Bookselling in Mexico

Last month, I attended the International Book Fair in Guadalajara, Mexico. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but it blew me away and gave me a renewed vision—and hope—for the publishing industry.

Jovenes Gr

Here are a few of the details:

  • The Guadalajara International Book Fair is sponsored by the University of Guadalajara. It has been held every year for the last 20 years.
  • It is a general market fair. Thomas Nelson was the only major Christian publisher exhibiting.
  • Most of the booths were very sophisticated. It reminded me of BEA. Lots of beautiful product everywhere. Great graphics and great signage.
  • The exhibit floor was open from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. every day for “professionals” (e.g., publishers, booksellers, printers, the media, agents, authors, etc.). At 5:00 p.m., they opened the show to the public. The floor closed at 9:00 p.m.
  • Over 525,000 people attended. The aisles were jammed. I have never seen so much excitement about books. And—here’s the best part—probably half of the attendees were under the age of 30.
  • Almost 17,000 booksellers attended. Thirty-nine countries were represented.

All exhibitors were allowed to sell. All the major retail chains in Mexico, including the primary Christian one and the primary Catholic one had large stores on the floor. Publishers were selling to consumers, too, directly out of their booths.

I also visited five bookstores in the city of Guadalajara—three general market stores, the largest evangelical store, and the largest Catholic store. All five were promoting the book fair. They were running “publisher specials” in their stores in honor of the fair. The booksellers were excited about this show because it dramatically raised the visibility of books, not only in Guadalajara, but all over Mexico.

The show was covered non-stop by the national and local media. With this kind of size, it captured everyone’s attention. I gave three interviews to the national media.

The show sponsored multiple lecture tracks and panel discussions. I stepped into a few. They were also jammed—standing room only. Some had overflow rooms with video feeds because they couldn’t get everyone in the main meeting room.

The primary draw of the show did not seem to be big-name authors per se. Instead, from what I could tell, people were drawn primarily by the shear size of the show and the fact that they could see virtually everything that was happening in the publishing world—in one place.

Somehow we need to recover this kind of enthusiasm in the United States. In the meantime, we will continue to move aggressively into Mexico and Latin America.

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  • Bonnie Calhoun

    Do books get sold there in English, or are they translated versions?

  • Michael Hyatt

    Almost all are in Spanish. However, most are original books rather than translations. Of course, for us, most of the books are translations of our English-based titles.

  • Gina Holmes

    That is encouraging. Thanks for sharing that.

  • Tom Bailey

    This is a great blog. I really like the content here. You have a very encouraging story here. This is my fist visit to this blog.

  • Roberto Rivas

    I really appreciate Mike’s comments about this, the most important Spanish book fair in the world.

    It would be great though, if through his comments people’s interest for book publishing in Spanish and the Spanish language grow. Many of you probably have heard or read about Don Quixote and Sancho Panza – truly a masterpiece, but our language has many, many more stories and authors worth reading.

    Increasingly, more English translations from Spanish authors are being made available to the American public: Carlos Fuentes, Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Bucay…all great authors already translated in English and published and sold in the mainstream bookstores in the USA.

    Having had the fortune of sharing a couple of days with Mike in Guadalajara, I recall that the same question was asked several times by Mike’s different interviewers:

    “Will Thomas Nelson ever consider publishing English translations of a Spanish language author?”

    I think Mike can answer this question better than I can. The point is that Mike, Thomas Nelson & Grupo Nelson (our Spanish book division) certainly made a mark at this important Spanish book fair.


    Roberto Rivas

  • Michael Hyatt


    Yes, we definitely want to publish Spanish-language authors in English. Latin American culture is rich and deep. The Latin people have a great spiritual heritage. They have much to share with us. As the world becomes increasingly “flat,” people are becoming much more interested in the perspectives of other cultural and ethnic groups. We welcome this and want to provide a platform for as many Spanish-language authors as we can.



  • Wambura Kimunyu

    I hadn’t managed to read this far back in your blog so I’m only now getting to this entry.

    Your final thought in this blog entry made me go hmm…

    It’s heartening to read about what seems to be a vibrant and growing book industry in Latin America, and certainly that does present some excellent opportunities that Thomas Nelson.

    Unfortunately, this is not true of my part of the world (perhaps I should add) yet. It made me wonder whether, even as Thomas Nelson follows this sort of growth to new lands, you see yourselves as catalysts for this kind of growth in book industry in other parts of the world.

    Are there other places where you see yourselves as part of making the growth happen?

    If there are, I’d be interested to hear how that’s panning out.