Monday, February 7, 2011

An interview with three Cuban publishers

Cubans around the (publishing) world
An interview with three Cuban publishers

por Teresa Dovalpage
(para el blog Gaspar, El Lugareño)

I met Marlene Moleón and Andrés Pi during the 2010 Miami Book Fair. They represent two faces of the modern publishing industry: e-books and printing on demand, which are relatively new and not completely understood…at least by some. As for Fabio Murrieta, I read one of the books published by Aduana Vieja, Cuba, última novela. Treinta años del Mariel, by Ramón Luque, and immediately felt curious about this Cuban transplant to the Old World. I interviewed the three of them hoping to shed some light in the long and winding (and often whining) road to publication. And here they are, in their own voices…

Teresa Dovalpage: When and why did you decide to start your publishing house?

Marlene Moleón: I started Eriginal Books last year, in September. My novel En la isla de los pregones was an Azorín Award finalist, but despite this I couldn’t manage to publish it. After three years, I decided to do it on my own as an electronic book, so as to not have it simply die in a drawer, (or, to be precise, in some corner of my computer's hard drive). I was surprised by the success! I was asked for interviews in Mexico and I had readers from all over the world. Since I have over 10 years’ experience working in electronic publishing and promotion, I decided to start Eriginal Books for other junior authors so that they may have the same opportunity.

Andrés Pi Andreu: I decided to open Linkgua USA in January 2010. I felt it was time to have a publisher in the States that would represent, publish and promote literature in Spanish or from Hispanic authors, to create a space where our authors could feel represented. Our idea is more a cultural platform than strictly a publisher, because we also have a music label and a multimedia section (films, short films, and documentary made by Latinos in the USA). Another important part of our catalog (more than 3500 titles) is our academic catalog. We possess the more extensive and comprehensive digitalize collection of the Spanish classics in the world. Since we are in Barcelona and in Miami we think we could provide text books or curriculum books for all colleges in the USA, Central and South America. Only check our catalog in

Fabio Murrieta: Soon, Aduana Vieja will be ten years old. I've always liked working as a publisher. Rather, I’ve been fascinated by this work. I had good teachers, both in Cuba and in Spain. And I also had good friends who happened to be publishers. In Cuba we have a great tradition of literary publishers, from Martí to Rodríguez Feo. I had already worked in several magazines and books, and I gradually came to realize that I liked writing with a certain style. I began to think of the books I'd like to see printed and how I would print them. This particular way of understanding literature, books, design and publishing led me to decide, in the end, to create my own label, with specific characteristics that distinguish it.

Teresa Dovalpage: Do you publish books in English and in Spanish?

Marlene Moleón: At first I planned to publish only in Spanish because I wanted to focus on Latino authors. But I found that in reality, the new generation of Hispanics that has grown up in the United States and Canada prefers to write in English because they consider it their mother tongue. Soon I will publish three books in English: Jinetera, a novel, and two children's books: Alony and the Butterfly and The Talented Demetri.

Andrés Pi Andreu: We publish book in both languages. We also have a couple of projects for bilingual books.

Fabio Murrieta: We publish books in English and in Spanish…and sometimes in French. For example, in English we have published Encounters in exile. Themes in the narrative of the Cuban Diaspora by Belén Rodríguez Mourelo while Voces de America contains texts in Spanish, English and French.

Teresa Dovalpage: Do you publish only Cuban-themed books?

Marlene Moleón: Let me tell you a story. One day I was teaching Geography to my niece, who is 6 years old. She was born in Miami. I explained to her a few facts about Cuba, Spain and the United States. Suddenly she began to ask: “Where was Grandma born?” “In Cuba”, I answered. “And auntie?” “In Cuba.” "Godfather?” “In Cuba.” "Uncle?” “In Cuba.” She was puzzled and replied: “I'm surrounded by Cubans!” Well, you could say that Eriginal Books is inevitably surrounded by Cubans in Miami so I naturally have more Cuban authors so far. But Eriginal Books is not a publisher dealing exclusively with Cuban authors or issues. It’s mostly for Hispanic authors – even if they write in English- but we also publish non Hispanic authors and we deal with any topic. I already have a Chilean author published, and may soon have a Dominican writer and an American author as well.

Andrés Pi Andreu: No, we have right now five different collections. Ediciones Malecón (Cuban contemporary literature from inside and outside the Island), Centauro (Sci-fi, Horror, Detective books and fantasy), ErotiKa (erotic literature), Tres Aguas (non-Cuban Latin-American literature written in the USA) and Vitral (essay written by Latinos or about Latino culture or sciences)

Fabio Murrieta: While Aduana Vieja has published mostly Cuban literature in Spain, or rather, Cuban literature in exile, we have also published books focused on realities and issues as diverse as contemporary German literature, the legacy of the United States Constitution to American literature, twentieth century dance, history and pedagogy in Spain, the methodological problems of translation, or a book about Arabic interiors, just to name a few. Cuban literature is just a line in Aduana Vieja, maybe the most important, but we also remain very interested in other proposals and contents.

