Förlaget is a new publisher in Finland, but it is filled with old names. The CEO of Förlaget will be Fredrik Rahka who has experience in WSOY and Otava. Jonas Forth is an expert in digital media. Tapani Ritamäki and Sara Enholm-Hielmin are coming from Schildts & Söderströms. A large number of writers have said – either publicly or privately – that they also intend to join. The biggest name, of course, is Jansson, as in Tove Jansson’s family.
The Moomin characters and business
Tove Jansson’s Moomins first appeared in print with Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen (The Moomins and the Great Flood) in 1945. They have since appeared in television shows, comic strips and even the theatre.
Everyone is familiar with the characters but the business side of the Moomins is less well-known. The companies are still controlled by the Jansson family. Tove’s niece Sophia Jansson chairs the board of Moomin Characters Oy and also serves as artistic director. Her husband Roleff Kråkström is managing director. He, incidentally, also has 15 years’ experience in publishing.
They have carefully controlled the Moomin brand and focussed on quality rather than quantity. Licensing has been particularly important. They have also embraced digital media, such as mobile games and apps. The results have been good: in 2014 sales from the various entities jumped 21% to over €20 million while profit grew to €4.6 million. The Janssons have been able to grow and develop the Moomin brand, which is not easy. Just ask Rovio about Angry Birds.
The book market in Finland is not large, and the Swedish language market here is even smaller. A couple of years ago the two main publishers merged to become Schildts & Söderströms. At the time Söderströms was publishing my first book Mohamed 2.0. One insider recently reminded me of a conversation we had then: I had warned that corporate mergers never went as well as what the consultants promise. That has certainly been the case.
I have generally been pleased with Schildts & Söderströms, as they produce great content and I like the people there. The company itself is still struggling from the merger hangover and a failed business venture. The only complaints I personally have is regarding their sales and marketing, which seemed rather disturbingly moribund. Other writers have complained that the company was a near-monopoly which reduced the choices available to both writers and readers. Still others were not particularly happy with the way they were treated.
Förlaget hopes to change all that. They have recruited the best names in the business and have significant resources in their war chest. The Moomins alone are a major asset, and bringing their publishing rights home to the family business is a smart move. With Ritamäki and Enholm-Hielmin they are also likely to attract even more writers.
I am very happy that Förlaget is opening for business, because they will be good for writers, good for readers, and good for Finland both at home and abroad. I wish them all possible success.