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Guidelines for Applicants: Literature

These guidelines set out the procedure for submitting a funding application in the field of literature to the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia. They also explain the assessment criteria, procedures, deadlines and appeals process. These guidelines supplement the Grant Ordinance of 27 November 2019 of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, as well as the Federal Act of 11 December 2009 on Culture Promotion and the Ordinance of 23 November 2011 on Culture Promotion.

Status: January 2021

1. General Requirements

Pro Helvetia promotes professional contemporary Swiss literary creation with a view to ensuring its diversity as well as its national and international reach. It supports the creation of new literary works and their translation, the dissemination of Swiss literature outside Switzerland and cultural exchange within Switzerland. As a national foundation, Pro Helvetia only supports projects of cross-regional or international significance and supplements the promotional activities of Switzerland’s cantons and cities.

To be eligible for support, projects must

  • have a clear connection to Switzerland
  • be of nationwide importance
  • be adequately co-funded by other public or private sponsors (including publishers/event organisers)

2. Funding Measures

2.1 Literary professionals (authors and translators)

Pro Helvetia defines literary professionals as both natural and legal persons who are active as creators of works and/or as performers in the fields of fiction, poetry, playwriting, literary translation, spoken word or illustration.

The following funding instruments are aimed at professional writers who are either Swiss citizens or permanent residents of Switzerland and actively involved in the Swiss literary scene. To qualify for funding, applicants must have published at least one literary work with a professional publisher or in a digital medium with editorial supervision. Playwrights must have published a work with a professional publisher or provide evidence of a world premiere at a recognised performance venue. Applicants in the spoken word field must provide evidence of previous performances in a professional setting. Exceptions apply to the promotion of emerging artists (Section 2.1.2.).

2.1.1 Productions

i. Literary creation grants

Literary creation grants aim to enable Swiss authors and writing collectives to work on an emerging project (including children’s and youth literature, drama and spoken word). Projects must be completed no sooner than nine months and no later than three years after the application deadline.

Recipients of literary creation grants may only re-apply for funding after completing a project. Performance projects must be realised within two years of application.

Rejected projects may not be resubmitted.

In addition to the usual information (see Section 4), application dossiers must contain the following supporting documents: Project description and 20 pages of the planned work or 20 pages of text closely related to the planned work; applications for poetry projects must include fifteen poems; for illustrated texts, six to ten panels and a meaningful textual excerpt; for performance projects, five pages plus sound and visual material.

Literary creation grants are awarded following the recommendation of a jury.

Maximum funding: CHF 15,000 for a performative literature project; CHF 25,000 for a writing project.

Application deadlines: 1.3. and 1.9. at least 9 months before the first event/publication (Jury).

ii. Comic creation grants

Pro Helvetia awards creation grants for comics and graphic novels to Swiss authors and illustrators.

Grants should enable recipients to work on an emerging project. The project must be completed no sooner than nine months and no later than two years after the application deadline. Rejected projects may not be resubmitted.

In addition to the usual information, application dossiers must contain the following supporting documents: Project description, synopsis and an extract of the scenario, sketches and research material, at least four completed pages and the most recent publication.

Comic creation grants are awarded following the recommendation of a jury.

Comic creation grants: maximum CHF 20’000

Application deadline: 1.9., at the latest 9 months before the first publication (Jury).

iii. Contributions towards research and production for transdisciplinary projects

Pro Helvetia provides contributions towards research and productionfor the creation of transdisciplinary projects. As a rule, projects must involve at least three disciplines (of which at least one must be outside the arts).

More information: Guidelines for Applicants Innovation & Society

iv. Literary translation grants

Professional Swiss translators may submit funding requests for literary translations.

NOTE: Funding requests for translations of contemporary Swiss literature must be submitted by the publisher (see Section 2.3).

In the case of translations, Pro Helvetia will cover the difference between the publisher’s estimated fee and the usual translation rate in Switzerland (CHF 60 / 1,800 characters for prose; CHF 120 / poem for poetry). Applications must include a publishing contract.

Application deadlines: see Section 5

v. Translation dossier grants

International and Swiss translators may apply for research contributions as part of preparing a presentation dossier (including a sample translation) for a work of contemporary Swiss literature and for its placement with a licensed publisher (max. two per year and translator; max. amount of founding: CHF 800; requests should be submitted via e-mail).

2.1.2 Emerging artists projects

Pro Helvetia promotes emerging artists in collaboration with established institutions (festivals, ensembles, associations, etc.), whereby the funded projects must be aimed at Swiss authors or translators who demonstrate great artistic potential with a prospect of a national or international career. Support can be granted to projects that enable emerging artists to establish themselves firmly in the national and international professional environment. Eligible for support are artists in the first five years of their artistic career, either after completing their professional training or after presenting their first work in public for the first time.