Teresa Dovalpage: What is your best-selling book up to now?

Marlene Moleón: Novels are my best sellers: Memory of Silence by Uva de Aragon, mine, and Sindo Pacheco’s novel, Mañana es Navidad which is the most recent and is now taking off quite well.

Andrés Pi Andreu: Until now its “274” a novel... we have also two offers to convert it into a movie. 
Fabio Murrieta: Guayaba Sweet. Literatura cubana en Estados Unidos, co-edited with Dr. Laura Alonso Gallo. Often the life of a book, commercially speaking, is estimated at two years. Guayaba Sweet not only sold well at first, but people are still asking us for it almost ten years after its publication. We want to thanks the contributors, those great writers who sent us their texts. It was a fun experience, because we knew that, besides publishing a book, we were creating a publishing house.

Teresa Dovalpage: Which are your biggest challenges as a publisher?

Marlene Moleón: Finding good literature that rightly promoted could also become bestsellers.

Andrés Pi Andreu: There are three:

1. To get the people or institutions to know us, to have an effective marketing strategy with our products
2. The financial crisis (sales are down)
3. The loss of the reading habit.

Fabio Murrieta: Today a publisher faces many challenges. To begin with, the arrival of the electronic book, whose biggest headache is not exactly created by copyright issues, as it is commonly believed, but by pirated copies. Second, this kind of "democratization" of publishing, which allows anyone to "publish," or rather "to self-publish", a book, print it and sell it. It is an improvement, no doubt, but for the professional publisher the challenge is to explain that one thing has nothing to do with the other. I mean, creating a publishing house linked to a blog, or self-publishing, are both processes that involve little more than using a home computer. Trouble arises when someone tries to take these "three easy steps" we've seen described on a web page and bring them into the world of professional publishing. Technology is a blessing, in fact we use it at Aduana Vieja and Grupo Publiberia by printing our books on demand, for example, but fighting improvisation is the biggest challenge ahead for the publisher. We will never do things “the easy way” because it would mean betraying our authors. The truth us is that a book is not made by following three “easy steps.”

Teresa Dovalpage: How do you envision your publishing house in two years?

Marlene Moleón: As the best Hispanic book publisher in the U.S. I want to clarify that I am also publishing printed versions of the books, but I am doing it only as a promotional tool for the electronic versions.

Andrés Pi Andreu: First, I hope we come through with our extensive Academic Catalog. I know our contemporary literature collections will have success, so I plan to expand them into 7 collections and about 30 new books a year. We will continue to expand our classics catalog... Also our eBooks catalog: at the moment is the biggest e-Book catalog from all Spanish Publisher in the world... We have approx. 3000 eBooks.

Fabio Murrieta: I hope that by then we can be celebrating our tenth anniversary. I also hope to have more than one hundred published titles, new authors and many more readers. We have other projects, such as publishing our own magazine, which may have become a reality by that time.

Teresa Dovalpage: Are you actively looking for new writers?

Marlene Moleón: Many authors come to me. They learn of the existence of Eriginal Books through their social networks and decide to take the initiative in contacting us. But I also make proposals to recognized authors to see if they want to have an electronic version of their work published with Eriginal Books. And I am always on the lookout for talent.

Andrés Pi Andreu: Yes, always, we receive books from new authors constantly. We have an Editorial Committee. We evaluate new texts from February until April for the next’s year editorial plan.

Fabio Murrieta: For an independent publisher like Aduana Vieja, the iconic writers (that is, those who are able to write great books regularly, the kind that after a few years are identified with a publishing house and somehow represent it) are the ones that become “iconic” after being with a publisher for a while. They are authors who trust the publisher with their work. We have never sought them, because we actually have little to offer them. They have come to us, and then decided by themselves whether to stay or not. Fortunately, we already have many authors whose work is today a symbol of Aduana Vieja and we are really proud of that.

Teresa Dovalpage: Thank you so much for answering these questions! Good luck y muchas gracias!

Marlene Moleón (Eriginal books, Miami, USA)
Andrés Pi Andreu (Linkgua USA, Chicago, USA)
Fabio Murrieta (Aduana Vieja, Valencia, Spain)

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Click here to visit - The place to shop for Cuban memorabilia! Cuba: Art, Books, Collectibles, Comedy, Currency, Memorabilia, Municipalities, Music, Postcards, Publications, School Items, Stamps, Videos and More!