Tag: publishing

Face, book

23 June 2011 | Letter from the Editors

What are books made of? Picture: Wikipedia

‘The worst of all is if the writer forgets writing and starts turning out books.’

This thought is from the poet Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen’s introductory talk at the Lahti International Writers’ Reunion (LIWRE), which took place at Messilä Manor between 19 and 22 June. ‘There’s too much talk of the stunting of the book’s lifespan and the economic life of the publishers,’ she continues. A writer ‘must not forget that he or she is responsible to the work of art, nobody else, not even the readers.’

Today, book publishers are responsible to capital and productivity, and a work of literature resembles a product with an invisible best-before marker. Is its life a couple of months, like ice cream? Books delivered to the shop in September are already old-hat in February, and are best put on sale. More…

The books that sold

11 March 2011 | In the news

-Today we're off to the Middle Ages Fair. – Oh, right. - Welcome! I'm Knight Orgulf. – I'm a noblewoman. -Who are you? – The plague. *From Fingerpori by Pertti Jarla

Among the ten best-selling Finnish fiction books in 2010, according statistics compiled by the Booksellers’ Association of Finland, were three crime novels.

Number one on the list was the latest thriller by Ilkka Remes, Shokkiaalto (‘Shock wave‘, WSOY). It sold 72,600 copies. Second came a new family novel Totta (‘True’, Otava) by Riikka Pulkkinen, 59,100 copies.

Number three was a new thriller by Reijo Mäki (Kolmijalkainen mies, ‘The three-legged man’, Otava), and a new police novel by Matti Yrjänä Joensuu, Harjunpää ja rautahuone (‘Harjunpää and the iron room’, Otava), was number six.

The Finlandia Fiction Prize winner 2010, Nenäpäivä (‘Nose day’, Teos) by Mikko Rimminen, sold almost 54,000 copies and was fourth on the list. Sofi Oksanen’s record-breaking, prize-winning Puhdistus (Purge, WSOY; first published in 2008) was still in fifth place, with 52,000 copies sold.

Among translated fiction books were, as usual, names like Patricia Cornwell, Dan Brown and Liza Marklund.

In non-fiction, the weather, fickle and fierce, seems to be a subject of endless interest to Finns; the list was topped by Sääpäiväkirja 2011 (‘Weather book 2011’, Otava), with a whopping 140,000 copies. Number two was the Guinness World Records 2011, but with just 43,000 copies. Books on wine, cookery and garden were popular. A book on Finnish history after the civil war, Vihan ja rakkauden liekit (‘Flames of hate and love’, Otava) by Sirpa Kähkönen, made it to number 8 on the list.

The Finnish children’s books best-sellers’ list was topped by the latest picture book by Mauri Kunnas, Hurja-Harri ja pullon henki (‘Wild Harry and the genie’, Otava), selling almost 66,000 copies. As usual, Walt Disney ruled the roost in the translated fiction list.

The Finnish comics list was dominated by Pertti Jarla (his Fingerpori series books sold more than 70,000 copies, almost as much as Remes’ Shokkiaalto!) and Juba Tuomola (Viivi and Wagner series; both mostly published by Arktinen Banaani): between them, they grabbed 14 places out of 20!

The pirate’s friend

11 March 2011 | Articles, Non-fiction

Intellectual property was hot stuff half a millennium ago, and not much has changed: Teemu Manninen takes a look at piracy and mercenaries in the age of electronic books

Sir Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke (1554–1628) by Edmund Lodge. Photo: Wikimedia

In November 1586 Fulke Greville (later 1st Baron Brooke) sent Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham a letter complaining about some ‘mercenary printers’‘ plans to print the romance novel Arcadia written by his friend (and Walsingham’s son-in-law) Sir Philip Sidney, who had died that very same year. This ‘mercenary book’ needed to be ‘stayed’, i.e. censored by the authorities, so that Sidney’s friends and relatives might take control, and also because publishing his works without consulting Greville or someone close to Sidney might damage his reputation or even his ‘religious honors’.

I rehearse this ancient tale because of its exemplary value for us today. From our point of view there seems nothing extraordinary about Greville’s actions: he is seeking to defend his friend’s literary estate from ‘mercenaries’ who steal intellectual property (IP): pirates. More…

Kai Ekholm & Yrjö Repo: Kirja tienhaarassa vuonna 2020 [The book at the crossroads in 2020]

10 December 2010 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kirja tienhaarassa vuonna 2020
[The book at the crossroads in 2020]
Helsinki: Gaudeamus, 2010. 205 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-495-158-6
€29, paperback

This book looks at Finnish book publishing and its likely rate and direction of change. The future of the Finnish industry looks slightly more favourable than similar international forecasts have made out, although there have been some shake-ups in the Finnish book world too. The authors point out that while the decrease of reading as a leisure pursuit appears to be part of a long-term international trend, many feared for the future of the book in previous centuries as well. Book production and distribution, as well as changes undergone by various genres, are illustrated through a variety of statistics. They also go a long way towards explaining whether the publishing industry’s current difficulties are intrinsic or extrinsic in origin. The authors strive to find new perspectives to get away from a fear of the online world. The renewable publishing and reading culture envisioned by the authors will benefit from the novelty and efficiency of electronic publishing and will reinforce traditional knowledge. Professor Kai Ekholm is the Director of the National Library of Finland; Yrjö Repo is a researcher and statistician.

