Hungry for Swedish crime.
More Swedish crime please! As Hollywood is up to its elbows in making a new version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, the hunger for Swedish crime is intensifying.
However, experts in the publishing industry are warning not to use Stieg Larsson’s name and fame as a free ride. Even four months before the thriller “Det fördolda” was published in Sweden, it was classified as an international success. At an April book exposition in London, the publishing company Norstedts Agency sold the rights to Hjort and Rosenfeldt’s debut book to 8 (later 12) countries. And Hans Rosenfeldt admitted that he thought the two were helped by Stieg Larsson’s wave of success:
“I think it helped that we share the same publishers with Larsson. When our publishers say they believe in something, people listen a bit extra carefully, because that’s what they said about him.” Positive signals like “sold to 12 countries” have become important marketing tools in selling Swedish crime internationally as well as domestically.
“The interest in Swedish crime is still nothing short of enormous,” says Linda Altrov Berg at Norstedts Agency. “But I’d like to point out that foreign publishers are getting more careful with what they buy.” The next duo in crime that are predicted to have an international breakthrough is Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström. The British publishers Quercus Publishing (who own the British rights to Stieg Larsson’s books) will launch their book “Tre sekunder” (Three seconds) in both the US as well as Canada along with at Barnes & Noble, the bookstore.
Success a long time coming
Tor Jonasson, literary agent at Salomonsson Agency, which represents Roslund & Hellström, points out that the success of Swedish crime began long before Stieg Larsson, with Sjöwall & Wahlöö and Henning Mankell, pioneers in the genre. And he raises a warning finger in overly using Stieg Larsson as a marketing tool.
“All Scandinavian agents are using Stieg Larsson time and time again,” he says. “I just think you have to be careful. You see books that have been translated where the publishers market the author as ‘the next Stieg Larsson’ and ‘bestseller in Europe’ – and we who are in the business barely know who the author is.”
Swedish media is quick to follow the trend and eagerly report successful sales. But what does it really mean to have a book sold to 12 countries? Did it make Michael Hjorth and Hans Rosenfeldt financially independent?
“The advance is not making us rich. There are many of us to share the money and the advance wasn’t that great to begin with,” Rosenfeldt said. Neither he nor the literary agents want to reveal just how much that international advance was. Jonasson believes it could be anything from 10 000 SEK ($1,435.59) to several millions.
Few truly 'make it' internationally
Linda Altrov Berg emphasizes that only a few authors become rich by international sales – and that it’s unlikely that anyone will ever match the successes of Stieg Larsson.
“Few of the newer Swedish crime writers have become rich because of international royalties. It takes years to build an authorship, and writers like Henning Mankell and Åke Edwardson are writers with a vast publication underneath their belts.” Dagens Nyheter, the Swedish daily, divides Swedish crime writers who have been launched internationally into three categories: The successful (Sjöwall & Wahlöö), Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson. The already established (Liza Marklund, Åke Edwardson, Håkan Nesser, Camilla Läckberg, Helene Tursten). The Third Wave (Johan Theorin, Lars Kepler, Karin Alvetegen, Tove Alsterdal, Anders De La Motte, Kristina Ohlsson, Roslund & Hellström, Jan Wallentin).
Earlier stories on Swedish crime:
(The New York Times on Swedish Noir)
(Camilla Läckberg interview)