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Spanish-Language Publishing

May 27, 2010 1 Comment »

The U.S. book publishing industry is a $27 billion a year business and consists of approximately 2600 companies. There are 6 large publishers (all in New York), 3,400 medium-sized publishers and 86,000 small/self-publishers in the U.S. Four of the U.S. conglomerate publishers are foreign owned.

Although the publishing industry is dominated by English literature, Spanish reading has developed a mainstream audience in the U.S., while Spanish language literature is successfully translated and gaining wide recognition with English language readers.

Lectorum and BPC are the two biggest Spanish-language book dealers in New York City. Grove is one of many New York houses that is exploring the broad market for literature about Spanish subjects written in English by Americans with roots in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Guatemala. HarperCollins has also established a line for Hispanic literature called Harper Libros. And Vintage has created Vintage Espanol, which was started in 1994 and has published more than 50 titles, mostly in Spanish.

But what kind of books does the Spanish-speaking population read? Just like English-speaking audiences, there is a high demand for books on spirituality and self-help for Spanish-speakers. Also popular is literature in Spanish, which is among the richest in the world. And then there is a great deal of translated fiction of the best-selling works originally written in English. In addition, there is a wide array of educational books (scholarly, scholastic aids, middle school, high school, university, legal and medical), and references (dictionaries and encyclopedias).

There are thousands of Spanish fiction and nonfiction books including bestsellers and classics. Books stores often have books originally published in Spanish, also English books in Spanish translation, and Spanish books translated into English. In addition, there are Spanish audiobooks, Spanish book downloads or Kindle books in Spanish.

In terms of translations, according to Three Percent, the University of Rochester’s weblog about international literature, “only about 3% of all books published in the United States are works in translation.”  And as they mention, although it’s more books than any one person can read in a year it’s still a very low number. On the other hand, when it comes to translations from English fiction titles into other languages, they are often translated first into Spanish, before being translated into French, German or Italian.

The weblog Random Stuff that Matters discuss in their article Large market for Spanish-language books in the US the bilingual publishing trend in the U.S., and how “the 2000 census and its revelations about the fast-growing Hispanic population sparked renewed interest among US publishing houses in meeting the reading wishes of Spanish speakers.” They use as an example Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code which became one of the best-selling translations into Spanish of all time, adding that ” while successful Spanish-language titles in the US typically sell between 15,000 and 20,000 copies, more than 300,000 copies of El Código Da Vinci were scooped off bookstore shelves across the land, ushering in what some described as a new era for Spanish-language books in America.”

Also noteworthy are the translators, who play an important role in the translation of books in Spanish. They need to be sensitive to the cultural and linguistic differences in the Spanish-speaking world; carefully adapt each book to capture the voice of the author and the meaning, style and flavor of the story.

If you’re interested in translating a book into Spanish, visit Spanish Language Translation

What to read:

Online resources

Amazon.com’s Libros en Español

The book club Mosaico for ideas about what to buy

Críticas and publisher catalogs such as Ediciones Serres, Random House Español, and Ediciones TUTOR

You can also browse online to see what’s new in stores and what they’re marketing. I suggest three stores: Librerías Gandhi (in Spanish), the Spanish-language section of aBOOKS.com (in English), and Librería Santa Fe (in Spanish).
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