Branding Latina romances
Kensington launched its Encanto line of Latina romances in 1999. Caridad Piñeiro, whose family fled Cuba when she was a young girl, was among the line’s flagship authors with her first novel, Now and Always or Para siempre. Encanto initially published bilingual novels, but eventually switched to separate English and Spanish versions.
Who are Latina romance readers?
I think at last count there’s 26 million Latinos in the United States.
I think what’s different is that Latino isn’t an ethnicity. It’s a cultural identity, because we run the gamut from white to black to inbetweens. Some are European. Like my family is from Europe. But some are from the indigenous peoples. So I think there’s the commonality sometimes of language, sometimes of food, sometimes of the fact that we all were kind of either conquered by the Spanish one way or the other, so there’s that. But there’s a rainbow of cultures. And actually with Encanto, we showed that rainbow. Because we were all different. There were some of Mexican decent. There were Cubans. There were Puerto Ricans and Dominicans and Argentineans. And we even had people who maybe Anglo-Americans would think are Latino, but the Tejanos, the border moved on them. They’d been in Texas all along. And that’s a unique culture.
But I think whether you’re even talking Latino books or African- American books, my thought has always been is that when you brand them like that it’s almost like saying, “Okay. This is for you, but not for you.” And my experience was with Harlequin, they never branded my books like that. And yet all of my books, I say most of my books with them, have the same characters that I was doing with the Encanto line. Latinos, both men and female, of varying ethnicities and different cultures. And yet those books were never viewed like that, and they’ve done quite well. So I’ve always thought that it was more an issue of branding. And I think though because they weren’t branded like that specifically, that I had a much broader audience who was willing to read the books and say, “Wow. This is just a really good story. And by the way, it’s really interesting to have a heroine from a culture that’s different.” So I think that’s why I have such a broad base of readers and not necessarily Latinas, although I do have a lot of Latina readers in that mix. And again, but all different ethnicities. I’ll talk to them, and they’ll be from all over. Some will be born here, some will be immigrants like me. Some don’t speak Spanish. And I think that’s the hard part. And then you’ve got a lot of Latinos who don’t speak English. So it’s really kind of hard to market. Those books were actually bilingual. They were English and Spanish. But again, now you have a market, you don’t really know what language you’re going to sell to them and things like that. And so I think that’s why it’s been a difficult experiment for us in trying to have a vibrant kind of Latino culture.