Publishing Abroad – An Interview With Gabriela Da Silva

8 Apr

Vanessa Di Gregorio

Ever been curious about what publishing is like in other countries? We sure have! So what better way to get a glimpse into the world of foreign publishing than with an interview with someone published in another country? It’s my pleasure to introduce to you Gabriela da Silva (or Gaby, as she often goes by); an author who resides in Mexico. She is also someone who encouraged me to keep writing when I was still on (oh, the good ol’ days), and I can’t thank her enough.  Amazingly, she’s agreed to be poked and prodded by us while we question her about her experience with publishing abroad. Her first novel, a fantasy titled “Los Doce Sellos” (The Twelfth Seal), was published by Itaca on December 17th, 2009 in Mexico.

Want to know more? Well, here’s a little synopsis of “Los Doce Sellos”:

In the Empire of Lavinia, a group of orphans were adopted by a sorcerer…

Life with him wasn’t easy. They traveled with no respite, assisting the old man in the magic shows he offered in every village they came across. Even if the Teacher had never been kind or loving to them, he gave them clothing, food and a home during the long winter. They lived as a family, and Umberto was happy like that.

But when the group is invited to a princely court nearby, the youth’s placid world starts to corrode, with nothing they can do to stop it. With one of his sisters in the threshold of death and all of his friends in danger, Umberto finds himself in a bizarre place between two worlds, trapped in a battle between forces he never could have imagined.


Front and back cover of Gaby’s book

Gaby is currently translating her book into English, and so we thought we would ask her not only about her experiences with publishing abroad, but her plans for the future.


V. Thanks so much, Gaby, for being able to offer us your time! We’ll start with some questions from me! So, to start off: what was your first reaction when you signed your book deal?

G. Anxiety, perhaps? I didn’t exactly “sign a deal” – it was mostly talking with the editor one afternoon.

By that time I pretty much knew it was going to get published, and I was getting nervous – how long would it take? Would I get a lot of corrections? Would I be allowed to mess with the cover design? (I was!)

Also, most of my friends work in the area of literary criticism – I, too, specialized in that. So I was very nervous as to how they would receive it, since some of them can be downright mean when doing their job. Luckily, most of them liked it, and the mean ones didn’t comment too much…

V. That’s amazing that you were able to get a say in your book cover design! So, how did you get to that part when you realized you were getting published? Did you/do you have an agent?

G. One more figure that doesn’t exist in Mexico! Literary agents sound like a dream come true here. I don’t have one, though I’d love to. Both my parents worked a little as agents, introducing me to what friends they had in the publishing business (they turned me down anyway).

V. No agents?! That must’ve been daunting! So, with no agents around to help you out, how did you go about getting your book published?

G. At the end of the day, the same editorial who had published my mom’s book on women’s writing, and who I hadn’t considered because they published only academic essays, turned out to be looking for novels in order to widen their appeal. I turned the manuscript in and finally, someone was willing to take the risk of publishing a first time writer…

V. How long did it take?

G. From the moment I started writing to when it was published, it took a little over four years. The publishing in itself took around six or seven months, with the editor correcting, me correcting the corrections, him correcting again and me agreeing.

V. Ah, editors. Gotta love them. The next few questions are from Savannah and Sarah. They wanted to know: did you go on a book tour?

G. There’s really no such thing as a “book tour” in Mexico. Famous writers sometimes tour, but it’s not the most common thing. However, I formally presented my book to the public during the National Book Fair.

V. Does Mexico have a popular best sellers list, or any other distinctive honors like that, and were you on any of them?

G. There are several lists; mostly, each bookstore has their own. I figured in one of them for January (16th most sold) and February (17th), right along Orham Pamuk and Paul Auster!

V. What’s your plan for your novel in the future?

G. As soon as I can I’m moving to a bigger editorial. There are only four or five editorials that distribute to the entire country – most work only within the city they were born in, as my editorial right now distributes only in Mexico City. So yes, first I’ve got to reach the rest of my country.

Also, I’m translating it into English, and with a little luck (and much more hard work) I’ll try and get in published in that language too.

V. I definitely think you should get in published in the U.S. and Canada. You know I would be the first one to buy it! The next few questions come from Biljana. She wanted to know: Can you tell us briefly how somebody would go about translating a book into a different language?

G. Sorry, I can’t really say I know the usual process… if your work is famous most of the time a foreign editorial will pick up the rights by themselves and have it translated. For us, I believe we need to see to the translation by ourselves and find an agent who doesn’t mind working with someone outside of the country.

V. Do you feel any bitterness to the fact that English seems to be more read that other languages? How do you deal with knowing that if your book were translated, it might not have the same beauty or meaning as it does in its original language?

G. Not bitterness! I love the English language. It’s beautiful and flexible, and it has so many pretty verbs… I love Spanish just as well. It has more degrees of feelings, and allows latinisms.

If I feel bitter about anything it is about my own fate, of being born in a country were writing doesn’t pay (literally. I didn’t get one dime for my book) unless you’re OMG famous, and famous writing means “about social struggle”. For an aspiring fantasy author, the prospect is just bleak, you know?

