Estonia

Ilvi Liive-Roosipuu: large publishers tried to promote certain books abroad, but abandoned the case

26.03.2022

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Estonia is a small country with less than 1.3 million people, but from year to year, Estonian literature is actively promoted at leading international fairs. About 80 Estonian novels are translated and published abroad annually. The unprecedented activity of this «small country» and an almost accidental meeting at the Frankfurt Book Fair allowed for a meeting with Ilvi Liive-Roosipuu, director of the Estonian Literary Center ELIC, and a chance to talk about how to sell rights when publishers are not interested, about how many hands does it take to promote a book, and how Estonia has ceased to be perceived only as a «buyer» of foreign content.

The Ukrainian Book Institute supports this material.

– Estonia is considered a small language market with minor editions, but ELIC has made a big name for itself in the rights world – how did you do that?

– Such editions are pretty typical for many countries whose language is spoken by few people. By the way, when Estonia was part of the Soviet Union, we had an edition of about 60,000 copies. But now they range from 500 to 2,000 copies. When the book is published with 8000 copies – then it’s really a bestseller!

Instead, the quality of the publication, the price, and whether it is understandable to a wide range of readers around the world are essential.

– ELIC works only to export the rights of Estonian publications – whose interests do you represent? Publishers, authors, the country?

– ELIC started with the Writers’ Union because the Publishers’ Association was only a partner. Copyright in Estonia does not belong to publishers, as in many other countries. Estonian publishers did not present (and they still do not present) the book on the international market, so there was a real need for an organization that would promote our literature abroad. The authors themselves did not have the opportunity for promotion, and the publishers were not interested. Therefore, in 2001, the Writers’ Union decided that we should set up a separate organization to promote Estonian literature abroad, following the example of FILI, which was set up 30 years earlier in Finland in the 1970s, with which Estonia had strong ties.

Read full interview.

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