17 Dec A Chat with Stella Jóhannesdóttir of the Reykjavík International Literary Festival (S3 E1)
By Marleen Seegers, Co-Founder of 2 Seas Agency and Host of The Make Books Travel Podcast
December 17, 2021
I am very excited to be back with season 3 of the Make Books Travel podcast. I took a two-month break from recording, one of which I spent on the road, in Europe. I actually had in-person meetings again, and drinks, and dinners, meeting publishers in Amsterdam, at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and in Paris. It was amazing!
Today’s guest, Stella Soffia Jóhannesdóttir, had the pleasure of hosting one of the few in-person fellowships of this year, back in September, in her capacity as director of the Reykjavík International Literary Festival. Besides this role, she is also acquisitions editor for Storytel in Iceland.
I did some homework in preparation for my interview with Stella, and found that Storytel currently has 1.7 million subscribers in 25 markets with around 700,000 titles globally. Those numbers are quite mind-boggling!
Here are some of the questions I asked Stella:
- What made you switch from working for the biggest Icelandic publisher to working in the audiobook industry?
- In which ways are these two jobs similar, and how do they differ from one another?
- How is the Icelandic publishing market doing, broadly speaking? How did it fare during the pandemic?
- How has the Icelandic audiobook market developed in recent years?
- How big was the shift to audio during the pandemic?
- Besides Storytel, who else is active on the audiobook market?
- How about the ebook: how big of a market share does it have in Iceland, and is it growing?
- Does Iceland have a strong physical bookstore presence?
- Are bookstores mainly independently run or are most stores part of chains?
- Can you tell our listeners a bit about the Reykjavík International Literary Festival and its fellowship program?
- How was this year’s edition?
- What has it been like for you to be the festival manager & what challenges have you faced (especially during Covid)?
- Can you explain the concept of Jólabókaflóð?
- Do you see any changes in the tradition of this “Christmas book flood” with the rise of the audiobook?
- Stella’s book recommendations:
– Cemetery of the Sea by Aslak Nore (Aschehoug, Norway; forthcoming in English with MacLehose Press)
– The Mark by Fríða Ísberg (Forlagið, Iceland; not yet sold to an English language publisher to date as far as we can tell)
– The Snow Sister by Maja Lunde (Kagge, Norway; not yet sold to an English language publisher to date as far as we can tell)
- About Stella:
Stella Soffía Jóhannesdóttir is the director of the Reykjavík International Literary Festival and acquisitions editor for Storytel in Iceland. Prior to working for Storytel, Stella worked in acquisitions for Forlagið. Stella was a part of the team that organized Iceland, Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2011 and she has been working for the Reykjavík International Literary Festival since 2009. She lives in Reykjavík, Iceland.
- Further show notes:
– Translation subsidies and travel grants from Iceland: https://www.islit.is/en/grants/
– General information about the fellowship program of the Reykjavík International Literary Festival: https://bokmenntahatid.is/en/reykjavik-fellowship-program-2021/
– Christmas Book Catalogue: bokatidindi.is