By Adam Critchley
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‘It’s Important To Be at the Table’The independent publishing segment is the most diverse in the industry, editor Carlos Armenta has told an audience at the 37th Guadalajara International Book Fair, “but also the most unstable.”
Armenta, who is with Mexico’s Impronta Casa Editora, moderated a staged four-market discussion at the Guest of Honor European Union pavilion on Monday’s (November 27) as part of conference on independent publishing.
The instability Armenta referred to, however, is actually essential, he said, because it fuels the independent segment’s growth, as publishers are forced to dream up how to create a book and market it. This, Armenta said, ensures a diversity of titles, themes, and formats in the independent sector.
In this session—not a typical one in Guadalajara programming—challenges that Armenta named for Mexican independent presses included distribution. And one of the key elements of that issue has to do with the market’s highly centralized character: a third of the country’s bookstores are in the capital city, and their shelves are dominated by titles from big-name publishers.
Armenta said that among independent Mexican publishers, Argentina is seen as a model to emulate, given the large number of independent publishers in the country and governmental support for translation.
It’s possible, however, that such translation support may come to an end with the government headed by incoming president Javier Milei, according to Afri Aspeleiter, the founder of Argentine publishing house Editorial Concreto.
Aspeleiter also highlighted the importance of La Feria de Editores—an annual independent publishers’ festival in Buenos Aires attended by some 200 houses. That festival organizes a fellowship program for editors interested in Argentine literature and the rights market.
‘To Be Part of the European Landscape’
According to Latvian publisher Renate Punke, a former president of the Latvian Publishers Association, there are only 35 publishing houses in a market with no large publishers by international standards.
“It’s important for us to be part of the European landscape,” Punke said, “which is such a large market.
“This allows us to forge alliances and discuss common issues that publishers in different countries face.”
Among Advantages: A Shared Language Such as Spanish
Elizabeth Goldrick, rights manager and art editor at the Irish publishing house Little Island said that Ireland, another small market, faces similar issues to those in Latvia. In Ireland’s case, however, the market is heavily reliant on the adjacent United Kingdom, and cross-border distribution has been hampered by Brexit, with customs procedures having become more complex.
Punke also highlighted the importance of publishers joining forces to engage in dialogue with the government to secure support and funding, as well as for libraries.
“It’s really important to be at the table to discuss the problems that affect smaller markets like ours in Latvia,” she said. “You need to be visible.
In that regard, she highlighted the work of the Federation of European Publishers as a forum for discussion and advice to national associations regarding themes relating to the industry, including copyright and artificial intelligence.
Impronta’s Armenta joined her in highlighting the importance of alliances among publishers, pointing to the advantage of Latin America’s shared Spanish language that allows books to be marketed and distributed across the region.