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Small publishers make it big at Book Fair

A view of the stand Todo libro es político, featuring 22 small publishing houses.
A view of the stand Todo libro es político, featuring 22 small publishing houses.
A view of the stand Todo libro es político, featuring 22 small publishing houses.
By Veronica Stewart
For the Herald

Dozens of imprints post together with attractive offers at the year's largest literary event

If you ask the person running any stand of a small publishing house at this year’s Book Fair, each and every one of them will tell you that they were either involved in its founding or have been part of it for a long time. It’s no coincidence that they know the craft behind every book that surrounds them. Unlike the big publishing companies, almost all the people involved in keeping these small labels up and running parti-cipate in its operation in many ways, certainly more that they can be rewarded for.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t seem to be an issue for them. What seems to set small publishers apart from big ones is not so much the difference in budget — however decisive that may be — but rather their view on the financial side of it. “In Eloísa Cartonera, our motto is to make books as cheap as possible because the more people read, the better,” said Gustavo Yuste, who became involved in the publishing house’s activities after having published a book of his own. “We have no use for warehouses filled with expensive books. We’d rather people have cheap books in their hands.”

Eloísa Cartonera’s books have a particularly homemade feel to them since they are made from cardboard and their covers are hand-painted, but Yuste is hardly the only one making this statement. Matías Reck, one of the founders of Milena Caserola — which is, in turn, one of the 22 publishing houses included in the stand Todo libro es político — feels the same way. “If you grab one of these books and put it on the table,” he said taking a random copy from the shelf, “you can take a picture of the QR code on the back and download the entire PDF without having to pay for it. We prioritize the desire to read over the sale. First and foremost, a book is a tool to communicate,” Reck told the Herald.

Other houses in the stand include the official imprints of Biblioteca Nacional and Editorial Municipal de Rosario, as well as the Spanish Traficante de Sueños y Virus and the Chilean Lom.

Todo libro es político is just one of the many stands which feature several publishing houses. “We pull our weight together with other houses that have our same size and a similar sort of catalogue,” said Salvador Cristofaro from Fiordo, one of the nine imprints in the stand Sólidos Platónicos. Because of costs being high, he added, it is also a smart financial decision to come together in one stand. Proof of this is the aforementioned Todo libro es político, La Coop with 11 publishing houses and Los siete logos with seven.

This alone adds up to over 40 publishing houses, without including Uruguayan Criatura Editora or Colombian Rey Naranjo. “In Argentina, today, there’s an effervescence of publishing houses,” Marcos Almada from Alto Pogo, part of the stand La Coop, told the Herald. “I don’t think there’s a census for it, but there have to be over 700 labels.” Thus, it becomes impossible to pinpoint where their essence lies, but there are some similarities that all of them share, especially in the need to convey a message that goes beyond the literary.

There seems to be a generalized goal of recovering books by authors whose works have sort of disappeared from the market. Alejandra Lagazeta from Criatura Editora, for example, made a point of publishing Leo Maslíah’s work or Mario Levrero, whose titles were either hard to find or only printed by the big multinational publishing houses. Almada of Alto Pogo said that “we have the opportunity to find new voices and to recover the voices of writers whose works are important for us to keep building our language and identity.”

As far as themes are concerned, small publishing houses are usually far more willing to take risks and to use the making of books as a way to stand up for their values. Criatura Editora has a beautiful line of children’s books that deals with issues such as Alzheimer’s and gender roles, while Carolina Rey from Colombian Rey Naranjo told the Herald that “we want everyone to feel represented in our work. We don’t judge according to political, cultural, religious or sexual preference, and believe in diversity and in the book as a tool against poverty and inequality.” As Cristian De Napoli from Eterna Cadencia and Adriana Hidalgo over at Los siete logos said, “small publishing houses do the most real and meticulous work. What we do is where it all begins.”

@verostewart

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