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

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

Sakari Siltala, foreign rights amnager, (left) and publisher Touko Siltala of Finland’s Siltala at 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

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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.

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