Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Book Publishers Search for Spanish Hits

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Book Publishers Search for Spanish Hits

Article excerpt

"We know from the demographics and we know from certain isolated successes that there is a market provided someone can reach it," said Linda Grey, president and publisher of the Ballantine Publishing Group. "But I don't think anyone knows exactly how big it is." Two years ago, a sensuous little book about ill-fated love written by Laura Esquivel began turning publishers' heads like few books do.

Spurred by the success of its movie adaptation, "Like Water for Chocolate" was climbing American best-seller lists, not just in its English translation, but in Esquivel's original Spanish version as well.

It was the first concrete sign, publishers said, that Spanish-language books in this country could sell. And sell well.

Since then, publishers have been busily rummaging through their back lists for titles that, translated into Spanish, might generate sales like "Como Agua Para Chocolate," which has sold about 80,000 copies.

Some houses are introducing imprints for original books written in Spanish. Others are teaming with foreign publishers in an effort to get a piece of what they believe will be the industry's next boom market.

But in a business that runs long on guesswork and gambling and short on market surveys, publishers have few numbers to justify the new ventures other than census figures, which identify 25 million Spanish speakers in this country.

"We know from the demographics and we know from certain isolated successes that there is a market provided someone can reach it," said Linda Grey, president and publisher of the Ballantine Publishing Group. "But I don't think anyone knows exactly how big it is."

Some publishers are moving more boldly than others.

Ballantine, a division of Random House, is teaming with Planeta Publishing, a Barcelona-based publisher, to sell as many as 50 Planeta titles in the United States this spring.

That includes Spanish versions of books by several American authors, including John Grisham and Danielle Steel, to which Planeta, a division of Planeta Internacional S. …

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