Celebrating a Ripe Audience: A New Publishing Imprint Highlights Hispanic Celebrities

With the recent launch of the Celebra publishing imprint, Raymond Garcia hopes to tap into the emergent Hispanic book-buying market.

Having worked for three years as associate publisher of Rayo, the Latino imprint at HarperCollins Publishers, and now as publisher of Celebra, Garcia is confident and at ease discussing the growing Hispanic reading audience and the types of books that are likely to capture its attention.

Celebra is described as the first imprint to exclusively publish “mainstream” Hispanic personalities for mainstream audiences. The name itself, Celebra, has a literal definition in Spanish to mean to praise, honor and celebrate — all byproducts of fame. The publishers wanted a Spanish-language name that was easy to pronounce in English and one that would take on its own definition, characterizing the imprint.

Journalist Geraldo Rivera’s His Panic: Why Americans Fear Hispanics in the U.S. (February 2008, $24.95), an impassioned examination of the increasing Hispanic population in the nation and the controversial attitudes toward illegal immigration, is the debut book from the new publisher. His Panic holds the No. 33 spot on The New York Times best-seller list dated March 23 — this coming Sunday.

“The goal of Celebra is to mirror the composition of today’s media by publishing premier Hispanic personalities who are leaders across all channels such as entertainment, business, health, politics and sports,” says Garcia.

He argues that it is absolutely essential to have an imprint like Celebra within the publishing industry.

“With almost 45 million Hispanics in the U.S. that makeup almost $1 trillion in buying power, there is not an industry that could afford to ignore this booming market,” says Garcia. “The Hispanic retail book market is a billion-dollar industry and growing.”

In March 2002, The New York Times reported that only a few of the major publishing houses had an established Latino imprint, and one, Random House, had an imprint for children’s books. “Nearly every major publishing house has tried its Latino imprint, and nearly all largely failed because not enough marketing money was spent,” the article said.

But that scenario will look different for Celebra, as it is backed by Penguin Group USA, one of the most-elite publishing houses in the industry and globally recognized for its outstanding titles.

“Penguin Group USA consciously waited for the right time and initiative to establish an imprint with a Hispanic focus,” says Garcia. “Celebra is a byproduct of their patience and foresight. The timing and broad reach of this imprint, coupled with Penguin’s world-class marketing and distribution, truly sets us up for success.”

Garcia says that there was no one, particular “Aha!” moment that prompted the inception of Celebra. The imprint, he says, is a reflection of the natural evolution of the Hispanic population in the U.S.

“No longer are Hispanics a niche audience, but rather a seamless part of  today’s mainstream America,” adds Garcia. “ABC’s Ugly Betty is a perfect example of a wildly successful show that is culturally driven, yet mainstream, inherently garnering a loyal audience of acculturated Hispanics. That is the same position driving Celebra’s publishing program.”

Celebra plans to publish nonfiction, adult titles and a select number of children’s titles. All the titles will be published in English, and about one-third of the list will be translated into Spanish.

According to Garcia, Celebra will look to expand the number of best-selling Hispanic authors in the industry by matching influential personalities, with significant exposure, to best-selling concepts. Forthcoming titles include Powerhouse Principles: The Billionaire Blueprint for Real Estate Success by Jorge Perez, a billionaire entrepreneur and private real-estate developer; Taking on the System: Rules for Radical Change in a Digital Era by Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of the popular political blog Daily Kos; and Estefan Kitchen by Gloria and Emilio Estefan, internationally renowned musicians and successful restaurateurs.

While Celebra does not have a book in its immediate lineup that specifically focuses on the subject of higher education, many of the books do tout the importance of higher education. In January 2009, for example, Celebra will publish Triumph by Eddie “Piolin”

Sotelo, one of the leading Hispanic radio personalities in the country. 

Sotelo speaks to millions of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, spreading

the message that there is only one reason that anyone comes to this country — to triumph. How? Through education. “This is truly a momentous initiative within book publishing,” says Garcia. “Book publishing needs to keep up with the changing face of Hispanics in the U.S. to satisfy this massive audience, and Celebra is at the cusp of that movement.”

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