1. Interest in Caribbean Culture
In 2012, the Havana Book Fair recognized “the Caribbean” as the country of honour; a generous conceptual definition of the region that swept from Louisiana in the North to Bahia in the South. “Cuba is a Caribbean country, but many of our readers are not familiar with the non-Spanish speaking Caribbean,” says Jesus David Curbelo. “For many of our readers, it was a whole discovery.” Many Caribbean titles were republished for the Cuban market, representing, for many, their first Spanish translations.
2. Growing English Language Market
Cuba has 20+ universities with a large market for instructional materials. Regulatory changes now permit the licensing of private English-language tutors, also expanding the market for English materials.
3. Demand in key areas
According to Bahr, there’s strong demand for titles in areas Cuban publishers don’t handle. (It’s worth noting that all of Cuba’s 172 publishing houses are state-run. That places certain limitations on the kinds of books published, which creates opportunities for external publishers to meet.
Bahr says that entertainment books, highly illustrated children’ s books, enhanced books (with CDs, sounds, puppets etc.) tend to do well. Dictionaries and specialized instructional books for professionals are also recommended. Sports books, especially football books, are also popular.
4. Opportunity for South-South collaboration
The Havana Book Fair is a great place for making contacts both with the Cuban literary and publishing community and the large numbers of international visitors. Havana attracts large representation from South and Central America as well as Africa. Publishers seeking co-publishing arrangements that can’t make the hike to London or Frankfurt can take advantage of the networking possibilities in Havana.
5. Price sensitive market
While Cuba’s population of 11 million and its 100% literacy rate might make it attractive, the market is extremely price-sensitive. Local books are heavily subsidized and are deliberately offered to the public at well below the price of printing them. Bahr says it’s not unusual to see kids’ books on sale for less than 0.5 CUC (Cuban convertibles. The exchange rate is 1 CUC: 0.87USD). Foreign publishers are advised to offer deals, as in the example of the kids’ books, three for 5 CUC. Bahr notes that specialized titles can fetch higher prices.
6. Prize available
The Alba Narrativa Literary Awards is now in its fourth year. The Awards honour works in English and republishes the winning book in Cuba. The Award has been undersubscribed each year. For more information, visit www.cubaliteraria.com.