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8 things we learned setting up a publishing company in Spain

Dear Katrina,

Today on the blog we are pleased to bring you a guest piece written by the dynamic duo behind Ybernia. Enda and María have co-written two novels – Verano 69 and La vida en el cráter – as well as a book of essays focused on fake news – Fake News! Bulos que cambiaron el curso de la historia.

Ybernia is their latest project, a bilingual publishing company that draws on their years of editing, writing and translating experience. When they approached us about sharing the insights they’ve gained throughout the process of setting up this publishing house in Spain, we were immediately interested and hope you will be too!

Without further ado, we bring you Enda and María…

8 things we learned setting up a publishing company in Spain

Founding a business can seem like an insurmountable task at the best of times, especially if you are doing it in another country.

This year, we have lived this experience while setting up a publishing company. Along the way, we have faced a litany of joys and frustrations. While it can be a difficult process, it is possible to get your dream company off the ground and make it successful.

We have collated the 8 things we have learned so far in this journey, with a view to helping entrepreneurs create a space for themselves in the publishing world.


1. How to find your niche

As of 2024, there are around 700 publishing companies in Spain; however, only a small percentage of these are bilingual. Additionally, a Communidad de Madrid report in 2022 showed that the rate of readership in Madrid has been increasing over the last number of years. Across the rest of Spain, the trend is similar.

Most of these new readers will have a good grasp of English. Despite the popular perception, Spanish people often speak English quite well, but most bookshops only have a handful of foreign-language books. Since we publish in both English and Spanish, our bilingual focus fills an important and obvious gap in the market, serving an international audience outside of Spain and a large anglophone and Spanish speaking community inside it.

It’s also important to lean into who you are. As a Hiberno-Spanish duo with a focus on Ireland’s links with Spain, it was natural that Ybernia would be a continuation of this. This is another unique selling point – bringing to life these links that are little-known but greatly enjoyed once discovered.

Finally, we can offer in-house translation services, streamlining costs and offering a wider audience to our writers. With most other publishers, selling the foreign rights is a long and complex process. With Ybernia, the world is your oyster.


2. How to make contacts

Robbie Williams, the ‘90s pop sensation, was once asked a simple yet profound question: ‘What is the secret of success?’ He turned to the aspiring actress who had asked it and replied, ‘Just turning up.’ At Ybernia, we not only agree with the former Take That wild child, but we would also like to add that the secret of success is often a matter of just reaching out and asking.

We have found to this be true across all of our endeavours. How did we get Irene Vallejo, the Spanish publishing sensation, on our podcast? Or Alejandra Espinosa, the bookshop owner that Encanto’s Mirabel is based on, for that matter? We just asked.

Speaking specifically about the publishing industry, a major part of it is marketing, and a good portion of that is having one or more book launches. We have had launches in Crazy Mary Librería and Secret Kingdoms, two of the most fashionable book shops in Madrid, by walking in off the street and asking. And once you have done one event, you can do more with them, establishing a stronger relationship each time.

Don’t get discouraged by initial refusals. Keep asking.


3. How to find writers

The old adage goes that you should write what you know, and by extension, you should only start a company once you are familiar with the sector. If you are thinking about working in publishing, you are presumably already a writer. You’ll have gone to book launches, reading groups and writing workshops. Once you become a publisher, keep doing all of these things, but this time you are wearing a different hat.

Chances are people will approach you, because they know you personally and have a manuscript they want to publish. Or because your website will start attracting traffic. If you are living as an immigrant and your publishing company is bilingual, the advice stays pretty much the same. Just make sure to balance English posts with Spanish posts on social media, and alternate between Spanish and English-speaking workshops and events.

You can also look for self-published authors on Amazon and Goodreads, and if you like the author and the book, you can get in touch and explore the possibility of offering them a contract.

There is no magic formula to finding writers, but making yourself visible is fundamental.


4. Social Media & Identity

Anyone knows that, nowadays, a social media presence is essential. So much so, that many companies are more responsive through, say, Facebook Messenger, than if you contact them by email. The Internet is flooded with tips about when it is best to post, the type of content that works, the hashtags, but we will give you just two tips that have worked for us. The first one is don’t make your content just about yourself. People get bored of reading that you will publish this book or present the other. Mix that with other content about things you like and initiatives you appreciate. And second, and strongly related to the first one, give TikTok a shot.

