At Guadalajara: The EU Hosts Independent Publishers

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Independent publishers from Latvia, Ireland, Argentina, and Mexico discuss their challenges at the 37th Guadalajara book fair.

The Guest of Honor European Union pavilian at the 2023 Guadalajara International Book Fair. Image: FIL Guadalajara, Rafael del Río

By Adam Critchley

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IPA’s Reach Expands to 81 Countries, 101 Associations

‘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’

Latvia’s Renate Punke, left, with Ireland’s Elizabeth Goldrick in the Guadalajara International Book Fair’s independent publishing program from Guest of Honor EU. Image: FIL Guadalajara, Carlos Zepeda

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

Afri Aspeleiter of Argentina and Mexico’s Carlos Armenta in the Guadalajara International Book Fair’s Guest of Honor EU programming on independent publishing. Image: FIL Guadalajara, Carlos Zepeda

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.


More from Publishing Perspectives on independent publishing is here, more on the Guadalajara International Book Fair is here, and more on the Mexican book publishing market is here.

About the Author

Adam Critchley

Adam Critchley is a Mexico-based freelance writer and translator. His articles have been published in Latin American Literature Today, Brando, Forbes, GQ, Gatopardo, 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.

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