(THIS ARTICLE IS MACHINE TRANSLATED by Google from Norwegian)
[purchasing policy] Knut Møller-Lien is looking forward to reading the press releases. It's June 2005, and the launch party for the debut novel Sebastian's World at the La Suite nightclub in Oslo. The book is packed with strippers, luxury life, violence and a muscular gigolo who scams and blackmails rich gays, while Paperboys, Toralv Maurstad and Lisa Tønne line up for entertainment. Sure there will be press coverage!
- The press was totally uninterested, with the exception of a slaughter in Tønsberg Blad, says Møller-Lien.
Today, NRK's Christian Strand sets out on the plane to Bangkok to begin recording the film Sebastian's world. Møller-Lien sits in the director's and script's chair. With a budget of NOK 20 million and actors like Kim Kolstad, Finn Schau and Camilla Malmquist Harket, the press covers finally came. Now Sebastian's world is printed in three editions, totaling 8000 copies.
- My book may not be the most literary well written, but I feel that I have a story people want to hear.
Møller-Lien even started Debutanten Forlag to publish the novel. But if you are looking for artistic reputation and government support, this is not a chess move. Last year, the large and medium-sized publishers ran off with over 85 per cent of the funds in the Norwegian Cultural Council's procurement scheme, where a thousand copies are purchased for the libraries.
In Moelv is one of the few authors in Norway who in 2005 published a novel at his own publishing house – and had it purchased by the Cultural Council: 72-year-old Torgeir Bilstad.
- I sent it in for fun, and it was an encouragement that professionals thought the book deserved to be in the libraries. I have published two collections of poems before, and now I hope this can give me a foothold in the established publishers.
Bilstad printed the novel Before the Frost Nets in 300 copies, it has been reviewed in Ringsaker Blad and is only available from local bookstores. And since Bilstad is not a member of the Publishing Association, he had to pay NOK 8000 for the Cultural Council to evaluate the book. Since he was bought, he gets the money again.
Author Heine T. Bakkeid was not as pleased when he wrote in a reader's letter in Natt & Dag this autumn that "the time after the book came out has been marked by frustration and an eternal emptiness that I have not known how to get rid of". Bakkeid published a science fiction novel for young people at small Tun Forlag, thus breaking most of the industry's unwritten rules for attention at once. A pig slaughter on Barnebokkritikk.no is still the only thing he can point to.
But Boblejim – The Special Agent was purchased by the Cultural Council, and now Bakkeid is collaborating with Aschehoug on the adult novel Without a Pulse.
- I have no ambitions to survive as a writer just by collecting dust in the libraries. I understand that the literature needs government help, but the procurement scheme today is just a sleeping pad for the industry. Small publishers function as Kommune-Norge. The employees go to work, do what they have to do and then the paycheck comes from the state.
The situation in the book industry is in stark contrast to the record industry. When it comes to music, it is the small companies that get the pleasure of the purchasing system. Around 70 per cent of what is purchased by the public is published on small companies. In the record store you can easily find critically acclaimed discs that are not purchased through the purchase scheme, and the large companies only received six per cent of the public support. The cash flow is also quite another in the book industry. The Cultural Council spends NOK 33,5 million on prose and lyric, and NOK 8,8 million on CDs.
- I have a feeling that those who start small record companies are looking for the special talents more actively, know the market better, dare to invest and have more to lose. In the publishing industry, the small publishers only get the crumbs, while the established ones can pick from the top shelf at the same time as they have cutting cards for the purchasing scheme, Bakkeid believes.
One of the pioneers of Norwegian electronics, Bård Torgersen, debuted with the novel Everything is to go on October last year, and with a broad background from the narrower side of the music industry, it is natural to ask him why it gives so much more reputation to publish music in small company than books at small publishers.
- The large Norwegian publishers manage to establish an impression that they are indie, because they still can afford to publish authors of the type Thure Erik Lund and Ole Robert Sunde, says Torgersen.
The day the purchasing system is no longer there, we will see where the hardcore publishers are, says Torgersen. How much they really love the narrow literature.
- The big international record companies, on the other hand, are not smart enough to cost a fortune with credible losers in the stable. Thus, there is a shortage of cultural capital and hipster capital. And artists, who in any case have no hopes of selling huge quantities, flock to the small companies.
The Cultural Council believes that the big difference lies in the editorial efforts.
- Building up an editorial fiction competence takes time and costs money. Long-term investment from the largest publishers, which over the years has also made good money on book clubs and school book sales, has led to solid newsrooms that attract authors with ambitions, says Mari Finess, section leader for literature at the Cultural Council.