On the rocky road to a good translation

19 November 2010 | Essays, Non-fiction

You get the picture? A translation error in China. Photo: Leena Lahti

Why just three per cent? Translator Owen Witesman seeks an explanation for the difficulties of selling foreign fiction to the self-sufficient Anglo-American market. Could there be anything wrong with the translations?

I am a professional translator, and I have a secret: I don’t read translations.

I’m not alone. The literary website Three Percent draws its name from the fact that only about 3 per cent of books published in the United States are translations (the figure for Germany is something like 50 per cent). There are various opinions about why this is, including this one from Three Percent’s Chad Post writing at Publishing Perspectives.

Why do I say it’s a secret that I don’t read translations? Because people expect me to read translations, as if as a translator it were my sacred duty to show solidarity with my professional community. Or maybe I can’t be cosmopolitan otherwise. More…

Little and large

5 November 2010 | This 'n' that

A Finnish tale set in Egypt: Mika Waltari's post-war novel has been translated into 30 languages, English in 1949

a about after again against all also always an and another any are around as at away back be because been before being between both but by came can children come could course day did didn’t do does don’t down each end er even every fact far few find first for from get go going good got great had has have he her here him his home house how i i’m if in into is it its it’s just kind know last left life like little long look looked made make man many may me mean me might more most mr much must my never new no not nothing now of off oh old on once one only or other our out over own part people perhaps place put quite rather really right said same say says see she should so some something sort still such take than that that’s the their them there these they thing things think this those though thought three through time to too two under up us used very want was way we well went were what when where which while who why will with without work world would year years yes you your

Doesn’t this just run like a poem? An extract from somebody’s stream of conscience? ‘…again against all also always… quite rather really right said’? Actually it’s a list of the 200 most used words of the English language in alphabetical order.

This remarkable list is among the references* in a new doctoral thesis from the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Helsinki, Englanniksiko maailmanmaineeseen? Suomalaisen proosakaunokirjallisuuden kääntäminen englanniksi Isossa-Britanniassa vuosina 1945–2003 (‘To world fame in English? The translating of Finnish prose fiction into English in Great Britain between 1945 and 2003’). More…

Just business?

24 September 2010 | Letter from the Editors

Money, money, money... Photo: Twid/Wikipedia

Through his work, a writer provides a living for both himself and his publisher. The publisher makes his profit through the work of his writers, and both parties are satisfied. Is this how it goes?

The novel Puhdistus (Purge, 2008) by the Finnish author Sofi Oksanen (born 1977) has been translated into 13 languages, including English, and by now it has sold who knows how many copies.

One would imagine her publisher would like to live happily ever after with his superstar, and perhaps also vice versa – for WSOY (est. 1878) has long been one of the most powerful, as well as the most enlightened, publishing houses in Finland. More…

One-night stand: an interview with publisher Leevi Lehto

17 September 2010 | Interviews

Leevi Lehto. Photo: Lotta Djupsund/Savukeidas

Founded by poet Leevi Lehto, ntamo is seen by many as the black sheep and enfant terrible of the world of Finnish publishing.

From its inception, ntamo (shortened from the word kustantamo, publishing company) has striven to subvert the familiar conservative models of publishing that audiences are used to.

Ntamo publishes books for small circulation, such as poetry and experimental prose. Its catalogue includes works both by celebrated writers, such as Kari Aronpuro, and by a whole host of authors making their literary debuts.

Lehto’s objective has been to publish as many books as possible, using a system of print on demand, and to have as little to do with the books’ content as possible. What’s more, ntamo’s publications are not marketed at all. Readers can find information on new publications by following the publisher’s blog [in Finnish only]. I met up with Lehto a while ago and we discussed ntamo’s current situation, new trends in the publishing world and the future of books and literature in general. More…

On reading, books and horses

4 June 2010 | Articles, Non-fiction

Ladylike: woman riding sidesaddle (Journal des Dames, 1799)

Horses, women, cars, men and reading: Teemu Manninen takes a look at the changes that illogical  history makes

I have a friend who is an avid reader and who also talks about the books he reads. But being a staunch conservative when it comes to reading habits, I just cannot consider him a true friend of literature. The reason: he only reads non-fiction books. To me, ‘being a reader’ means reading fiction and poetry.

But increasingly it seems that real literature is becoming more and more marginal, whereas non-fiction (self-help, history, travel guides, popular science, popular economics, cookbooks) is what sells and keeps the industry afloat. The recent Finnish ‘essay-boom’ is an example of this development, with young writers like Antti Nylén or Timo Hännikäinen gaining recognition as important contemporary authors solely through their work as essayists; Hännikäinen has also written poetry, but Nylén is strictly a non-fiction writer. More…

Grim(m) stories?

