Finnish literary exports defy the pandemic and remain strong

The value of Finnish literary exports in 2020 reached the second-best total since records began. The global pandemic did not have a major impact on our foreign rights sales, even though circumstances caused delays to book publishing schedules in some countries. Finnish literary exports in 2020 totalled some €3.6 million, representing a decline of only 4 per cent from the previous year.

According to a study commissioned by FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange, there was no significant change in total export value from the previous year, but there were some variations in the types of literature for which deals were made. Nearly half of the export revenues (48%) were generated by fiction titles, which overtook sales of children’s and YA books (40%). Where overall figures are small, variations can be attributed to sales for a single title that achieves particular success.

Translation rights for Finnish books were sold to nearly 50 countries last year. The largest share of gross revenues (32%, or nearly a third) came from the English-speaking world. This clearly illustrates the significance of the Anglophone publishing market and shows the reason for FILI’s focus on these territories: both in terms of reader numbers and financial impact, this is a significant market and therefore worth targeting.

The figures also show how cash flow is generated by many small streams, with the five largest language territories constituting over half of total revenues, while all other countries combined represent 44% of revenues.

The field of Finnish literary exports has become much more professionalised in the past decade, and revenues from foreign rights sales are now around three times what they were at the start of the survey period in 2011. Actual values are significantly greater than the figures reported, because the study does not include information for a number of Finnish authors who are represented by agencies outside Finland.

Tiia Strandén, Director of FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange, outlined her vision: “Our next goal, of course, is to boost Finnish literary export revenues even further. We’ve reached our current level through determination and effort, so there’s no reason why we couldn’t increase the numbers by a factor of five. It will require government investment, commitment from publishers to focus on selling rights abroad and resources for our literary agencies.”

FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange commissioned Katri Salmenoja to conduct the survey and report on the value of literary exports for 2020.

For more information, contact FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange
Tiia Strandén, Director, tel. +358 (0)40 5820 975,
Silja Hakulinen, Communications Manager, tel. +358 (0)40 534 7526,

Frankfurt Book Fair 2021

FILI will be attending this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair from 20–22 October! FILI & Finnish Publishers Association will have a stand at 4.0 B 16. Feel free to get in touch and schedule a meeting:

If you won’t be there in person, we are happy to chat with people via Zoom.

Course for beginning literary translators starts 16 August

At the end of summer, 16–27 August, we will host our eleventh course for beginning literary translators, which is being organised in cooperation with the Finnish National Agency for Education. The course will be led by translators Sebastian Musielak and Päivi Paloposki.

We have 11 participants this year, translating into nine different languages. The course will be taught remotely for the very first time.



Editors’ Coffee Break: Let’s talk books!

FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange invites you to a Fiction Editors’ Coffee Break on Thursday, 17 June, 14.00–15.00 CET. Please join us and your international colleagues to talk about literature and all the positive things books have brought us in this time of corona.

What book projects are you especially excited about, whether domestic or translated? What books have been a success, and why? What are the critics saying? What titles have booksellers loved? Which books’ rights have been selling well abroad? Which writers have soared to success with their books? What backlist titles just keep selling year after year?

For registration, please contact Päivi Haarala ().



Finnish State Award for Foreign Translators goes to Kirsi Kinnunen

portrait of Kirsi Kinnunen

Photo: Aude Debeaurain

Kirsi Kinnunen, a translator of Finnish graphic novels and other works into French, has been selected as the recipient of this year’s Finnish State Award for Foreign Translators. The award includes a cash prize of €15,000. Kinnunen received her award on Tuesday 25 May from Finland’s Minister of Science and Culture Annika Saarikko.

Originally from Finland, Kirsi Kinnunen has lived in France for more than two decades. She has been a driving force in raising the profile of contemporary Finnish graphic novels and comics in France, a nation known for its strong graphic novel tradition.

