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September 25, 2020

Pay-to-Play Alert: Europe Books / Europa Edizioni / Gruppo Albatros Il Filo

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®

Over the past few weeks, I've gotten a number of questions about a publisher called Europe Books (EB). It's part of a complex of "brands" under the umbrella of Gruppo Editoriale Europa, including Europa Edizioni (Italy), Europa Ediciones (Spain), and Europa Buch (Germany)*

EB's motto: "Our Books Travel the World." 
We live in a time of great political and social changes, of liquid boundaries and cultural contaminations. This context makes it inevitable that literatures rapidly lose their national connotation and gain a more extended European trait. Over the past 15 years, we have established our leadership by reaching a wider audience which is not confined to the Italian borders. We opened branch offices in the main European capitals. Both our bestselling writers and emerging authors are published simultaneously in Italy, Spain, Germany and, from now on, in England as well. France and the United States are our next goals.
Despite the slightly shaky English on display in the paragraph above, EB looks--at least to the casual glance--like a traditional publisher, boasting important-seeming titles in Italian editions by Barack Obama and Pope Francis, along with bestsellers by Adam Kay, Melvyn Bragg, and more.

On closer examination, however, it turns out that most of those titles have not been published by EB at all, but by other imprints of EB's parent company, Gruppo Albatros Il Filo (more on that below). There's also a distinct promoting-to-authors vibe on EB's website, with much mention of "emerging authors" and touting of the publicity EB says it provides. There's also this: a "submit your unpublished manuscript" page offering "evaluation" of a laundry list of markets and genres, from fiction to non-fiction to children's books to "degree theses" (not generally a category in which reputable publishers are actively seeking submissions). An equivalent page appears on each of the company's websites. There's even a standalone URL

Some caution is always in order when a publisher focuses recruitment efforts on unpublished authors; not infrequently, what the publisher is really after is inexperienced writers who'll be less likely to recognize a bad deal when they're offered one. And indeed:

"Co-production" equals pay-to-play. "May or may not" usually equals pretty much always.

Writers who submit to Europe Books, or are solicited to submit (EB seems to be active in that regard) are told that they must buy 200 copies of their own books--not at discount, but at cover price, with amounts running into four figures. Publication happens only upon payment in full. The order form is part of the contract:

Self-purchase requirements are a common way for vanity publishers to dodge the vanity label. It's not an upfront fee, it's just you buying your own books! But whether you pay upfront or after the fact, the bottom line is that you must give your publisher cash in order to be published. 

Far from being "co-productions"--which imply that the publisher is investing something of value--pay-to-play publishing offers are usually carefully calculated to cover not just the entire expense of publishing your book, but the publisher's overhead and profit as well. And a publisher that has made a profit before the book is even released is unlikely to be highly motivated to cut into that by providing high-quality editing, design (you can judge the quality of EB's book covers here), distribution, or marketing (EB's promised marketing, detailed in its contract, focuses on cheap and not-very-useful methods like website listings, press releases, and email blasts).

Note also the promise of a refund if 500 copies sell (those sales, of course, exclude ebooks and any copies bought by the author). Where fee-based publishers promise refunds, the benchmark has been set where it is because it's almost never reached. 

Other EB contract lowlights: 10% net royalties on electronic editions, sales reports just once a year and only on request, a two-year contract term with no possibility of renewal, and the ability of the author to cancel at any time. While that might sound good, the latter two provisions emphasize that it's all about the (upfront) money: once the writer has paid in full, EB has received its profit, and any sales are gravy. It thus has no need for an extended claim on the books themselves. 

As mentioned above, EB and the other Europa imprints under the Gruppo Editoriale Europa umbrella are just one branch of a larger group, Italian publisher Gruppo Albatros Il Filo. Albatros owns two additional imprints--Vertigo Edizioni, which has two website addresses, and Lastaria Edizioni--which are the actual publishers of most of the recognizable authors and titles claimed on the websites of EB and its Europa cousins. 

Clearly, Albatros does at least some traditional publishing through Vertigo and Lastaria; it's not very likely that Barack Obama and Pope Francis--not to mention successful writers like Adam Kay (This Is Going To Hurt) and Jean Teule (Le Magasin des Suicides)--agreed to buy their own books in order to be published by these imprints. 