As for the translation, I don’t worry about that because I’m translating it myself 😛

In all seriousness, I would hope that the one to translate the book would see it as more than just another chore, and would do his/her best to take some of the beauty I put in and imitate it in the new language. Something will be lost – but something will be gained as well, and that’s the beauty of translation.

V. Didn’t get paid?! Well, you definitely need to finish translating and get it published here too then! Now, I just have one more question (technically, two, I suppose). Would you say or FictionPress helped you in your goal of becoming a writer? How much of an impact did these sites have on you?

G. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for and FictionPress! First of all, writing for those sites helped me practice. I know there are plenty of people out there who look down on fanfiction as petty wish-fulfillment, and for some people that’s what it is.

But for me, it was always about practice: you have a set of characters in a set of circumstances, and you inject a second set of circumstances. You have to combine both without breaking any of them – as a writer, that’s one great challenge.

As for FictionPress, well, I didn’t publish much there precisely because it made me realize two very important things:

1) It was time I started writing in my own language. After years and years of writing in English, switching back to Spanish was so difficult, I couldn’t believe it. I felt humiliated when I needed to use a dictionary for my native language.
2) Most importantly, it was time I got myself a good critique partner, someone I had to see face to face. Internet reviews are good, of course, but most comments in both FictionPress and are of the “OMG this is so kewl!” kind, which are encouraging but don’t help with your writing.

I believe those websites can be extremely valuable to any fledging writer, first of all because of the feedback, but also because they’ll give you the courage to actually go and show your work to others. This might come easier to some – but for me, it wasn’t. Showing my writing was like stripping down to my barest, most intimate me… I wouldn’t have had the courage to go through publishing if I didn’t start with the internet first.


So again, Gaby, we’d like to thank you so much for letting us interview you about publishing abroad. I know you’ll have a bright writing career ahead of you!


Vanessa is an intern at The Rights Factory, a literary agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program, and is trying to figure out where in the world of publishing she wants to end up in. Currently, she is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.

Gaby is the author of “Los doce sellos” (The Twelfth Seal), a fantasy story which was published in Mexico on December of last year. She is currently translating it into English in hopes of finding an agent and is already hard at work on her follow-up novel. She tweets @huesodeliebre, both in English and Spanish

21 Responses to “Publishing Abroad – An Interview With Gabriela Da Silva”

  1. Lua April 8, 2010 at 7:13 AM #

    Great interview, thanks for sharing this, it was so informative! I can relate to her a great deal, we don’t have any book agents here in Istanbul, we only have editors and it may sound like it helps the process move faster and more smoothly but it doesn’t- sadly, it’s exactly the opposite of that. Also, we don’t have book tours, maybe two or three very famous writers will visit couple of big cities, but that’s it.
    I really liked the idea of translating your own book, that way you wouldn’t have to worry about losing your voice once you’ve been translated to another language.

    • Gabriela da Silva April 8, 2010 at 3:26 PM #

      Wow, I’m a little amazed at how many foreigners there are in this blog! Here I thought I was the only one, heheheh.

      Translating your own work is really fun – but if you’re anything like me, you end up rewriting instead of translating… which is also fun and creative, whereas translating can be a little more mechanical. But it also takes a long time -.-

    • Vanessa April 17, 2010 at 1:23 PM #

      I’m glad you liked the interview! (And super happy that Gaby agreed in the first place!)

      It’s something that I started taking an interest in, seeing so many queries and manuscripts from other countries. And it just makes you wonder what the book industry is like elsewhere!

  2. svonnah April 8, 2010 at 7:55 AM #

    Hi Gaby! Do you happen to know what the process is like for a foreign writer getting published in America? Are the rules different for your querying process?

    Thanks so much for answering our questions! Best of luck!

    • Gabriela da Silva April 8, 2010 at 3:29 PM #

      Hey Savannah! Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t know yet if there’s a different proccess. I know there’s a few international contests/awards that I could submit my work to, both in the USA and Europe, but I can’t stomach contests very well…

      I figured I’d try the usual rute first – there must be at least one or two agents willing to work through Skype. If nothing else works… well, I’m in no hurry. I’ll be studying my master’s degree in a year or two in the USA or Canada, I’ll try again once I’m there!

    • Vanessa April 8, 2010 at 3:49 PM #

      I can try answering!

      A lot of agents will take on authors from other countries. I mean, so long as your book is brilliant, it shouldn’t matter where you live!

      If a book has been published abroad first (like, published in the UK already, for example), it depends on what rights were sold when the book was first published. Normally, the book will sell to a UK publisher for UK rights (or maybe European English rights… it would depend), but it most likely won’t be worldwide. An author is free to either find an agent who can sell their work in North America if they wish, or submit to editors elsewhere in the world. International book fairs often work like that: agents will show their work to other agents/editors.

      If you just happen to live in another country and are trying to get published, it shouldn’t be too much different. You write a kick-ass manuscript, and query agents who have the American editor contacts to get you published.

      Not sure if that makes sense… I certainly hope it does!