“Kirsi Kinnunen’s efforts have opened doors at French publishing houses for Finnish graphic novel creators. French publishers know and trust her. It’s marvellous that the works she has translated have received so much attention in a country with such a vibrant scene for graphic novels,” Minister Annika Saarikko said in her speech at the award ceremony.

A total of 33 French graphic novel publishers have published at least one Finnish title in French translation. The vast majority of those projects have had some input from Kirsi Kinnunen.

Kinnunen’s translations of works by Aapo Rapi, Ville Ranna, Marko Turunen and Petteri Tikkanen have competed for awards in official competitions at the Angoulême Comics Festival over the years. Earlier this year her translation of Tiitu Takalo’s graphic novel Minä, Mikko ja Annikki (“Mikko, Annikki and Me” or “Moi, Mikko et Annikki” in French) was awarded the Grand Prix Artémisia, given each year to the best work by a female artist.

“Finnish graphic novels are among the world’s most original works in their genre, and their illustrations are some of the most irreverent. For more than 20 years I have been actively involved in exporting Finnish graphic novels to France as a translator, comics consultant, agent and promoter and it’s been one of the most enjoyable, rewarding adventures not just of my career but of my entire life,” Kirsi Kinnunen said.

Kirsi Kinnunen was born in Rovaniemi in northern Finland in 1960 and studied subjects including Romance languages, translation and interpreting, and publishing at the universities of Jyväskylä, Tampere and Turku. She now lives in Brittany in north-western France. In her career she has translated over 90 books from Finnish and Swedish into French: mostly comics, but also children’s books and non-fiction. In addition, she has translated around hundred documentaries for French television and dozens of French books into Finnish.

Each year, Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture awards the State Award for Foreign Translators to a deserving translator of Finnish literature on the advice of FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange. The award was first given in 1975.

Translations by Kirsi Kinnunen
List of previous award winners 

For more information and interview requests, contact FILI’s communications manager Silja Hakulinen, / tel. +358 (0)40 534 7526


Join us for Editors’ Coffee Breaks!

We have organised a couple of virtual Editors’ Coffee Breaks this Spring. During the Coffee Break, we exchange news and discuss current issues in the book industry.

Next up is an event for children’s & young adult book editors and publishers: Editors’ Coffee Break Children & YA 20.5. from 2 to 3.30 pm (CET)

If you’re interested in participating in the virtual coffee break, please contact FILI’s Päivi Haarala (). The events are informal. Before summer we will hold a second meeting for fiction editors.

Application round has ended, results will be published in mid-June

Our application round ended 1 May. We received a really nice amount of applications, around 130 from foreign publishers and over 50 from Finnish publishers. FILI’s advisory board will have its meeting in mid-June, after which we will publish the results.
Our next application period starts in October.

FILI application round closes on Saturday 1 May

Please note, that the deadline falls on Saturday and there is no online help available then. So the sooner you apply the better: from Mon to Fri we are able to assist on potential technical or practical questions you might have.

The results will be published in mid-June.

Join us for Editors’ Coffee Breaks!

We organised our first virtual Editors’ Coffee Break in early March. About forty foreign and Finnish editors participated in the event. During the Coffee Break, we exchanged news and discussed current issues in the book industry.

Additional virtual coffee breaks are in the works! Next up is an event for non-fiction editors and publishers:  Editors’ Coffee Break Non-Fiction 21.4. from 2 to 3.30 pm (CET)

If you’re interested in participating in the virtual coffee break, please contact FILI’s Päivi Haarala. The events are informal.  Before summer we will also hold a virtual coffee break for children’s and young adult book editors as well as a second meeting for fiction editors.


Semi-annual Finnish Book Market Bulletin January 2021

Coronavirus drives book sales, while hybrid reading makes an impact on figures

As in many other countries, the coronavirus pandemic boosted sales of general trade books in Finland in 2020. While sales of printed books increased by just 2 per cent, demand for audiobooks and ebooks was far greater, leading to an overall increase in trade book sales of 12 per cent from 2019 figures.