However, both Albatros and Vertigo have recruitment pages similar to those on the websites of the Europa brands; and writers' own experiences confirm pay-to-play offers from both. They've been doing it for a long time, too. In a 2012 expose, Italian author and journalist Alessandro Cascio describes sending Albatros a trunk manuscript, and receiving an offer requiring him to buy 300 copies of his book for around 3,000 euros. The reward? If sales (excluding his own buys, of course) reached 300 copies, he could publish a subsequent book and not have to purchase anything.

Of all the imprints, the only one that doesn't seem to be recruiting is Lastaria--but given the consistency of the business model across the rest of this company, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it plays the same game. 

Always remember: reputable traditional publishers don't require authors to pay anything or buy anything as a condition of publication. 

* Not to be confused with Europa Editions, a well-regarded New York-based independent publisher.

UPDATE 8/30/21: I'm starting to hear about solicitations by Vertigo Edizioni. Calling itself Vertigo Publishing House, its angle is a little different--an offer to translate the writer's book into Italian--but my guess is that the endgame is the same: a vanity contract. I'll post more information as I receive it.


Unknown said...

Hi, i'm an emerging author from Africa, I sent my manuscript to the same publisher some months ago, and they recently replied, everything exactly as stated on your article. I'm currently awaiting a zoom meeting call with one of their editors and I would like some advise from you if possible based on this deal.

Best Regards

Victoria Strauss said...

Unknown 11/02,

I really don't have anything to add to the cautions in my article. Writer Beware endorses self-publishing, which can be a good choice depending on your needs and goals--but we never recommend vanity publishing. We consider Europe Books a vanity publisher. If you want to discuss this more, or have other questions, feel free to email me:

John Daly said...

Hi Victoria, thank you for this warning. I was just contacted by Europe Books saying they liked my manuscript and wanted to chat. So many dreamsmashers out there. I had a feeling they were vanity. Congrats on YOUR successes!

Baltasar Lotroyo said...

Thank you, Victoria, for this clear analysis. I was just about to fall into their web, flattered by their invitation, but I had doubts. Now I see that the money I would have spent to buy 200 books at 19.50 GBP, for a total of 3,900 GBP or 4,252.44€, can be better spent on my own marketing and cover design.

redgum said...

I endorse the expressions of gratitude for your work, Victoria. I revised diaries from a 1964 tour of Europe, trips over and return, and six months' living and working in the UK. I was always doubtful about the product's market potential. I had published articles and book chapters while working as an academic and recently, had two non-fiction books published with small, but reputable, publishers. Before being approached by EB this morning, I'd been warned about vanity publishers, albeit less elegantly and comprehensively than you have done. You have provided a valuable service.
I'm 82 and will just content myself recovering my French and enjoying gardening. Good luck to you and all your correspondents.

Unknown said...

Thank you I am awaiting a phone call from EB about publishing my poetry book. I'm glad I read your page. Best wishes

Shawn2 said...

Thank you for this publication and as I was made aware from research on this topic. Any book worth selling by a publisher doesn't require an investment from the author if the publishers marketing team already evaluated the sales pitch. These vanity publishers however should be avoided for a few reasons; 1. They charge you what you can spend and invest for your self and still have enough left over to worry about other things later. 2. Their is no guarantee of actually selling 500 book to make back your investment and for me is the main borderline of a good scam or tactic. And 3. Self publishing offer much more for authors who are willing to work on their own books than any literary agent can ever sell and publisher can publish. It's all about you and your pride in your work/ book. Ask 50 shades of grey a self published hit. The market is challenging but you have to challenge it by stepping up your game. All the best authors and always be careful out there.

Charles said...

I am glad that you have given this detailed denunciation of this vanity publisher.
I have been victim to more than one! I now only send my work to traditional publishers and although so far there have been only refusals it's still honest that way.. said...

I recently completed my first book. I spent months researching my options. I can tell you that anyone requiring you to purchase 200 books upfront is NOT a good deal for you! There are many self-publishing companies that will help you convert your manuscript into a finished book for a fee and then "print on demand" any books you order and even ship them to your buyers. Most books will cost you the author $4-$6 each, depending on the size & if there are photos. What I have learned is that writing my book was the easy part. Getting it to be book-ready and then developing a marketing plan is way more labor-intensive. I will also say that 90% of authors take the easy route and rely on placing their book on Amazon. It's fast, easy, and cool to see your book on Amazon. But you will not sell many books unless you are marketing it.

Afrocentric Perspectives said...

Europe Books is a scam!

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