Publishing in Finland: Minna Castren, Publishing Director, Otava

In Global Trade Talk by Hannah Johnson

Interview by Hannah Johnson

Minna Castren, Publishing Director of Otava, talks about books, trends and digital projects at the biggest book publisher in Finland.
Minna Castren is Publishing Director of Otava, Finland's largest book publisher

Minna Castren is Publishing Director of Otava, Finland’s largest book publisher

Leading up to Finland’s Guest of Honor appearance at the Frankfurt Book Fair, we spoke with Minna Castren, Publishing Director of Otava, Finland’s largest book publisher with a list of world-renowned authors.

Top 3 things to know about Otava:

  1. Otava is the biggest book publisher in Finland because we have both the general publishing and educational publishing together under the Otava Group.
  2. Our list — including fiction, non-fiction, books for children and young readers, comics, etc. — is wide-ranging and includes literary masterpieces by Noble Prize winners, international bestsellers, and phenomenal domestic authors.
  3. Next year, Otava will celebrate 125 years in business. The founding family, the Reenpää family will celebrate its 200 years in publishing (Otava is Finland’s only big, domestic publishing company that is privately owned).

Who are some of Otava’s most acclaimed authors?

The heart of our list is domestic authors of fiction, non-fiction and books for children and young readers. The list of domestic authors who are longtime bestsellers include Laila Hirvisaari, Mauri Kunnas, Kjell Westö, Riikka Pulkkinen, Kati Hiekkapelto, Reijo Mäki, Siri Kolu, Aino Havukainen and Sami Toivonen among others. Some of our bestselling translated authors include Khaled Hosseini, J.K. Rowling, Robert Galbraith, Henning Mankell, Liza Marklund, Patricia Cornwell, and E.L. James.

Which titles are you excited to exhibit in Frankfurt this year?

One of our highlight authors for the Fair is Kati Hiekkapelto, a fantastic Finnish female crime author. Her newest book has a chilling and atmospheric storyline plus a great protagonist. She has published two books, and the rights have been sold into four countries. My Cat Yugoslavia by Pajtim Statovci is a stunning debut novel that was sold abroad even before the original publication in Finland. Statovci and his cat cast a spell on the reader. He has a truly strong voice that will draw a lot of attention both in the domestic and international literary scene.

Also at Frankfurt, Otava will launch the Granta Best of Young Finnish Novelists edition on Wednesday October 8. As a part of the international network of Granta publishers, Otava has a wonderful opportunity to promote Finnish literature and Finnish authors.

What trends do you notice in Finnish publishing right now?

Finnish literature is going strong — this is the bread and butter of our culture and of our business in the service of readers. Finns love Finnish authors and the importance of our domestic authors is growing.

Historical fiction is a trend at the moment. There are many young authors right now who are choosing their topics and themes from the history of the country. Humor is another trend. Finns are known as serious-minded people, but we’ve seen a lot of humor lately.

Are you working on any special projects right now?

We are working on the digital rights. In my area, we are working to create systems that track and manage the digital rights that we acquire and publish. We publish almost all of our books as print and e-book editions.

In addition to this, we have published some apps, mainly based on children’s books and characters, but also some nonfiction. We are investing in teaching kids how to read electronically and testing the market to see what types of products would be of interest to Finnish readers. It’s extremely important for us that we are providing the readers with the option to reading electronically.

Find Otava at the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair in Hall 5.0 A84 and in 4.2 D85.

About the Author

Hannah Johnson

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Hannah Johnson is the Publisher of Publishing Perspectives. Before joining PP in 2009, she worked as Project Manager at the German Book Office New York.