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Guidelines for Applicants Literature

The Arts Council’s criteria for support as well as information about the procedures for submitting an application and the deadlines are contained in the Guidelines for applicants.

1. General conditions

Status: January 2020

Pro Helvetia promotes literature from Switzerland, with a focus on diversity as well as on national and international appeal. It supports the creation of literary works, the dissemination of Swiss literature abroad, cultural exchange within Switzerland as well as audience outreach of Swiss literature. As a national institution, Pro Helvetia supplements the promotional activities of Swiss cantons and municipalities and supports only cross-regionally or internationally recognised projects.

To qualify for support from Pro Helvetia, the project must

  • be clearly connected to Switzerland;
  • be of nationwide importance;
  • be publicly accessible;
  • be adequately co-financed by other public or private sponsors (incl. event organisers).

2. Scope of promotion

2.1 Work grants

Pro Helvetia supports the creation of literary works (including children’s and youth literature, playwriting, Spoken Word performances as well as comics) by means of work grants to Swiss authors writing in any of the four national languages. To qualify for a work grant, the author in question must have had at least one work already published by a recognised publishing house (no works published at the author’s own costs) or by a digital medium that includes editing services. In the case of Spoken Word performances the author must have performed on stage at renowned venues in the past.

Recipients of work grants must submit the manuscript to Pro Helvetia within five years and must wait four years before they may apply for another grant. In the Spoken Word area, the production needs to be performed on stage within two years. Spoken Word artists may apply again after two years.

Factsheet on work grants in the field of literature (German)

Factsheet on work grants for comics

2.2 Project grants

2.2.1 Translations

Pro Helvetia’s Literature section supports:

  • the translation of contemporary works of literature written by Swiss authors (all genres, including children’s and youth literature, illustration work, comics, graphic novels, and drama);
  • surtitles for performative literary productions by Swiss authors;
  • copy-editing/proofreading work by Swiss publishers in the case of particularly demanding projects, in connection with a regular application for translation support (two per year and publisher at most);
  • promotional measures planned by Swiss publishers in connection with a regular application for translation support (2 per year and publisher at most);
  • translation-related events (incl. appearances by translators);
  • offers regarding networking and the enhancement of professional qualification for translators (incl. workshops and work residencies in connection with current translation projects);
  • (on request by Swiss translators): the translation of international literature and major translation projects in the field of Swiss literature;
  • research by translators for the creation of a presentation dossier (incl. sample translations) and for its referral to a publisher willing to purchase the publishing rights for a translation (two per year and translator at most);
  • Swiss publishers for the creation of sample translations of their publications (into a Swiss national language, English or Spanish).

Further information on the support of translations

2.2.2 Publications

Pro Helvetia supports publishers by means of contributions to the costs of publication of works by recognised Swiss authors. Support can be applied for in the case of:

  • fiction in Italian or Rhaeto-Romanic;
  • complete editions of literary works;
  • well-recognised cultural and artistic journals (for specific criteria, please consult the factsheet on magazine promotion);
  • French-language paperbacks as part of «Poche Suisse».

2.2.3 Literary events

Pro Helvetia supports organisers in connection with:

  • reading and other literary tours by Swiss authors in foreign countries or Swiss linguistic regions other than their own (cf. Factsheet on reading tours to foreign countries);
  • events about translated Swiss books;
  • literary festivals presenting more than one of Switzerland’s linguistic regions;
  • adaptation, transport and insurance costs of literary exhibitions, which are displayed in other linguistic regions of Switzerland or abroad.

Pro Helvetia fosters the international exchange of knowledge among literary practitioners and translators. Eligible for support are specialists who contribute to the content of public events outside of Switzerland on topics connected with Swiss literature, folk culture or everyday culture. As a rule, the amount of support is measured against the travel expenses. The application is to be submitted by the event organiser.

2.2.4 Book promotion

Pro Helvetia supports the promotion of the Swiss book outside of Switzerland. In addition to its presence at the most important international book fairs (several years of support agreements with the publishers associations), Pro Helvetia makes twice a year a contribution for the international promotion of the Swiss book and its translation. This funding is aimed at professional publishers, publishing groups, associations and event organisers in the book and literature field.

Book promotion + : a literary autumn in Switzerland (exceptional measures 2020)

In order to encourage promotional activities in the Swiss literary scene, Pro Helvetia is extending its support by including projects carried out within Switzerland.

Factsheet on Book promotion +

2.2.5 Arts and audience projects

Pro Helvetia supports arts and audience projects in Switzerland that engage audiences in personal encounters with professional artistic creation and thereby heighten their awareness of artistic works and presentations. Projects can be considered for promotion if they contain an innovative approach to outreach and education in practice and therefore are of nationwide exemplary nature or if they focus on more than one linguistic region in Switzerland.

Factsheet on the promotion of arts and audience outreach

2.2.6 Residencies

Pro Helvetia supports residencies and research trips of Swiss authors and translators in China, India (or other south Asian countries), Russia, Egypt (or other Arab countries) and Southern Africa.

Guidelines Residencies

2.3 Book distribution and book exhibitions

Pro Helvetia’s book service distributes literary works and non-fiction books about Swiss culture to foreign libraries. On request, the book service can put together compilations of thematic books for cultural congresses, book fairs and symposia.

The book service can only accept requests from Swiss embassies and consulates as well as from major foreign libraries.

2.4 Promotion of aspiring artists

Pro Helvetia supports aspiring artists primarily in collaboration with recognised institutions in Switzerland and abroad (publishing houses, festivals, art colleges, etc.). The promotion is aimed at authors and translators with outstanding artistic potential and prospects of a national or an international career. Aspiring authors and translators are supported during the first five years of their professional artistic career either after they have obtained their corresponding degree or following the first public presentation of their work. The upper age limit for support is 35. Only projects that are conducive to establishing the author in a professional environment at national and international level are eligible for support.

