titles this fall.

According to PW Daily: “Messitte said under the agreement, Vintage Español will put RH Mondadori titles through the same publishing process as all Vintage titles, taking advantage of the infrastructure to devote more attention to marketing, publicity and production functions. Milena Alberti will continue to oversee the day-to-day operations as director of Spanish-language publishing for Vintage Español.”

And here’s something else:
“Messitte said Random still believes there is opportunity for growth in the Spanish-language field. Vintage Español has had steady growth since it was started in the mid 1990s and has slowly expanded its focus beyond its core line of literary titles into such areas as self-help and cooking. ‘We’ve been very pleased with the growth,’ Messitte said.”

Nice to know that, in the midst of all the panic that has plagued the industry lately, there are still some intelligent, forward-looking people in publishing who are actually paying attention, isn’t it? Now, I wonder who will be next?

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…