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.