Hispabooks, innovative indie publisher of Spain’s contemporary literature in English, fades from view

By Katie King
Seattle, August 8, 2018

Hispabooks’ website has disappeared. Its Facebook and Twitter pages lie fallow. The voices of its Spanish editor/publishers have gone silent. In industry and general news pages there are no announcements, no farewells. Just silence. What has happened to Hispabooks, the exciting and innovative Madrid-based indie publisher of contemporary Spanish literature in English?

Hispabooks Publishing was for a moment the inspiring embodiment of how globalization and technology could create opportunities for English-speaking audiences to read the literature of other cultures and languages. Only a small percentage – the often-cited three percent – of fiction published each year in the U.S. derives from translated literature despite a growing interest in non-English fiction. In the last decade, just 349 works of fiction and poetry from Spain have been translated into English for publication in the U.S. marketplace, fewer than 35 per year, according to the Three Percent Database. But the digital age, with its global publishing marketplace connected by social media messaging and serviced by print on demand, promised new possibilities to make translated fiction a possible business venture.

It was that opportunity that Hispabooks founders Ana Pérez Galván and Gregorio Doval wanted to tap into, to move English language audiences beyond the traditional vision of Spanish literature starting and ending with Don Quixote.  In 2011, the two English-speaking professionals of Spain’s book publishing world launched their “labor of love”. They vowed to select the contemporary books they were most passionate about which also had universal themes that would appeal to global audiences, and to use the best translators to render them into English.

Between 2013 and 2018, Hispabooks published 33 novels, mostly from Spanish but also two from the Catalan and one from the Basque language. They are currently the third largest publisher of Spain’s literature in English in the 10 years, beaten only by Small Stations Press with 34 titles and AmazonCrossing with 35 titles. One Hispabooks novel was longlisted for the Three Percent 2015 Best Translated Book Award (Paris, by Giralt Torrente, translated by Margaret Jull Costa). Hispabooks publishers was able to sign top name translators like prolific and award-winning Jull Costa, who translates Nobel Prize winner José Saramago among many others, Peter Bush (former director of the British Centre for Literary Translation), Jonathan Dunne and Nick Caistor, as well as rising-star young emerging translators such as Rosalind Harvey. These successes sparked interest and excitement in the industry press as well as in general interest publications such as the Financial Times, the Irish Times and EL PAÍS. Publishing Perspectives said Hispabooks was “challenging stereotypes of Spanish literature.” An EL PAÍS opinion writer glowed, “Hispabooks are giving a voice to award-winning, innovative and pioneering Spanish writers….”

In a 2015 interview with Bookseller.com possibly hinting at potential challenges to come, Pérez Galván said the company was planning to open an office in London to improve visibility with U.K. bookshops. She described a plan to shift distribution strategy from online and print-on-demand to more traditional trade distribution companies. Hispabooks sold 1,500 books in 2015 for £67,000 in revenue, up from just 300 books in 2013/14, Pérez Galván said. Hispabooks also received grants and support from the Government of Spain and the European Union, bookseller.com reported.

Since 2016 however there is almost no reporting on Hispabooks activities, beyond a listing of their publications on the Three Percent Database. There is one short, sad note published in El Español on March 18, 2018 by Lorenzo Silva, one of the Spanish authors whose novel was translated and published by Hispabooks. Headlined “La música muere” it says economic pressures forced Hispabooks’ founders to shut down. Someone should give them a medal, Silva writes, adding that at this point the award would be posthumous.

I am currently reaching out to Doval and Pérez Gonzalez for an interview to get more details on this loss to the literature of Spain and hopefully will have more information to share when I connect with them.

 

Sources:

Battersby, Eileen. “The new reign of writing from Spain is far above the plain,” Irish Times, May 29, 2015. www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/the-new-reign-of-writing-from-spain-is-far-above-the-plain-1.2230575. Accessed August 8, 2018.

Delgado Darnalt, Andrés.Hispabooks: Challenging Stereotypes in Spanish Literature,” Publishing Perspectives, January 7, 2015. publishingperspectives.com/2015/01/hispabooks-challenging-stereotypes-spanish-literature/. Accessed August 8, 2018.

Finnigan, Chris. “Put Down Orwell and Pick Up Contemporary Spanish Fiction,” EL PAÍS, 1 diciembre 2014. blogs.elpais.com/trans-iberian/2014/12/put-down-orwell-and-pick-up-contemporary-spanish-literature.html. Accessed August 8, 2018.

Post, Chad. Three Percent Database/Publishers Weekly, admin.publishersweekly.com/pw/translation/search/index.html. Accessed August 8, 2018.

Silva, Lorenzo. “La música muere,” El Español, 18 marzo 2018.  www.elespanol.com/opinion/columnas/20180310/musica-muere/290850917_13.html. Accessed August 8, 2018.

Williamson, Sandra. “Spanish Steps for Hispabooks: Founder Ana Perez Galvan Explains the Indie’s Approach to Sandra Williamson.” The Bookseller, no. 5714, 2016, p. 18.

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