A couple of months ago I asked indie mystery authors how they are getting their books translated to Spanish. To my surprise, only a handful of authors were translating their books. I'll explain why in a moment.
Prosperous Growing Market
US Hispanics represent $1.3 trillion in rapidly growing purchasing power. Average household income is over $50K and growing.
Of the 50 million Hispanics comprising 17% of the US population, 28 million speak fluent Spanish (15 million prefer Spanish to English), and another 13.5 million speak some Spanish.
Here's more from AOL's 2010 Hispanic Cyberstudy. US Hispanics are early adaptors of new technology and are heavier users of online networking than non-Hispanics:
That doesn't count non-Hispanics in the U.S. who speak and read fluent Spanish. It also doesn't count people like me who are studying to improve Spanish. Spanish speaking Latin Americans living in their home countries and residents of Spain aren't included either.
According to the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hispanics are 15% of the US labor force and expected to grow to 20% by 2020. US employment has grown by 2% since 2000; Hispanic employment has grown by 16%. Meanwhile US purchasing power has increased by 2.8% on a compound annual growth rate; Hispanic compound annual growth in purchasing power is more than twice as fast at 7.5%.
In Chicago, 2 million Hispanics are an important part of the entrepreneurial economy. Some estimates put average Hispanic household income at over $60K.
Hispanic Market Confuses Hispanics, Too
All kinds of people speak Spanish from the Mexican and Latin Americans with whom my family and I attended Catholic schools, to Spaniards. They all speak a different brand of Spanish.
Does Hispanic marketing include all Latinos? Well, no, since Brazilians are Latinos who speak Portuguese. In the U.S. we have Cuban Americans, Mexican Americans, and Spanish speakers from Latin America and Spain. They are culturally diverse and have their own preferences for Spanish idioms.
When I decided to hire a translator for La Rebelión de los Jesuitas, the Spanish version of my English language thriller, I hired a translator in El Salvador, and an editor and proofreader based in the U.S. My college friend, a Bolivan American, will check the manuscript, and a finance colleague, a Chilean American now living in Chile, will simultaneously check it. Finally, a Spaniard living temporarily in Chicago will recheck the final product before the book is released to the Spanish speaking market.
After the book is translated, I'll hire someone to produce the audio book, and it will probably be a Latino based in Miami.
That's just the translation part. After that, I found there's no easy way to reach Hispanic Kindle readers and audiophiles.
Hispanic Readers and Audiophiles: Underserved
Amazon is web based, so you might think that it reaches the entire Latin American and Spanish market as well as the U.S. market. I signed up for Kindle flash, and Amazon kindly sends me a link designed to reach the Hispanic market. So far, it's been hopeless. You have to hunt for Spanish books on your own.
Amazon has a platform for Mexico and Spain, but my Latin American friends buy Kindle books via their Amazon.com accounts. Readers in Argentina seem to prefer print books, but that may be because they feel there's no organized e-delivery system for Argentina, or it may be a personal preference. I'm a long-time print media lover (and a scribbler in the margins of my books), but Kindle made it easy for me to like both forms of media.
Publishing Perspectives noted director of Spanish Language publishing Jaime de Pablos believes that US Hispanics "may speak and watch TV in Spanish, not all or even many of them read in Spanish." That doesn't match my experience, but even if this is correct, that suggests there's an audio book market.
Moreover, if there's a well-marketed electronic eBook delivery system servicing the Hispanic market, we indie authors have yet to find it. We'd love more opportunities to promote translated eBooks and audio books.
If you want to market an English Kindle book, there are dozens of web sites and email delivery systems that will alert you to deals. But they have only penetrated the US market. Authors who use these marketing platforms see almost no results in UK and Canada sales.
As far as I and other authors could tell, there are no comparable platforms for Spanish Kindle books or other Spanish eBooks.
That's how I got involved as an investor and partner in Portal a Ciberlibros, a tech startup platform to connect publishers and authors of free and discounted Spanish eBooks and audio books to Hispanic readers and audiophiles. Newsletter subscription is free. Authors and publishers can list free, too. We just started, and already the subscription list is growing fast.
Once the subscription list reaches a critical mass, publishers and authors are happy to pay to list their books to reach consumers of Spanish audio books and eBooks. We plan to expand to other retailers and products.
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of authors gave up on the Hispanic market and decided not to translate their books to Spanish. Even some bestselling indie authors don't have books in Spanish. They felt they had no way to reach that market, and even experts in Hispanic marketing suggested the market is limited.
I'd love to hear more insights into this market, and next year I'll provide you with our data on our experiences in this venture into providing a new service to the Hispanic market.