Guadalajara’s Latin American Focus Attracts Rights Players

In News by Adam Critchley

The 2016 Guadalajara International Book Fair’s guest region is Latin America, and this year’s rights exchange program has received an unprecedented response.
A concert crowd at the 2015 Guadalajara International Book Fair. Image: FIL / Paola Villanueva Bidault

A concert crowd at the 2015 Guadalajara International Book Fair. Image: FIL / Paola Villanueva Bidault

Even as we head into BookExpo America week in Chicago, we have news of the November-December Guadalajara International Book Fair naming not a focus country as its guest of honor this year but all of Latin America. And the word from Mexico is that waiting to book a spot in the rights center there is not smart. Last year it sold out by early summer. — Porter Anderson


By Adam Critchley | @AdamCritchley

‘Allowing for Cross-Border Encounters’

America Latina GuadalajaraCelebrating its 30th anniversary, Guadalajara’s FIL — ferio internacional del libro, or international book fair — has granted guest of honor status to Latin America. The strategy is meant to provoke interest among visiting publishers and agents by focusing on the entire region.

The fair is schduled to be held November 26 through December 4 at Expo Guadalajara.

The fair’s rights exchange program — providing travel expenses to selected publishers from non-Spanish-speaking countries to visit Guadalajara — has had 57 applications this year, more than ever, from publishers in 16 countries, including Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Egypt, Turkey, Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Georgia and Iceland.

“The program aims to forge links with countries where it is less likely that Ibero-American writers are read,” Rubén Padilla Cortés, director of the FIL’s rights center, tells Publishing Perspectives.

Last year the FIL sold out all of its 125 tables for its rights center by June, with participants from 28 countries. Demand this year is expected to be equally strong.

“This allows us to make more noise and build bridges with those countries so that Spanish-language writers can become known there.”

He said that, rather than focusing on the target language, the selection of publishers to receive the grant takes into account the frequency of reading in the country in question.

“We are also interested in countries that have already published Spanish-language writers,” Padilla Cortés says, “which means that readers are already familiar with them, making it more probable that their interest will be maintained.”

He cites Iceland as an example, a country in which the language is spoken by comparatively few people but where there is much interest in Spanish-language writers. This year the FIL’s rights exhange program has received applications from three Icelandic publishers.

Rubén Padilla Cortés

Rubén Padilla Cortés

“Even though Iceland’s publishers may only have small print runs,” Padilla Cortés says, “the country’s reading rate is much higher than the average, higher even than in Denmark or the UK, for example.”

Padilla Cortés says the increase in interest in Latin America is mainly a result of the economic crisis in Spain, and the challenge for Spain’s publishers to adapt to change.

“Spain’s publishing sector has always been very protected by the government,” Padilla Cortés tells Publishing Perspectives.

“And when those subsidies ended, publishers didn’t know how to proceed.

“Meanwhile, in Latin America, the local subsidiaries of large Spanish publishing houses, such as Planeta, Ediciones B and Océano, began to forge their own autonomy and major editorial decisions were no longer made in Spain.”

This, he says, has allowed publishers in Latin America to have much more independence.

The ‘Menu’ Will Be Very Attractive This Year

The category in Latin America that is generating the most interest is fiction, followed by children’s, young adult, illustrated books and graphic novels.

“Children’s and illustrated books have seen an unexpected boom of late, and there are indications that Latin American children’s and illustrated books stand out and have a privileged place in Europe.”

The rights exchange has a pattern of focusing on the adult market for two years running, followed by a focus on children’s books for one year, next in 2017.

The program’s grants go to 10 publishers from non-Spanish-speaking countries who have not attended the FIL before to travel to Guadalajara to meet with publishers and acquire rights.

The program is only open to publishers and excludes agents and scouts.

Last year, nine publishers were recipients of the grant:

The criterion for selecting the recipients singles out strong editorial projects, while avoiding, where possible, the repetition of countries from the previous year.

The FIL supplies funds of between $300-$1,200 to cover travel expenses, hotel accommodation, and an agenda allowing each recipient to arrange interviews with publishers, publishing associations and other interested parties, as well as to attend the fair’s many events.

Latin America as guest region this year means that the ‘menu’ will be very attractive for visitors both from within and outside the region, Padilla Cortés says.

Last year the fair sold out all of its 125 tables for its rights center by June, with participants from 28 countries. Demand this year is expected to be equally strong.

The fair plans to present a panoramic context for Latin America as a region, in part to avoid letting the larger markets eclipse the smaller ones.

A tribute to Mexican author and journalist Julio Scherer García at the 2015 Guadalajara International Book Fair. Image: FIL / Gonzalo Garcia

A tribute to Mexican author and journalist Julio Scherer García at the 2015 Guadalajara International Book Fair. Image: FIL / Gonzalo Garcia

About the Author

Adam Critchley

Adam Critchley is a Mexico-based freelance writer and translator. His articles have been published in Brando, Forbes, GQ, Gatopardo, Loft, Life&Style, Publishers Weekly, Travesías and Vinísfera, among other publications, and his short stories have appeared in The Brooklyn Review, El Puro Cuento and Storyteller-UK. His translations include a series of children's books based on indigenous Mexican folk tales. He can be contacted at adamcritchley@hotmail.com