We were sceptical about this platform at first because, like many other people, we thought it was mostly about teenage dancing and challenges. Our view changed after watching a masterclass online as part of the Frankfurt Book Fair, the most important one in the publishing industry. It talked about the power of BookTok and how useful it was in engaging readers. And we can vouch for it, we have found BookTok to be the most effective audience for our content. Campaigns with them definitely offer the best value for money. It’s easy to create short videos about a book you have read, or an exhibition you’ve been to. If your audience has the impression of knowing the person behind the company thanks to these personal posts, they are more likely to trust you when it comes to buying your products.

Lastly, think of every possible media you can use to get your future readers and authors to know you. We had had a podcast for over eight years before becoming a publisher and we have found it to be extremely useful to engage people and tell them about what we do. A blog (like this one, or Irish Slice of Madrid, which we have written on over the years) can also be a great way of getting the word out about your company.

Finally, your website is the place to show your identity fully. Make sure it is easy to use and people can find what they need, but also that they get a good grasp of what you are about and what is important for you as a publishing house.


5. How to register a brand

Navigating the Spanish bureaucracy system can be a real headache, and getting into publishing involves different types of paperwork. For a company, you can choose different models. If you are not in a position to invest a lot of money to begin with, sociedad civil is a good formula, but bear in mind that you might not be eligible for some grants if you are not a limited company. Although it is not always compulsory, it is a very good idea to register your brand name and image, even if you have to pay a fee. At the registro mercantil you are able to check that there are no other businesses registered with the same name as you, which will guarantee your branding is unique and save you any future problems and set you apart from other businesses, especially in terms of your online presence. Don’t forget that this is a long process: it takes a while for them to check that the brand name is free; after, they make it public and people can raise objections for another couple of months; if no one does, then your brand is officially registered. This can take around 6 months in total.


6. What goes in a contract?

Contracts are another important thing to get right. You want the authors you are working with to feel comfortable. There are plenty of contract templates for the publishing industry on the Internet, but it is important that you adapt them to your specific circumstances. A good contract will, of course, state the duration of the agreement and the percentage of the sales the author will be receiving, as well as when that will be paid. Think of the things you would like to know if you were the author, such as how long the entire process will take provided that all the deadlines are respected. A very useful clause that many publishing contracts lack is one that refers to termination, that is to say, the conditions that allow publisher and author to get out of the contract if they are not happy. Including a clause like that gives the author the right, for example, to give the contract up if the publishers does not do any marketing. Conversely, if there is any foul play on the part of the author or if they do not fulfil their duties, the publishers are also protected and able to use this clause if necessary.


7. How to organize a book launch

The first thing to think about when organizing a book launch is, of course, the venue. We have found bookshops to be great places: find one that you think would work and approach them in person about the possibility. If they support independent publishers, they are usually keen and will purchase copies in advance to be sold on the day. A bookshop works well for everyone: it provides the perfect atmosphere for the launch and attendees might discover a new space and buy other books there on the day.

For the day itself, you can either find a relevant host to present the launch and ask the author questions or, if you don’t have access to such a person or the book has a very strong theme you can make use of, you can structure the launch around some props (for example, for our book La vida en el cráter, about historical characters moon craters are named after, we distributed postcards with the character names and crater coordinates across the room, and asked random attendees to read the cards out loud as a cue for us to talk about those chapters).

To make it a success, just make sure that you don’t rely mainly on the venue to fill the place and that you secure most of the attendees yourself, that way you will avoid surprises on the day. That will also allow you to plan the content better and to be prepared if you are giving out flyers, bookmarks or even refreshments.


8. What makes a good publisher?

Many publishers these days insist that writers have huge social media followings, pay a fee for publication or go through an agent. They will also expect the writer to do the bulk of marketing, turning the publisher into a glorified printer, one that hoovers up most of the profit. Horror stories abound where books are not published or are heavily altered without the author’s consent.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

A good publisher will take the time listen to the author, who are often a mixture of nerves and aspirations. Choosing to work with them rather than ignoring them is beneficial for all parties, and honestly committing to publicising their work gives the author’s book a fair shot at success. It might seem like common sense, but many publishers do not do any of this. But publishing is not just about books, it is about telling stories, managing people and building relationships. Some of our current writers are people that came to our events and book presentations and liked what we did. Knowing that they entrust us with their manuscripts, which sometimes they have been hesitant to publish for years, is very rewarding.


Final Thoughts

If want to build a company in Spain as a foreigner, remember that it is possible. Once you have your NIE and social security sorted, the hurdles you face will be the same ones faced by a Spaniard.

Starting a business can be tough, but by understanding your own experiences and your own voice, you can navigate all of these challenges and establish a publishing company that adds value to reader and writers alike.


Thank you so much to Enda and María for sharing these insights! We hope you enjoyed learning these lessons from their publishing company experience in Spain.


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