Finland’s Biggest Rights Deal? Literary Sports Biography Generates Buzz at LBF

In News by Hannah Johnson

A forthcoming biography of Formula 1 driver Kimi Räikkönen from Siltala Publishing in Finland is generating big buzz—and big rights deals—at the London Book Fair.

Sakari Siltala, foreign rights manager (left), and publisher Touko Siltala (right) of Finnish publishing house Siltala at the 2018 London Book Fair. Image: Hannah Johnson

By Hannah Johnson | @hannahsjohnson

At London Book Fair, Finnish publishing house Siltala is celebrating its 10th anniversary with what publisher Touko Siltala says is probably the biggest foreign rights deal for a single Finnish book ever.

After a four-way auction in the UK, Simon & Schuster UK bought British Commonwealth rights to The Unknown Kimi Räikkönen by Kari Hotakainen for an undisclosed sum that’s large enough to generate buzz across the London Book Fair this year.

Sakari Siltala, who handles foreign rights for the family publishing house, says that interest for the book started coming in as soon as he sent out the 30-page English sample translation.

The book, which comes out in Finnish in August 2018, has been sold into six territories so far:

More offers are coming in, Sakari says, from Brazil, Japan, and Sweden. And with news of the Simon & Schuster deal circulating at the London Book Fair, he wouldn’t be surprised to get a few more offers.

Described by Touko as a literary sports biography, the book is about Finnish Formula 1 driver Kimi Räikkönen, who won the World Championship in 2007. Räikkönen, known as a man of few words who would prefer to drive a race car than give an interview to the press, has been a much sought-after subject. In the publisher’s promotional brochure, the book is described as “the first and last authorized book on F1 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen.”

Plenty of Finnish publishers have wanted to do a book about Räikkönen, says Touko, but until now, the driver hasn’t been interested. But the author of the book, Kari Hotakainen, was persistent enough to make it happen.

Hotakainen is a bestselling Finnish author whose work has been translated into more than 20 languages. He won Finland’s most prestigious literary prize, the Finlandia Prize, in 2002 for his book Juoksuhaudantie (Trench Road).

His first book, a work of poetry called Harmittavat takaiskut (Unfortunate Setbacks), was actually published by Touko in 1982 when he was working as an editor at WSOY. Hotakainen was one of the authors who moved from WSOY to Siltala Publishing when Touko founded the company ten years ago.

Siltala publishes 35 to 40 titles a year, mostly literary fiction and narrative nonfiction.

Both Räikkönen and Hotakainen share the same dry sense of humor, says Touko, which gives this book a wider appeal. It’s the first book project for the race car driver and the first nonfiction book for Hotakainen—a combination that is proving to be a success.

About the Author

Hannah Johnson


Hannah Johnson is the publisher of international book industry magazine Publishing Perspectives, which provides daily information and news about book markets around the world. In addition to building partnerships with international cultural and trade organizations, she works with the Frankfurt Book Fair to organize and support a number of its overseas initiatives. Hannah has also worked as the managing editor for an online media company, The Hooch Life, focused on craft distillers and cocktail experts. Prior to that, she worked as a project manager for the Frankfurt Book Fair’s New York office, managing various business and marketing activities.