30 April 2010 | Letter from the Editors

‘There’s not been much wit and not much joy, there’s a lot of grimness out there.’

This comment on new fiction could have been presented by anyone who’s been reading new Finnish novels or short stories. The commentator was, however, the 2010 British Orange Prize judge Daisy Goodwin, who in March complained about the miserabilist tendencies in new English-language women’s writing. More…

Jarl Hellemann in memoriam 1920–2010

15 March 2010 | In the news

Jarl Hellemann 1920–2010. Photo: Pertti Nisonen (2009)

One of the grand old men of Finnish publishing, Jarl Hellemann, wrote in one of his own books: ‘Book publishing is by nature personified, a personal activity.

‘Most of the world’s old publishing houses still bear their founders’ names: Bonnier, Collins, Heinemann, Harper, Knopf, Bertelsmann, Werner Söderström, Gummerus. Americans ignorant of the exceptions to this rule among Finnish publishers still occasionally begin their letters, “Dear Mr Otava” or “Dear Mr Tammi”.’ (From Kustantajan näkökulma, ‘A publisher’s point of view’, Otava, published in Books from Finland 3/1999)

Hellemann himself was Mr Tammi for a long time; he started as a publishing editor at Tammi Publishing Company in 1945 and retired as managing director in 1982.

In 1955 he founded Keltainen kirjasto, the ‘Yellow Library’, an imprint of novels published since the First World War by prominent writers from all over the world. The first was Too Late the Phalarope by Alan Paton, the latest – published in 2009 – was The Disappeared by Kim Echlin. The series now contains more than 400 works, among them novels by 24 Nobel prize-winners.

Among the books in Keltainen kirjasto (list, in Finnish), Hellemann’s favourite was James Joyce’s Ulysses, translated by the poet and author Pentti Saarikoski in 1964. Hellemann continued choosing books for Keltainen kirjasto long after he retired.

Born in Copenhagen, Hellemann moved with his family to his mother’s home country, Finland, in the 1930s. Well-travelled and fluent in many languages, Hellemann himself published a novel (at the age of 25), three books on publishing and, in 1996, his memoirs.

Second nature

15 February 2010 | Articles, Non-fiction

World Wide Web pictogramWe hear a lot about how the internet is going to transform the reading and the marketing of books. But what about the act of writing? Teemu Manninen reports from the frontline of a new generation of authors for whom life has always been digital

When we think of the future of publishing in these times of electronic reading devices, audiobooks, and the internet, when it seems as if the whole material being of literature is about to be transformed, we may ask how the marketing of books will change.

What happens when publishing goes online? How will authors cope with the new culture of the internet? More…

What’s so great about paper?

17 September 2009 | Articles, Non-fiction

Jean Miélot

High-tech: the ultimate gadgets of the 15th century, parchment and pen. A portrait of Jean Miélot, the Burgundian author and scribe, by Jan Tavernier (ca. 1456)

The day will soon come when commuters sit on a bus or train with their noses buried in electronic reading devices instead  of books or newspapers. Teemu Manninen takes a look at the digital future

Most people interested in books are aware of the arrival of electronic reading devices such as the Amazon Kindle, a kind of iPod — the immensely popular portable music listening device made by the company Apple — for electronic books. For a literary geek like me, the Kindle and e-readers should be the ultimate gadget: a whole library in a small, paperback-sized device. However, I’ve been wondering why digital reading hasn’t become as popular as digital listening. I myself have not invested in an e-reader, although I ought to be exactly the desired kind of customer. After all, I read all the time. Even the mp3 player I have is mostly used for listening to audio books. More…

Marginal notes

4 June 2009 | Essays, Non-fiction

Fast food for thought? Culture meets business.

Fast food for thought? Culture meets business. – Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

Extracts from a collection of writings, Ulkona (‘Outside’, Siltala, 2008)

Literature – and ‘serious’ writing in particular, the kinds of texts we publish in Books from Finland – is often seen as lost, irrelevant, pushed out to the edge of mainstream popular culture. But, argues Hannu Raittila, the margin is actually the area of greatest freedom. Everything worthwhile happens there – and business would do well to imitate art, rather than the other way round

It is easy to see culture as a marginal part of society, if viewed from an economic perspective. It is easy to see literature, for its part, as a marginal phenomenon even when compared with other areas of culture – pop music, for example. More…

Re-inventing the book: on the papernet, pod and the unbook

20 May 2009 | Articles, Non-fiction

Mind-map: using the papernet to produce books just for you. Photo: Brian Suda

Mind-map: using the papernet to produce books just for you. - Photo: Brian Suda

Just as Books from Finland finally goes online, the brightest minds of the internet are forecasting a return to paper. In the first of a series of articles, the poet and scholar Teemu Manninen celebrates the second coming of the book

Last week I did something I’ve never done before. I uploaded the manuscript of my third book on to the website Books on Demand, an internet print-on-demand (‘pod’) service, chose the format (a large 19×22 cm size with a hard cover), selected a picture for my cover, copy-pasted a poem by Clark Ashton Smith – an American science fiction and fantasy writer – on the back flap and ordered a copy. More…