Record-Breaking Sales and More Rights Deals for Finnish Sports Biography

In News by Hannah Johnson

Ahead of Frankfurt, Finnish publishing house Siltala has seen record-breaking sales for a book that brought in a six-figure deal at the London Book Fair in April.

Image: ‘The Unknown Kimi Räikkönen’ book jacket

By Hannah Johnson | @hannahsjohnson

Record-Breaking Sales in Finland
At the London Book Fair in March, the publishing house Siltala was celebrating what many said they believed was Finland’s biggest rights deal ever: Simon & Schuster bought British Commonwealth rights to The Unknown Kimi Räikkönen by Kari Hotakainen for a six-figure sum after a four-way auction.

At the time, publisher Touko Siltala described the book to Publishing Perspectives as a literary sports biography of Formula 1 driver Kimi Räikkönen, who famously shies away from giving interviews. It’s written by a Finnish author, Kari Hotakainen, known more for his fiction, which won him the 2002 Finlandia Prize.

Cover design for the English translation from Simon & Schuster UK

Now, Sakari Siltala, who handles foreign rights for Siltala publishing house, tells Publishing Perspectives that the book “has sold more than 100,000 copies in Finland in one month, breaking all the records for sports books.”

To put these numbers into perspective, Siltala says that big nonfiction books in Finland usually sell between 5,000 and 10,000 copies.

Until now, Siltala says, the sales record for a Finnish sports book was held by Teemu by Ari Mennander, a book about ice hockey player Teemu Selänne. It was published in 2014 by Otava and had sold 77,000 copies over the course of a year.

Writing for the Finnish newspaper Aamulehti, Noora Takamäki calls the Räikkönen book “without a doubt the most important biography and sports book of the year.”

And Jani Tanskanen at Yle broadcasting company, notes that the book appeals to a wide variety of people.

“The media has been going on about how this book will be picked up by people who otherwise wouldn’t read,” according to Tanskanene. “There is another side to the story. Being written by Kari Hotakainen, the book gets all of us not interested in motorsports to familiarize [ourselves] with a strange new world.”

Sakari Siltala (left) and Touko Siltala (right) at the 2018 London Book Fair. Image: Hannah Johnson

English Release October 17

As of March, the translation rights to the book had been sold into six languages, and now that count is up to 10:

  • Chinese, simplified: Shanghai People’s Publishing House
  • English, UK & Commonwealth: Simon & Schuster (six figures at auction)
  • Dutch: Uitgeverij Q
  • Estonian: Koolibri
  • German: Bastei Lübbe
  • Hungarian: Helikon
  • Italian: Iperborea
  • Japanese: San-Ei Shobo
  • Polish: Zysk
  • Swedish: Förlaget M

The English translation of The Unknown Kimi Räikkönen will be released by Simon & Schuster UK on October 17, says Siltala, and the German translation from Bastei Lübbe is to follow with a release on October 26. The rest of the translations will also be published this year, except the the Chinese, Polish, and Italian translations, which Siltala says will come out in 2019.

Publishers from Iran, Indonesia, and Slovenia have also contacted Siltala about the book. “There’s definitely more interest,” he says, “especially now, since we have the whole book in English.” Another reason he says he’s optimistic is that Räikkönen recently announced that he’ll continue driving for Formula 1 for at least two more years.

Following the success of the Kimi Räikkönen book, Siltala says that while his rights strategy hasn’t changed, he does think that the attention from this record-breaking book “opens up doors and will help us in the future.”

Among the other titles that Siltala will bring to Frankfurt this year, two highlights from the list stand out. The first is A Pastoral by Aki Ollikainen, who’s 2012 debut novel, Nälkävuosi (White Hunger), was longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize. A Pastoral, according to Siltala’s foreign rights material, is about a single summer day in the Finnish countryside, when “different generations meet … strange things happen—and some ordinary ones as well.”

The second highlight from Siltala’s rights list this fall is a debut novel, As I Saw Them by poet and YA author Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen. Her previous writing has earned several literary prizes. This debut novel “is a one-day novel that happens inside a school building, where someone has a gun,” says Siltala.


More from Publishing Perspectives on rights is here, and on Frankfurt Book Fair is here

And our pre-Frankfurt magazine is ready for your free download.

It’s themed on politics and publishing and includes our extensive preview of the Frankfurter Buchmesse. Download the PDF here.

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.