Audiobooks in particular benefited during lockdown, even after experiencing strong growth for several years in a row. Audiobook sales more than doubled in 2020 compared to the previous year. While many Finns commuted less than before as they switched to working from home, they also focused on exercise and spending time outdoors, which provided more opportunities to listen to audiobooks.

Audiobooks now represent a significant segment of book sales. Last year they made up nearly a fifth of trade book sales.

Most surprising of all in 2020 was the whopping 84 per cent increase in ebook sales. Ebooks made up only a small share of the total market – smaller than audiobooks – but that growth far outstripped their previous year-on-year increase of 32 per cent.

The increase in ebook sales might be partly a result of the spread of subscription-based book and audio services. While people usually sign up for these services in order to access audiobooks, ebook libraries are included for the same fee. The ease of swapping between audiobooks and ebooks helps to diversify usage across formats.

With the increase in digital book formats, there is less of a difference between fiction and non-fiction titles. Among printed books, non-fiction represents a larger segment than fiction. In audio and ebook formats, though, fiction is bigger – and the gap grew even further in 2020, as sales of fiction ebooks and audiobooks increased more than sales of non-fiction in the same formats. Sales of printed fiction titles increased by 11 per cent last year, while sales of printed non-fiction decreased by 6 per cent.

Audiobook boom spurs company acquisitions

The rise of audiobooks has fuelled a wave of mergers in the Finnish publishing world. There is now a more distinct division into two camps centred around the Otava and WSOY publishing houses respectively. The Otava Group is a family-held corporation which also owns Finland’s market-dominating bookshop chain. WSOY is owned by Sweden’s Bonnier Group. Bonnier also owns bricks-and-mortar bookshops in Finland as well as the Adlibris online bookshop.

Last autumn Otava acquired the Jyväskylä-based publisher Atena Kustannus. In recent years Atena has displayed a knack for spotting trends ahead of other publishers, with a particular strength in non-fiction. Among its biggest successes are the recent boom in colouring books for adults, popular psychology books by the Swedish author Thomas Erikson and last year’s non-fiction blockbuster, Extraordinary Women of History by the Finnish writer and journalist Maria Pettersson, which contains mini-biographies of outstanding and unusual women who have been overlooked by historians.

At Christmastime WSOY announced its acquisition of Docendo, another Jyväskylä-based publisher, as well as Helsinki-based Minerva. The Docendo deal was a sort of homecoming, as Docendo had previously been owned by WSOY but then was spun off in a management buyout in the midst of its parent company’s reorganisation. As an independent company, Docendo widened its offerings from its previous tech-focused non-fiction to include general non-fiction and, in recent years, some fiction as well.

Like Docendo, Minerva’s list focuses on non-fiction. Minerva is Finland’s leading publisher of sports biographies of international figures. The most popular international fiction authors in Finland are Peter James and Pierre Lemaitre.

Publishing mergers have been fuelled by the rise of audiobooks. Larger publishers enjoy a significantly better negotiating position with regard to audiobook and ebook platforms compared to medium and small publishers.

The sales cycle and rate of return on investments for audiobooks differ from those for printed books. If a publisher’s owners are considering a sale, the natural time to do so is before investing in a large-scale audiobook venture. Then again, the backlists of publishers offered for sale take on new value in the audiobook world. Successful series in recently acquired publishers’ backlists have been quickly turned into audiobooks.

Sales topped by humour and thrillers

Top sellers in Finnish fiction in 2020 included Miika Nousiainen’s relationship comedy Pintaremontti (‘Facelift’, published by Otava and represented by Elina Ahlbäck Literary Agency); actor and writer Antti Holma’s Kaikki elämästä(ni) (‘All About [My] Life’, pub. Otava) which plays with the autofiction genre; and the thriller Kotkanperä (‘Eagle’s Nest’, pub. WSOY) by Ilkka Remes, one of Finland’s best-selling writers of the 21st century. These titles sold a total of over 60,000 units across all formats.

