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.

Game of Tongues — PUP Director Peter Dougherty Reflects on the Importance of Translations (#UPWeek)

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If you want to get a great sense of the global reach of the university press and, not incidentally, of the potential of forthcoming publications, you could do worse than observing a few days’ worth of foreign rights meetings at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Perched in a folding chair at a card table in the Princeton University Press booth last month, I watched my colleague Kim Williams, PUP’s foreign rights manager (who operates from our office in Oxfordshire), hold 80 meetings with nearly 200 publishers from 22 countries, representing 17 languages around the world. Meetings such as Kim’s–going on eight frenetic, exhausting hours a day over the five-day forced march of Frankfurt–comprise the annual ritual wherein the world decides which books and which ideas get dispersed across nations. The word “dissemination” is sometimes used to characterize the mission of university presses. Frankfurt is an example of dissemination of the highest, most sophisticated, most intricately orchestrated kind.

Pitching our books to Chinese publishers at #fbf13 - cheers to Cheers Publishing!

Pitching our books to Chinese publishers at #fbf13 – cheers to Cheers Publishing! (credit: @PUP_Rights)

Not only geography, but history matters in the annual translation transaction Olympiad. Kim Williams knows her counterparts at the foreign publishers and has worked with many of them for years. She knows their tastes, interests, and strengths. The experience she brings to the task and the development of these relationships, invest her exchanges with insight and efficiency, providing a kind of multicultural shorthand for conducting the world’s book business.

And the game of tongues matters. Over the past ten years the number of Princeton’s translation licenses has nearly tripled. Rights deals in Chinese over this period have increased almost tenfold, translations into Japanese have almost tripled, and Korean rights deals have also increased dramatically. And this growth is not limited to Asian markets. We’ve seen equally strong growth in the number of Turkish, Czech, Brazilian Portuguese, and Spanish translations, among others. Taken all together this increased activity reflects changes in international economic development and national cultural priorities. This upward trend in translation activity will only increase as economic development rises. It would be interesting to know how many of our translated titles win awards and other accolades in their adopted languages.

And much as the annual idea-swap in Frankfurt provides us with a window on the world, it also tells us a lot about ourselves. From a distance, it tells us which subjects “travel” well, yielding valuable insights into list-planning and therefore into editorial acquisitions. From a closer standpoint, it provides a powerfully compelling preview of how a publisher’s upcoming list is likely to perform. If three dozen foreign publishers are panting over a particular title, chances are you’ve got a winner in English as well as around the world in other language markets.

Finally, a week at a rights table in Frankfurt gives a publisher a glimpse into its soul. Just how good are we? Are certain lists as strong as we think they are? Are we current or are we yesterday’s news? Do our lists have the three Ds–depth, dimension, and durability–or are we publishing mere ephemera? The five-day stress test in front of the world’s hard-bitten foreign publishers answers those questions, sometimes painfully, other times reassuringly.

As the global university press evolves, table talk in Frankfurt will continue to serve as a vital indicator of our impact around the world and our insight into ourselves.

Peter J. Dougherty
Director
Princeton University Press

 

Click through to check out the covers of various On Bullshit translations.

For more information about Princeton University Press’s foreign rights program, please visit http://press.princeton.edu/europe/content/pages/rights.html