Mar 15, 2012, 2:13 AM
Post #2 of 5
Sandykayak… thanks for opening up a discussion of Mexico-related books in English. Like Tony, I am a writer working for my publisher (in my case, as the acquisitions editor, which ain’t a bad way of getting your manuscripts in the door). I certainly agree that Kindle™ and other e-book publishing ventures have been a godsend to both readers and publishers… especially those of us reading or writing English about a Spanish-speaking country.
Re: [sandykayak] Sombrero Books on Mexico
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Tony’s company up there in British Colombia has an edge over us here in Mexico when it comes to paper costs, but like us faces a daunting task when it comes to distribution, especially in a Spanish-speaking country (even if the book is about that Spanish-speaking country). Editorial Mazatlán is fortunate to have a U.S. affiliate, which makes it feasible for us to print in Mexico only the limited number of books needed to meet the demand for English-language market here, while taking advantage of the production costs in the United States for those books like my own Gods, Gachupines and Gringos, Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado’s Magic Made in Mexico and Ramon Acosta’s Revolutionary Days, which enjoy a continuous demand.
However, while like Sombrero Press we are able to distribute our books from some “bricks and mortar"stores in Mexico (notably Sandi in Guadalajara, Amate Books in Oaxaca and Merida, Mazatlán Book and Coffee here in Mazatlán and the American Bookstore in D.F.) and by mail order, concentrating on traditional retailers is unfair to the authors: not being a vanity (or Print-On-Demand) operation, we aren't being paid by authors, but are paying them. But, in calculating the royalty schedule in an author's contract, publishers have to consider their own costs and overhead. Excellent as Tony’s and the other Sombrero Press books are, their prices would be even higher, if they had to reflect the major expense involved in developing a relationship with the buyers for the important national chains and the one major foreign book distributor here in Mexico. It's a huge burden for us, and hasn't been particularly fruitful yet, even though we are able to do so more easily than a foreign company. As it is, I would much rather Tony spent his time and money on research, writing and editing new books than on trying to train sales agents, or acting as a sales agent for books one can just as easily down-load or order by mail.
As far as readers go, I know those who don’t have easy access to English-language booksellers appreciate having an alternative means of acquiring books. One thing that makes me ecstatic as both a writer of some very specialized works on Mexico (like Gorostieta and the Cristiada) as well as an acquisitions editor — is that we are able to make those limited demand books available to readers. For niche publishers like Sombrero Books and Editorial Mazatlán, electronic publishing is the only way we can effectively distribute not just to Mexico, but to the small market for our products outside our own countries. One of our titles (Bosques’ War) has attracted interest from readers in Israel and Argentina. Absent electronic publication, we would be unable to serve those clients.
We recently set up a second imprint, Libros Valor, for fiction and other miscellaneous publications that fall outside the scope for books bearing the Editorial Mazatlán imprint. Among the publications we have in the works are some reprints of otherwise now-out of print regional fiction, including the late Ethel Stockton’s “Old” novels (about an aging expat making a new life for herself on the Mexican Pacific). These are not the kind of works that are going to be required reading in school or be on any best seller list, but enjoy a discerning and loyal readership. Financially lucrative? They probably wouldn’t be without e-publication.
I’d also draw your attention to another Mexican venture that publishes in English: C.M. Mayo’s Dancing Chiva Literary Arts. Although Dancing Chiva is mostly a self-publishing venture, it is going in exciting new directions. Mayo streams regular pod-casts about literature, Mexico and … English-language writing about Mexico. In addition, she publishes her own quite valuable and worthwhile works as e-books – fiction like the amazing Last Prince of the Mexican Empire and scholarly translations like that of Francisco Madero’s book on spiritism, which is next to, if not completely, impossible to acquire in Spanish but is of immense importance to scholars of the Revolution. Perhaps wiser than the rest of us, and not willing to make the compromise between ready availability and the aesthetic enjoyment we get from the book as an physical object, Dancing Chiva publishes not just e-books and trade editions of those works, but high-quality limited editions craft printed and bound books for those who see the book as a work of art in its own right.