Pro Helvetia also works with the following partner institutions: Promotion of aspiring authors

2.1.3 Residencies and research trips

Pro Helvetia funds residencies and research trips by Swiss literary professionals (e.g. publishers, authors, translators) to the countries covered by its six liaison offices, as well as to other selected regions (Arab region, China, Russia, South America, South Asia, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa). Pro Helvetia also supports residencies and research trips to Switzerland by literary professionals from specific countries.

See Residencies & research trips for possible destinations for Swiss literary professionals and for the countries of origin of foreign literary professionals.

Funding is available for residencies at the intersection of art, science and technology in all the  artistic disciplines supported by Pro Helvetia.

More information: Guidelines for Applicants Innovation & Society

In addition to the countries and regions covered by Pro Helvetia’s liaison offices, Pro Helvetia’s Literature Division, in collaboration with partner institutions, offers residencies for Swiss authors and Swiss translators in various other countries (Germany, France, Austria, South Eastern Europe, USA). Residencies last between four and ten weeks.

To the dossier: Writing in residency

2.2 Event Organisers

Pro Helvetia only supports projects by recognised cultural institutions with a multi-annual national and/or international curatorial programme and with cross-regional reach. To qualify for support, projects must ensure that the participating literary professionals receive commensurate fees.

2.2.1 Events in Switzerland

Pro Helvetia supports cross-regional literature festivals and reading series across all genres that either present works from several of Switzerland’s languages or refer to the country as a whole, as well as thematic events that promote exchange between Switzerland’s language regions.

Application deadlines: see Section 5

2.2.2 National and international mobility

Pro Helvetia supports the national and international mobility of Swiss literary professionals by covering

  • the fees of cross-regional events in Switzerland
  • the fees and travel costs for international events involving Swiss literary professionals across all genres.

Maximum daily fee for readings: CHF 600.

Maximum contribution per new publication: CHF 5,000.

Pro Helvetia also supports the mobility of literary exhibitions.

  • A proportion of the adaptation, transport and insurance costs of contemporary literary exhibitions either in other language regions of Switzerland or abroad.

Application deadlines: see Section 5

2.2.3 Emerging artist projects

Pro Helvetia promotes emerging artists in cooperation with established institutions in Switzerland and abroad. Funding is aimed at projects that enable Swiss authors and translators who  demonstrate great potential for a national or international career and helps them establish themselves firmly in the national and international professional environment. Support can be granted to projects that enableartists in the first five years of their career, either after completing their professional training or after presenting their work in public for the first time.

2.2.4 International promotion

Pro Helvetia supports the promotion of Swiss literature across all genres outside Switzerland. Twice a year, grants of max. CHF 25,000 are awarded to projects that promote Swiss literature internationally. To qualify for funding, projects must involve several books respectively authors or translators. Swiss applicants are required to cooperate with local partners (cultural institutions) while foreign applicants must cooperate with Swiss partners.

Exempt from such funding are projects and events at the international book fairs of Bologna, Brussels, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Montréal, Paris, Rome, Turin, and Vienna.

Application deadlines: 1.3. and 1.9., at least 8 weeks before the first event

2.2.5 Surtitling

Applications for surtitling grants should be submitted to the Division of Performing Arts.

2.2.6 Publications and other contextualising formats

Pro Helvetia supports projects that critically examine current Swiss literary creation or individual aspects of it from an overarching, contemporary perspective. Funded projects include publications, podcasts and exhibitions. To be eligible for support, projects must be of national importance and not only address a specialist audience. No funding is available for commemorative publications, monographs or purely scientific projects.

Application deadlines: see Section 5

2.2.7 Transdisciplinary events

Pro Helvetia supports transdisciplinary events (including festivals) that promote cooperation between at least three disciplines (of which at least one must be outside the arts) in and outside Switzerland.

More information: Guidelines for Applicants Innovation & Society

2.2.8 Events combining artistic disciplines

This category refers to events or festivals that present productions from various artistic disciplines. As a rule, productions from at least three disciplines must be envisaged. Otherwise, applications must be submitted to the division primarily responsible for the event. Events combining different artistic disciplines are assessed according to the same criteria regarding form and content that apply to discipline-specific events. Particular importance is given to the criteria of the disciplines of which the productions are part of. Events combining artistic disciplines are supported in and outside Switzerland. In Switzerland, they are supported provided they present productions from Switzerland’s other language regions. Outside Switzerland, support is given to these events that present Swiss productions.

Application deadlines: see Section 5

2.3 Publishers

Pro Helvetia only supports projects by professional publishers with a national reach. To qualify for support, projects must ensure that the participating literary professionals receive commensurate fees.