  3. Aurora Blackguard April 8, 2010 at 10:34 AM #

    Thanks Gaby! This was so inspiring cause I’m not from the USA or Canada or the UK where so many of the books I read are published.

    Just out of curiosity, is there such thing as a foreign writer publishing in other countries? In English.

    • Gabriela da Silva April 8, 2010 at 3:33 PM #

      It’s funny, isn’t it? Most YA books and authors are published by Americans, Canadians or Europeans. Here in Mexico _everybody_ is reading Twilight, Inkheart, Harry Potter…. but when a mexican tries to publish YA, nobody wants to take the risk.

      I’ve heard of plenty of people who publish ouside of their own country, so there should be a way. I haven’t found the stipulations anywhere, I don’t think publishers have realized that there’s plenty of foreigners willing and wanting to publish in English. Like I said in the post above, I’ll just try and try and move to an English-speaking country eventually…

      …I don’t think I’ll marry a Mexican anyway, so why not aim for a guy whose country will help me publish? lol!

      • Vanessa April 8, 2010 at 3:52 PM #

        Definitely! Where you live shouldn’t really matter! I know in the States, they tend to prefer American authors; but that doesn’t mean that they refuse to publish brilliant manuscripts from authors around the world! So long as you can write in English fluently, and have a kick-ass manuscript, you can find an agent in North America who will sell your book in North America.

      • Aurora Blackguard April 9, 2010 at 12:40 PM #

        Thanks Gaby! And Vanessa too! I was kind of worried because a lot of Malaysians don’t read. Once they see a Malaysian author, they go, eeeee.. must be horrible. Admittedly a lot of people here don’t speak English fantastically.

      • Vanessa April 14, 2010 at 12:11 PM #

        No prob Aurora!! 😀

        I think you should never let anything stop you from your goals of getting published, no matter where you live!

  4. junebugger April 8, 2010 at 1:23 PM #

    Great interview! Thank you so much for sharing your fascinating life of publishing. I hope to one day see your book at Barnes&Noble 😀

    • Gabriela da Silva April 8, 2010 at 3:34 PM #

      Hahaha, thank you! I hope to see it too =P
      In all seriousness, I’m glad you enjoyed the lil’ interview and my long replies =)

      • Vanessa April 8, 2010 at 3:54 PM #

        I LOVED your long replies!!! I’m glad that they weren’t just short one-liners. You were my first interviewee ever, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! 😀

      • svonnah April 8, 2010 at 8:36 PM #

        Long replies = good interview! Thanks again, Gaby!

  5. Biljana April 8, 2010 at 11:45 PM #

    Great interview :). Very well laid out, Vanessa, and very intelligent answers, Gaby :).

    • Vanessa April 14, 2010 at 12:12 PM #

      Thanks B! It was so much more difficult than I thought it would be (putting together an interview), but it was also tons of fun!!!

  6. Victoria Dixon April 11, 2010 at 8:26 AM #

    Hi, Gaby and Vanessa! Thanks for sharing about the process in Mexico. This was an eye-opener, no doubt!

    Gaby, you mentioned that only writing on “the social struggle” in Mexico seems to be the way to break out there. IF the topic interests you (and I know, it might not) you can always inject it into your fantasy. It’s one of the things I love about speculative fiction: authors can say so much and have it hidden with the context of non-reality. It’s been a safe house for free speech in places like Russia. Just a thought! I hope your book comes to the States! It sounds wonderful.

    • Vanessa April 14, 2010 at 12:15 PM #

      Thanks Victoria! I’m glad you enjoyed it! 😀

      And yeah, speculative fiction is a great way of injecting real issues in a different context. I find that fantasy and sci-fi are often speculative without even necessarily trying to be!

    • Gabriela da Silva April 14, 2010 at 3:16 PM #

      Hi Victoria! You make an interesting point, you know?

      I agree very much with you. Speculative fiction has always been a great way to touch taboo subjects, and it’s a resource that has been used since the Middle Ages – just take a look at “Utopia”!

      Unfortunately, Mexico is a little stuck in the 80’s when it comes to literature, and even great works like “1980” or “Brave New World” are sometimes seen as “just” science fiction.
      Mexicans seem to be mostly interested in our indigenous culture(s) and the colonization, as well as the more “latinamerican” styles such as magical realism (“A Hundred Years of Solitude”).

      Of course, this makes most children believe that reading is boring and nothing else. How could it not? They’re neither the topics nor the styles children would be interested in!
      The result is that they grow up believing reading is boring and they never again open a book.

      Fortunately, there have been plenty of YA best-sellers translated into Spanish, and the Mexican youth is starting to realize that reading can be fun. I believe that in the close future most YA genres will experience a sort of boom here, which will in turn allow for experimenting with all sorts of things!

      • Vanessa April 17, 2010 at 1:27 PM #

        Well… you have to admit, the history and culture of Mexico is totally fascinating! (I took a History of Mexico course that went back all the way from the pre-Aztec period to Mexico today; and it was such a great course!)

        It makes me wonder what other countries are into. Culture must play such integral roles in the foreign book industry!

        And I certainly hope that YA starts booming in Mexico! That would be amazing!

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