Remes’ book sold mainly in print, while Holma’s book was especially popular as an audiobook read by Holma himself. Anni Kytömäki’s Finlandia Award-winning novel Margarita (pub. Gummerus, represented by Helsinki Literary Agency) was the year’s second-best selling fiction title in print, after Remes’ thriller.

Sales of Finnish non-fiction were dominated by biographies and memoirs, while true crime titles topped audiobook sales. The story of gang kingpin Janne Tranberg, Wanted: Janne ‘Nacci’ Tranberg (pub. CrimeTime), written by crime reporter Pekka Lehtinen, achieved sales of more than 55,000 in audio format. The top-selling printed non-fiction title was Suurin niistä on rakkaus (‘The Greatest of These is Love’, pub. Otava, represented by Elina Ahlbäck Literary Agency) by journalist Ulla-Maija Paavilainen about the life of Kirsti Paakkanen, the long-time principal shareholder and chief executive of the Marimekko fashion company.

Far and away the top-selling new Finnish children’s titles were humorous picture books by long-time favourites Mauri Kunnas (Joulupukin joululoma / ‘Santa’s Christmas Holiday’, pub. Otava, represented by Rights & Brands) and the husband-and-wife team of Aino Havukainen and Sami Toivonen (Tatu ja Patu – Kovaa menoa kiskoilla / ‘Tatu and Patu’s Tremendous Train Trip’, pub. Otava, represented by Rights & Brands).

When all formats are taken into account, though, they were edged out by Heinähattu, Vilttitossu ja ärhäkkä koululainen (‘Ruby, Ficelle and the Sassy Schoolgirl’, pub. Tammi, represented by Bonnier Rights) by the sisters Sinikka and Tiina Nopola, originally published in 2013. Audiobook sales of that title were especially strong, boosted by the release in early 2020 of a children’s film based on the book. Although the Ruby and Ficelle books are illustrated throughout, they are text-driven and work very well as audiobooks.

Karo Hämäläinen, journalist
translation: Ruth Urbom


The previous Semi-Annual Finnish Book Market Bulletin (September 2020)

Mentorship programme 2021 starts in February

Mentorship is open to translators at the start of their careers who do not yet have significant experience of translating literature or in translating from Finnish into their own language. 14 mentees were chosen based on their applications. They translate into 10 different languages: Chinese, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Russian and Spanish.

The mentorship starts with a webinar 18.2.–19.2.2021 and ends in October.

A record-breaking number of applications in 2020

A total of approximately €700,000 in grants was awarded this year, including more than half a million euros in translation grants to publishers outside Finland. Fully 81 percent of applications were approved for a grant.

The number of applications received in 2020 increased by about a quarter over the previous year’s figure. All in all, grants were awarded for translations of Finnish literature into 40 languages. The largest numbers of grants were awarded for translations into Estonian, German and Russian.

Among authors of books for adults, 10 grants were awarded for translations of Max Seeck’s The Faithful Reader (published in the US as The Witch Hunter), with 9 grants going to works by Sofi Oksanen, 8 to Kjell Westö’s Tritonus, and works by Selja Ahava and Laura Lindstedt each receiving 7 grants. Five grants each went to works by Juhani Karila (author of Fishing for the Little Pike), Pajtim Statovci and Mia Kankimäki.

As usual, the children’s/YA author whose works received the most translation grants this time is Timo Parvela (19 translation grants), with Aino Havukainen & Sami Toivonen, creators of Tatu and Patu, following in second place with 11 grants. In joint third place with 10 translation grants this year were Riikka Jäntti, author of the ‘Little Mouse’ books, and Mauri Kunnas. Next were Laura Ertimo (9 grants) and Magdalena Hai (8 grants). Tove Jansson, a perennial favourite, was also represented with 13 translation grants across her books for adults and children.

Another title worth highlighting is Volter Kilpi’s modernist classic Alastalon salissa (‘In Alastalo’s Parlour’), originally published in 1933, which has been translated into German by Stefan Moster. Mare Verlag has received a translation grant and will publish the book in Germany Autumn 2021.