Interview by Hannah Johnson
What distinguishes Atena from other publishers in Finland?
We publish a lot of narrative non-fiction compared to most publishing houses in Finland. We are also very well respected in that field, and we have won several prizes as well. Our reputation in this field helps a lot in negotiations with booksellers; I think we can get our non-fiction titles into stores more easily than most publishers.
Top 3 things to know about Atena.
- We are very passionate about books, and every title we choose to publish we want to do the ultimate best throughout the whole process.
- We publish fiction, narrative non-fiction and crafts, about 40 titles in a year.
- We are an independent publishing house, situated NOT in Helsinki, like most Finnish publishing houses, but in university town of Jyväskylä in central Finland.
Who are some of Atena’s most acclaimed authors?
In translated non-fiction, we have published for example Alan Weisman (World without Us) and Barbara Demick (Nothing to Envy). Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies is just coming out in August, and we expecting a huge media attention on that one.
In original Finnish fiction, the biggest international success is Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen. His novel, The Rabbit Back Literature Society, has been sold to almost ten countries including UK and USA. Another interesting fiction author is Roope Lipasti. He is very well known in Finland, and his comical novel, The Neighbour, will be published this year in Germany, France and Denmark. Lipasti has a very funny way of describing how strange and funny us Finns are.
In original non-fiction, we have just released a book called Kuohuvaa historiaa (”The History behind the Pint”). It’s the story of how beer has changed the course of history in Europe on several occasions. Very entertaining and well written. The authors, Mika Rissanen and Juha Tahvanainen, have won the biggest non-fiction prize in Finland with their previous book.
What trends do you notice in Finnish publishing right now?
Sadly the book market is decreasing, and in Finland, the ebook market has not made a breakthrough — not yet at least. In general literature the ebook market is only 1-2% of the total market.
But Finnish people still do have very strong interest in books and reading, and in recent years Finnish original fiction has been in focus both in the media and in bestseller lists. This interest in Finnish original fiction has somewhat made the market more difficult for translated fiction.
In non-fiction, books about better living (slow life, more ecological sense of things, etc.) have been in big focus. Also people are interested in the state of world. For example, all books about North Korea are selling extremely well. Books on economics (naturally!) have been on the bestseller lists.
What do you enjoy most about working in book publishing?
Almost everything! I have been a passionate reader and book-lover since early childhood, and it would be hard for me to imagine myself in any other profession.
I enjoy the whole process of book becoming an artifact from manuscript. Even thought the pace in publishing has gotten faster in the 15 years I have worked with books, we still are “a slow business” compared to many other industries, and I like that. But what I enjoy most? Probably the moment when a book we have been working with for years has just come out in print and it starts to get media attention and people start to talk about it. At that point you can really see the effect books have on people.