Acquisition of book translation rights requires fast-paced decision-making. To be successful, it is crucial to have a smooth international contact network, good knowledge of the domestic market, enthusiasm – and good luck.
The most important tools for a publisher are scout reports from all over the world. Scouts search information about the book selection of each country on behalf of the publisher. In addition, agents send reports of the authors they represent.
At book fairs days are full of meetings with the agents. "In the Unites States, and increasingly in Europe, the agents hold the book rights. Publishers are simply customers, and do not represent authors the same way they do in Finland. Agents sell different type of rights to the works: for example rights to the United States, North America, or the whole world", Publishing Manager Aleksi Siltala clarifies.
There are different ways to acquire book rights. If a book raises significant interest in a publisher, a so called pre-emt offer can be made, which means that all book rights are purchased at once. If there are several publishers interested in a book, a best offer can be made. If the seller is still not satisfied, a book auction where Finnish publishers compete against each other is arranged. Business is conducted via email.
Trends are global
Following the bestseller lists is already yesterday's news for a publisher. Buying decisions often have to be made at a point when only the content plan exists. "20 years ago, it was often possible to wait for a book to be finished, and even see how it did in its home country. This simply cannot be done anymore", says Publishing Manager Kiti Kattelus. For example the rights for Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code were bought on the basis of the script just before it was published. The global success of the book also reached Finland.
According to Aleksi Siltala, buying books is not a competition for bestsellers, but finding those that suit the national taste. Publishing list is short compared to the nearly endless selection that is available.
"Once and awhile in the world of publishing a book appears that everyone wants. A kind of positive hype is created", says Publishing Manager Kaarina Joutsenniemi.
"I'm particularly happy about the success of Michel Montignac's books. He was a trendsetter of the low carb diets that have become popular in recent years." Montignac's book ended up at the list of published books in an unusual manner. "I read in the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat an article that said that the francophone Europe is buzzing about a new diet guru who allows wine and cheese in his dietary recommendations. I got interested immediately", Joutsenniemi explains. "A decade ago in Finland I was often ahead of my time with some trends. Today everything happens at the same time all over the world."
Kiti Kattelus emphasises the significance of personal relationships. Even now, when everything seems to happen online, it is important to meet people face to face. That's why book fairs in London and Frankfurt have kept their value, and the travel schedules include visits to New York. The major part of the translated bestsellers comes from the United States.
Joutsenniemi has a strong belief in her books – and hereby lays the secret of the trade. "In this job it is necessary to negotiate and discuss with others, but in the end I'm the one who is responsible for the decisions."