2.3.1 Translations

i. Literary translations

Pro Helvetia contributes to the fees for translating contemporary Swiss literature in accordance with the customary local translation rates. To qualify for support, projects must be undertaken by renowned and professional publishers. Further, the translator must already have undertaken a literary translation in the specific language combination.

In addition to the usual information, application dossiers must contain the following supporting documents: 20 proofread pages of translation, the corresponding pages in the original text, as well as the signed contract (licence agreement)and signed translation contract.

In the case of translations of illustrated children’s and young children’s and young adult literature, half of the licence costs (max. CHF 2,000) are covered in addition to the translation fees. In the case of comic translations, a share of the lettering costs is covered in addition to the translation fees.

Exception in regards to contemporary literature:  Recently deceased Swiss authors, as well as the first translation of a deceased 20th-century author in a specific language area and/or by a publishing company that has not previously published Swiss literature. In addition, historical translations are eligible for support if the applicant can establish a well-founded, convincing connection with the present. The publishing company must feature international contemporary literature in its programme and demonstrate an active interest in the translation of contemporary works. There must be a potential for expanding Swiss literary creation in the target language area. Only one historical work per publisher will be supported.

  • At the request of Swiss publishers, Pro Helvetia supports translation work and, twice a year, editorial work and projects in connection with translation applications (max. 2 per year and publisher at max. CHF 2,000 each).
  • At the request of international publishers, Pro Helvetia promotes translation work and the international mobility of translated authors (Section 2.2.2).
  • Translations into South-East European languages are supported through the Traduki partner network. Applications should be submitted directly via https://traduki.eu/grants.

Application deadlines: see Section 5

ii. Mentorship for young Swiss translators

Pro Helvetia enables young Swiss translators to work with a mentor within the scope of a specific translation project. Mentors are committed to providing professional support throughout the translation process. The focus lies on the educational character of the mentorship and on ensuring translation quality. Applications must include a contract (licence agreement).

Pro Helvetia covers the fees of the Swiss translator and of the mentor. The fee is CHF 80/standard page and is apportioned equally between the translator and the mentor.

Application deadlines: see Section 5

iii. Sample translations

Pro Helvetia supports publishers in producing sample translations of Swiss contemporary literature (max. 4 per publisher per year; requests should be submitted via e-mail). Supported target languages: Switzerland’s national languages, English, Russian, Chinese and Spanish. Pro Helvetia funds translations at local rates up to a maximum of CHF 500 and reserves the right to apply priority criteria.

Application deadlines: see Section 5

2.3.2 International promotion

Pro Helvetia supports the promotion of Swiss literature across all genres outside Switzerland. Twice a year, grants of max. CHF 25,000 are awarded to projects that promote Swiss literature internationally. To qualify for support, projects must involve several books or authors. Swiss applicants must cooperate with recognised local partners (cultural institutions), foreign applicants with Swiss partners.

Exempt from such funding are projects and events at the international book fairs of Bologna, Brussels, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Montréal, Paris, Rome, Turin, and Vienna.

Application deadlines: 1.3. and 1.9., at the latest 8 weeks before the first event

2.3.3 International presence of Swiss authors

Pro Helvetia supports the international presence of Swiss authors at the request of Swiss and international publishers whose programme features a highly regarded new publication by a Swiss author.

Support includes the payment of fees (CHF 600 per reading day) and international travel costs, with a maximum of CHF 5,000 per new publication.

Application deadlines: see Section 5

2.3.4 Publications

i. rinting cost grants for works of fiction in Italian and Romansh

Pro Helvetia supports professional publishers by awarding printing cost grants to publish works by nationally recognised Swiss authors. Literary works in Italian and Romansh are eligible for support. In addition to the usual details (see Section 4), funding requests must include the manuscript in question.

Application deadlines: see Section 5

ii. Publications and other contextualising formats

Pro Helvetia supports projects that critically examine current Swiss literary creation or individual aspects of it from an overarching, contemporary perspective. Projects include publications, podcasts and exhibitions. To be eligible for support, projects must be of national importance and not only address a specialist audience. No funding is available for commemorative publications, monographs or purely scientific projects.

Application deadlines: see Section 5

iii. Magazines

Pro Helvetia supports magazine projects that present and reflect Swiss literary creation. Priority is given to journals, magazines and periodicals that reach a broad audience, contribute to exchange between Switzerland’s language regions, are devoted to literary translation or offer a platform for emerging Swiss authors.

No more than two applications may be submitted per magazine per year.

