American Publishers Return to Cuba

The second U.S. Publishing Mission to Cuba, an official contingent of American publishers and publishing professionals organized by Publishers Weekly and Combined Book Exhibit, arrived in Cuba to mount a selection of nearly 400 American titles at the U.S. Pavillion at the Havana Book Fair, to be held February 10-15.

Organized in cooperation with the Book Institute of Cuba, the governing body of the Cuban publishing industry, the U.S. Publishing Mission is an effort to bring U.S. and Cuban publishers closer together and lay the groundwork for future business partnerships. This year’s publishing mission is looking to build on the relationships developed during the first publishing mission last year, which included a written memorandum of understanding between PW, Combined Book Exhibit and the Book Institute of Cuba to “promote “cooperation and understanding” between the U.S. and Cuban publishing industries.

This year’s mission totaled about 31 people, including such new members as Ted Adams, CEO and publisher of IDW Publishing, an independent graphic novel publisher and media producer; Judith Curr, president and publisher S&S’s Atria Publishing Group; literary agents Amy Berkower, chairperson of Writers House, and Kimberly Witherspoon, partner at Inkwell Management; and Alex Correa, president of Lectorum Publications, which publishes and distributes Spanish language books to the U.S.

Beginning today, the mission will hold a day of professional panels at a hotel off the grounds of the Book Fair, which will feature opening remarks by Juan Rodriquez Cabrera, president of the Book Institute of Cuba and Cevin Bryerman, executive v-p and publisher of PW.

On Saturday, during the professional panels held on the Havana Book Fair grounds, this reporter interviewed Ted Adams about the publishing programs of IDW—IDW publishes hundreds of graphic novels and comics periodicals each year in addition to producing TV shows—in front of an enthusiastic group of young Cuban comics artists and writers who turned out to hear him speak.

The next day, Leylha Ahuile, PW Latin American correspondent and president of the Spanish language book marketing firm PromoLatino, moderated (and translated remarks into English and Spanish) a panel on book acquisition and development that featured literary agents Berkower and Witherspoon.

As in 2016, the U.S. Mission mounted a selection of books by American publishers—nearly 400 books from such publishers as Penguin Random House, S&S, IDW, Sourcebooks, Kent State University Press, Quarto, Stylus Publishing and others. Unlike the other exhibitors at the book Fair, due to the longrunning American embargo against the Castro regime, the American publishers cannot sell their books at the fair. At the end of the fair, the books will be donated to the Cuban Book Institute.

Held at La Cabana, a sprawling 18th century fortress (now a museum), high on a hill overlooking port and City of Havana, the Havana Book Fair attracts publishers from around the world. The fair offers the people of Cuba a vast number and variety of books and attracts as many as million people to the month long show, which will move to several other Cuban cities after its run in Havana.

This year’s U.S. publishing mission comes as new administration takes over in Washington D.C. and after the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and future relations between U.S. and Cuban remain uncertain.

CBE president Jon Malinowski said, “although we do not know what the future holds in light of recent events in both of our countries, we remain committed to strengthening bonds of friendship based on our common love of the written word.”

Calvin Reid, PW Publishers Weekly

February 13, 2017

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