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Päivi Isosaari

Päivi Katariina Isosaari
Born April 15, 1968, Loimaa

Master of Arts (Comparative Literature), 1994, University of Helsinki

Administrative Director, Finnish National Theatre, 2011-
Managing Director, Like Kustannus Oy, Like Publishing Ltd, 2006–11
Editor, Head of Production, Head of Sales, Head of Marketing, Otava Publishing Company Ltd, 1994–2005
Production Assistant, Producer, Lilla Teatern, 1992–94

Written by Päivi Isosaari (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by John Calton

From Editing to Publishing

Reading and writing were the obvious hobby for me during my formative years. The Finnish language teacher at the upper secondary school in Loimaa, Lippo Lahti, a man whom many others working in literature will name as their greatest inspiration, encouraged his students to pursue either Finnish or literature. My best friend ended up studying comparative literature at the University of Tampere, whereas I wanted to go to Helsinki. It was only during my time at the University that the idea of a career in publishing began to shape up into a definite goal, and it was a real stroke of luck that it came true just as I was finishing my studies. The publishing house Otava required their editors to have an academic degree, and thereby made sure that I would finish my master’s thesis.

It was a dream come true for an avid reader and a fiend for the Finnish language to work at the department responsible for translating fiction into Finnish: an endless stream of manuscripts, collaboration with great translators, book fairs abroad. The work was at its best when you could dedicate yourself to the intricacies of language with the translators. The editor’s proverbial blue pencil has been my occupational hazard ever since, and grammatical errors can still distract me from even the best of stories.

After a few years at Otava, where I was the Head of Production, I launched a line of paperbacks called Seven. The project also involved sales and marketing, something that would take up much more of my time later on when I was appointed the Head of Marketing. Even then a strong involvement with the actual content of the books remained, because it is impossible to market art without knowledge of either the artist or the work themselves.

In 2006 Otava acquired the publishing company Like Kustannus, and I started as its Managing Director immediately after my maternity leave. It was both wonderful and frightening: to maintain the image of the rebellious publisher while making it a part of a larger company, to give support to the most ambitious co-workers in the world, and to keep the finances and the testy publishing schedule somehow under control. I have been to the dentist with Sir Roger Moore and to court in the aftermath of a book on the band Nightwish. I have spied on Karl Ove Knausgård and got lost with Jens Lapidus in a parking hall. I have gone through statutory employer-employee negotations and rejoiced over every single work and publishing contract I have had the pleasure to sign.

Members of staff and the new Marketing Director of Like in the cozy mess of the office on Liisankatu street. The publishing company has since moved elsewhere.​
Members of staff and the new Marketing Director of Like in the cozy mess of the office on Liisankatu street. The publishing company has since moved elsewhere.​

The significance of my studies became clear to me only after I moved on from publishing to the theatre. Both start with the content, with a work of art at the centre of it all. The cultural history is partly shared. In publishing the theoretical and historical framework provided by my university studies made for a strong foundation for the work, and it was only the absence of this foundation at the theatre that made me give concrete importance to it. An education in the humanities has been a definite help during my career. The best guide for running a business and even for understanding the world is found in fiction! For many of the specialised areas of expertise that I have encountered, such as managing personnel, sales and book-keeping, I have of course had to seek the necessary know-how elsewhere.


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