Application deadlines: see Section 5

3. Restrictions

Pro Helvetia is unable to consider funding requests if

  • the same part of the submitted project is already receiving funding from other federal bodies (e.g. Federal Office of Culture, Presence Switzerland, Swiss National Science Foundation, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation);
  • the project is part of a school or university curriculum/basic training or continuing education programme (including dissertations, diploma projects, university scholarships, etc.);
  • funding is intended to cover infrastructure and equipment costs, as well as the costs of operating cultural facilities, archives and collections;
  • the project does not depend on funding from Pro Helvetia.

The Division of Literature is also unable to consider funding requests for:

  • Printing costs for German and French language fiction
  • Self-published or paid publications
  • Contributions to the costs for printing translations
  • New editions, books in print or published books
  • Anthologies, reference works, specialist books, scientific publications and events, secondary literature, festive and anniversary publications and bibliophilic publications
  • Secondary exploitation (audio books, radio plays, dramatisations, dubbing, publication of lectures)
  • Scenic readings
  • Event facilitation and moderation
  • Archive and library exhibitions

4. Application Dossier

Funding applications submitted to Pro Helvetia must contain:

  • Details on the keypersons involved in the project
  • Project description in conceptual and organisational terms
  • Place and date of public performance, publication or presentation
  • Detailed cost and financing plan including information on all financial assistance requested from third parties
  • Details on the amount requested from Pro Helvetia and cost justification
  • In the case of exclusively virtual projects, evidence of a convincing national or international online dissemination strategy must be provided

Applications must be submitted via www.myprohelvetia.ch

5. Application Deadlines and Decision Timelines

Unless otherwise stated (see Section 2), the following application deadlines apply:

Application typeApplication deadlineDecision timeline
Funding requests up to CHF 25,000ongoing, up to eight weeks prior to the event/publicationwithin eight weeks
Funding requests between CHF 25,001 and 50,000ongoing, at the latest four months prior to the event/publicationwithin four months
Funding requests over CHF 50'0001 September, at the latest four months prior to the event/publicationwithin four months
1 December, at the latest four months prior to the event/publicationwithin four months
1 March, at the latest four months prior to the event/publicationwithin four months
1 June, at the latest four months prior to the event/publicationwithin four months

6. Application Processing

6.1 Preliminary assessment

Pro Helvetia will only consider funding applications if

  • the submitted project meets the general funding requirements (see Section 1);
  • there is no valid reason for exclusion (see Section 3);
  • the application dossier is complete and has been submitted on time (see Sections 4 and 5).

6.2 Assessment of content and quality

Within the scope of its available funds, Pro Helvetia prioritises projects that most comprehensively meet the criteria for support.

Pro Helvetia assesses whether

  • the project corresponds to the funding activities described in Section 2
  • the project demonstrates high artistic and professional quality
  • the project is implemented according to professional standards
  • the costs are commensurate with the expected impact
  • a lasting impact can be expected

Pro Helvetia prioritises support for projects in the field of contemporary art and culture to their degree of originality and professional competence as well as their social and thematic relevance.

In assessing applications, Pro Helvetia attaches great importance to applicants using resources in an ecologically responsible manner, as well as being committed to gender equality and diversity. In addition, Pro Helvetia expects the involved artists to o receive commensurate fees.

6.3 Decision-making bodies

Applications which are reviewed by a jury: The decision on applications is taken by the director of Pro Helvetia on recommendation of a jury. The following regulations apply to all applications:

  • Applications up to CHF 25,000: Decisions are taken by the responsible division of Pro Helvetia
  • Applications between CHF 25,001 and 50,000: Decisions are taken by the responsibile sector head
  • Applications over CHF 50,000: Decisions are taken by the Director of Pro Helvetia at the request of the committee of experts

In the case of multi-annual performance agreements, the amount of funding requested per year is decisive.

6.4 Decision notification

Funding decisions are communicated without a statement of reasons. On receipt of the decision, applicants can demand an official decision statement from Pro Helvetia against which an appeal can be lodged.

6.5 Obligations of recipients

The awarding of funding entails obligations for recipients. Pro Helvetia reserves the right to reduce the amount of funding or to demand that disbursed grants be restituted if recipients fail to meet their obligations.

Factsheet for Support Recipients: see blue box above.

6.6 Disbursement

Pro Helvetia disburses funding only after examining the final report, which must include a statement of account. Advance payments are possibleon request. Unless applicants notify Pro Helvetia of any delays, funding shall expire at the latest six (6) months after the project’s closing date as per the application dossier

6.7 Appeals

Funding decisions taken by Pro Helvetia may be appealed within 30 days of receipt. Appeals must be filed with the Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht). Appeals must include the original application, as well as the grounds of the appeal and appropriate evidence, and must be signed by the appellant. The decision statement being appealed against needs to be enclosed as evidence. Appellants bear the costs of this procedure.

Appeals must be submitted to: Bundesverwaltungsgericht, Postfach, CH-9023 St. Gallen


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