Factsheet on the promotion of aspiring literary translators

Dossier Promotion of aspiring authors

3. Exclusions

Pro Helvetia provides no support if

  • the same part of the project is already supported by other Federal institutions (e.g. Swiss Federal Office of Culture, Presence Switzerland, Swiss National Science Foundation, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation);
  • the project is part of a school, college or university curriculum or a training course (incl. research projects, theses, dissertations, diploma projects, scholarship projects, etc.);
  • the support is intended for infrastructure or equipment costs, or for the operational costs of cultural institutions, archives or collections;
  • the project is not dependent on financial support.

Moreover the Literature division cannot accept applications for support in connection with:

  • the publication of works of fiction in German or French;
  • self-publication of books or publication against payment;
  • printing costs of translations;
  • reprints, books in print or books already published;
  • anthologies, works of reference, specialist books, scholarly publications and events, secondary literature, honorary and anniversary publications, bibliophile editions;
  • adaptations (audio books, radio plays, dramatisations, works put to music, publications of talks);
  • scenic readings;
  • presentations by moderators;
  • book launches, promotional tours organised by publishers;
  • archive and library exhibitions;
  • knowledge exchange and exhibitions taking place in the context of schools and universities.

4. Dossier contents

An application to Pro Helvetia must contain the following items:

  • description of the project;
  • place and date of the event(s);
  • information on the authors, translators and curators involved;
  • media clips;
  • budget and finance plan including specification of the contribution requested from Pro Helvetia.

Additional items in the case of translations:

  • licence and translation contracts, as well as a significant part of the proofread translation manuscript and the corresponding original text

Additional items in the case of work grants:

  • short curriculum vitae, 20 pages of the planned literary work or 20 representative pages which are closely linked to the planned literary work;
  • in the case of poetry projects: 15 poems;
  • in the case of comic books: 10 pages;
  • in the case of literary performances: 5 pages plus visual and sound recordings;
  • a recent book publication by postal mail (this condition does not apply for literary performances).

Also required in the case of publications:

  • complete typescript and publisher’s contract with the author.

Pro Helvetia accepts applications exclusively via myprohelvetia.ch.

5. Application deadlines and time until decision is taken

Decisions on applications will be taken within the following deadlines:

Application typeApplication deadline / Processing timeBeginning of event or Date of printing
Applications which are reviewed by a jury, irrespective of the amount of the contribution (work grants)1 March / 4 monthsPublication from 1 June
For all other applications:
Applications of up to CHF 25`000 ongoing, at the latest eight weeks before the beginning event or the date of printing / 8 weeks
Applications between CHF 25`001 to 50`000 ongoing, at the latest four months before the beginning of the event or the date of printing / 4 months
Applications over CHF 50`000 1 September / 4 monthsfrom 1 January
1 December / 4 monthsfrom 1 April
1 March / 4 monthsfrom 1 July

1 June / 4 monthsfrom 1 October
Book promotion1 September / 4 monthsfrom 1 January
1 March / 4 monthsfrom 1 July

6. Processing of applications

6.1 Pre-assessment

Pro Helvetia decides to process an application only if

  • the project in question fulfils the general criteria for support (cf. section 1);
  • there is no reason for exclusion (cf. section 3);
  • the application is complete and has been submitted on time (cf. sections 4 and 5).

6.2 Qualitative evaluation

Pro Helvetia assesses whether

  • the project fulfils the requirements of high artistic and technical quality;
  • the project is executed in accordance with professional standards;
  • the costs are proportionate to the impact expected;
  • the project is likely to have a long-term Impact.

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.
  • Applications which are not reviewed by a jury (in the case of multi-year support agreements, the amount of funding per year is decisive):
      • The decision on applications of up to CHF 25‘000 is taken by the responsible division at Pro Helvetia.
      • The decision on applications between CHF 25‘001 and 50‘000 is taken by the responsible sector head at Pro Helvetia.

6.4 Notification of a decision

A decision is communicated without detailed reasons being given. 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 of support from Pro Helvetia

A pledge of support by Pro Helvetia places certain obligations on the applicants. If the applicants do not fulfil these obligations, Pro Helvetia is entitled to reduce the amount of support accordingly or demand a refund of support payments already made.

Factsheet for Grant Recipients

6.6 Disbursement

Pro Helvetia makes the support payments only after a final report, including the accounts, has been examined. Advance payments are possible on request. Unless the applicants notify Pro Helvetia of any delays, funding expires at the latest one year after the project’s closing date specified in the application dossier. If no closing date has been specified, Pro Helvetia sets deadlines itself.

6.7 Appeals

Decision statements from Pro Helvetia can be appealed within 30 days of the date of receipt. The appeals must be lodged with the Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht). An appeal must include the original application as well as the reasons for the appeal, including 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 are to be submitted to:
CH-9023 St. Gallen

7. Purpose of the guidelines and legal basis

The guidelines explain what is needed to submit a complete application for support from Pro Helvetia for an artistic or a cultural project, what the criteria for the evaluation of an application are, what deadlines and procedures apply, and what legal steps can be taken. The guidelines supplement the Grant Ordinance (Verordnung über Beiträge der Stiftung Pro Helvetia) adopted by Pro Helvetia’s Board of Trustees on 27 November 2019 as well as the Arts and Culture Promotion Act (Kulturförderungsgesetz) of 11 December 2009 and the Arts and Culture Promotion Ordinance (Kulturförderungsverordnung) of 23 November 2011. These legal documents can be accessed (in German, French and Italian) on Pro Helvetia’s website at



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