Rebecca Bengoechea on the Guadalajara Book Fair

Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico: the home of mariachi, tequila, and since 1987, the Feria del Libros Internacional (FIL), Latin America’s premier bookfair. This year, PUP’s Rights team were delighted to visit for the first time.

The fair boasts publishers from over 44 countries, from the bigger markets of Argentina, Brazil and of course Mexico, all the way down to Panama, Costa Rica and Uruguay. There were stands converted into bookshops, from the colossal stands of publishers such as Planeta or Fondo de Cultura, to the tiny used and antique English-language book shop. The Guest of Honour this year was Portugal, and we were thrilled to see that there were a number of Portuguese publishers who made the trip. The fair’s professional days of Monday-Wednesday are book-ended by the fair being open to the public, and this dynamic really lent a special atmosphere to the events, with children and enthusiastic students reminding us why we are all in the book business!

Following a visit to Spain back in May where I was able to explore the Spanish market, I was very eager to broaden my scope further to Latin America and the Spanish speaking market. As with PUP’s recent attentions in China, any chance to increase our presence in Latin America goes a long way to making PUP a truly global press.

We were guided by PUP’s new Director for Rights, Contracts, and Permissions, Ines ter Horst, who had attended the fair before and who has extensive contacts in the different markets. We were based in the Rights Centre, but also took meetings on various publisher’s stands, attended some very important wine & empanada (Argentina) and rum & chocolate (Venezuelan/Chilean) networking events, and the wonderful reception at the biggest bookshop in Guadalajara, the Libreria de Carlos Fuentes.

It was an immersive experience; a whirlwind of meetings, receptions, a fantastic programme of talks, food, not to mention the all-important salsa music that lent the fair a truly Latin flavour. Unlike other book fairs such as Frankfurt where our intensive schedules are usually fully-booked months in advance, Guadalajara’s charm was a more relaxed atmosphere that allowed us to capitalise on spontaneous opportunities and meet with people we would otherwise not have encountered. Our days were still filled, but with more in-depth discussions, market research, and crucially invaluable networking that we hope will bear fruit in the years to come.  

The Rights team were there, as with the other annual book fairs we attend, primarily with the aim of meeting with publishers from various countries, promoting our books, and discussing the possibilities for translation licenses. We were also able to wear various other hats during the fair; embracing discussions about the sales and distribution of our English language books, the developments in Print On Demand schemes in Latin America, and listening to news of Spanish language projects that our editors might want to acquire and publish with PUP.

The fair was full of energy, optimism, fun, and the spirit of collaboration. It provided wonderful insights into a vast and vibrant Spanish-speaking ecosystem, perhaps too often neglected by the Anglophone world. The enthusiasm was infectious and we came away filled with excitement, already frantically planning our return next year where we hope to make an even bigger splash.