Photo: Marek Sabogal
Written by Anna Baijars (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by John Calton
The Business of Telling Stories
When I studied literature I didn’t really come to think that behind the books there might be other people than the author. I couldn’t even dream up a profession that would be the answer to my dreams. A publisher backs the author, and makes their dream come true. The publisher reads an inordinately large number of poor manuscripts, mutters some oath or other, and when a decent manuscript eventually lands on the desk our publisher is in a hurry to say YES. And then the book is introduced to the reader.
Publishing is a passionate profession, which has got it all: social impact, commercial transaction, internationalism, economy, technology and interesting people. The publisher is working with the core of humanity, on the edge of stories and learning.
Publishing is right there with the societal and technological clashes: it flourishes and flops, rises and refreshes the world through change. In the course of my career I have experienced how with technology the original model for publishing reached its peak, and technology turned the 150-year-old routine procedures upside down. Publishing had to join the twenty-first century, and it wasn’t going to be without a degree of pain. The time had come to talk about money alongside the printed word, as the changing world swept revenue streams into new tributaries. Ownership shifted from private hands to corporations, and the character of many a company changed, when there was no longer an owner to talk to. The wealthy gentleman publishers had had their day.
We’re now living in a very different technological and intellectual climate than even ten years back. The rapid flow of information presents the publishers and writers with huge opportunities to reach new readers and entice reflective types thirsty for linguistic adventure to pick up a book. I sense we’re living in a time of opportunities. Finnish writing is doing well: books are appealing, stirring and moving. There are more occasions for readers and writers to meet than ever before. The age of publishers as bridge-builders is here.
Anna Baijars has worked as publishing director at Gummerus since 2013.