For almost 12 years, Nuria Cabutí (Barcelona, 1967) has been the top executive of Penguin Randon House Grupo Editorial, the Iberian and Latin American book publishing division of the German giant Bertelsmann. A group that she joined as a financial analyst 30 years ago, having just finished her degree in Economics. It now employs 1,643 workers, 637 in Spain alone, and has a turnover of 351 million euros. For this year she plans to increase the figure by 4% and exceed 50 million books sold in all formats. The new logistics center being built in Cerdanyola del Vallès will be key.
The publisher plans to grow 4% this year, consolidating the sales boom caused by the pandemic
What is the most dramatic change you have seen in the publishing world?
The figure of the editor. When I started he was a person who was quite isolated from the world to whom manuscripts arrived. Now he is a person who also goes to look for content, to look for people. There is still a part of creativity, intuition and the will to publish a text, but that has been complemented with a much more market vision, of what the end consumer, the reader, wants.
Has it been commodified?
We could say that it has come closer to the needs or tastes of society but it continues to have that role of identifying talent, identifying texts that may be interesting for society, anticipating what is to come.
What is a day like at your job?
I always think: what can my impact be today, and an important part goes towards the authors and how to improve the connection with readers, make them better known, sell more and be more international. That on the one hand, and on the other, I also think about how I can make our employees as motivated as possible. We publish more than 2,000 news items a year and each project is like a small startup to which we dedicate many hours and enthusiasm, and that is why people have to be encouraged.
Does the market absorb 2,000 new products a year?
I think so. The advantage today is that we have different formats and we can make shorter prints. Technology is allowing us to make it easier to make more editions available to the reader, which does not mean that bookstores have it in stock, but rather that we can reprint quickly.
You are an economist but have worked with books and creators for 30 years. How do you marry creativity with a bottom line?
You can be creative, bet on new talent and at the same time be profitable. That means you have to be analytical and measure each project. You also have to put all the effort into the back office That is to say: you can try new things but then you have to be very efficient in the logistics part, in print runs, distribution and marketing. And here you can put a very economical part behind it that makes the book solvent.
Roca Editorial has been the latest in a series of important purchases that have been made since 2014.
What the Bertelsmann group wants is to have great global leadership in the markets in which it operates. And they have always believed in our project, in the Hispanic market, which is a market of 600 million people, growing especially in Latin America and the Hispanic market in the United States. We always look to see if there are complementary catalogs to the ones we have in order to offer authors more value as a company. And that is what we have achieved with a series of acquisitions.
Seven since 2014.
The first were the Alfaguara, Aguilar, Taurus… labels, which worked very well, and from here we have been incorporating other publishers. We have combined the strength of these labels but maintaining the independence of their teams.
What percentage of market share do they have now?
We are between 20% and 25%, depending on the markets, because we operate in nine different markets. We are present here in Spain, but also in Portugal, and in Latin America we have a company in Mexico, in Colombia, in Peru, in Argentina, in Chile, in Uruguay, and an office in Miami for the Hispanic market.
The Cerdanyola logistics center, with an investment of 36 million, will allow them to distribute 166,000 books a day
And everything is managed from here?
Yes, from this building in Barcelona. We have a very important office in Madrid but from here we set the group’s strategy for all Hispanic markets.
Any new acquisitions in sight?
Right now we have 20,000 authors in our catalogues, including 46 Nobel Prize winners. But if we see an opportunity that fits us to further complement our catalog, we will always analyze it.
Is the fact that Penguin and Planeta polarizing the market detrimental to the sector?
We believe that the more diverse publications there are, the better. And the two large groups are publishing a lot of diversity. Of course, then there is a very important network of medium-sized publishers or even those that are emerging now, which are providing great content to the market. So I think that, together, we make up a very remarkable literary panorama in Spain compared to other European countries.
In 2022 they invoiced 351 million euros, growing 45% in sales. How will 2023 close?
With the pandemic there was a great increase that has coincided with great growth as a company. For this year, however, the level of sales in Spain will close with a growth of 4%, which despite the difference, I think is a very good figure because it represents a consolidation.
Has the rise in the cost of raw materials and transportation had an impact on the price of books?
Between the end of 2021 and 2022 we had a very significant increase in raw materials, especially in the cost of paper, which rose by around 20% and 60% for some type of paper. Printing presses also became more expensive. We cannot say that we have returned to the costs of 2019, because it is not true, but this increase has softened. We have indeed increased prices, but by a percentage lower than the CPI.
What will the new Cerdanyola del Vallès center mean?
Since 2014, it has closed 7 purchase operations for publishers such as Roca, La Campana or Salamandra
Right now we have five distribution centers around Barcelona and we wanted to go with a single center that would be much more efficient and provide a faster response. The project consists of a 42,000 m2 warehouse in which we invested 36 million euros, of which 16 million will go to technology. It will be a European leader in distribution and must allow us to distribute 35 million books a year, at a rate of 166,000 books a day. It will be ready at the end of 2024, beginning of 2025.
Penguin audiobooks are the only ones that are not on unlimited consumption platforms. Because?
The digital book represents 10% of our sales and the audiobook even less, 5%. But we are clear that the author is ahead of everything and that is why we are not on platforms that do not guarantee that of each download, of each audiobook, there will be a specific part that will go to the author. Right now we have entered into a project with Spotify, already in force in England and Australia, and soon it will be in the US and we also hope that in our language areas, where Spotify users will be able to access a certain number of audiobooks each month.