Europa Editions Turns Ten
Founded in 2005 by Sandro Ferri and Sandra Ozzola Ferri, over the past ten years Europa Editions has earned a reputation for excellence and played an important role in the indie publishing renaissance. Now releasing more than 30 titles a year of high-end crime fiction and quality general fiction, Europa’s notable successes include Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Jane Gardam’s Old Filth, Alexander Maksik’s You Deserve Nothing, and Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, the most recent of which, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, became an international best seller and was named a New York Times 2014 Notable Book of the Year.
Back in the early 2000s, many people we spoke to told us that Europa Editions would never work. We planned to publish a mix of work by international authors in translation and Anglophone authors from America, Britain, and elsewhere. There was no demand for foreign literature in America, they said. We planned to publish with a uniform series look in order to build a brand identity that readers and booksellers could trust. Branding does not work with books, they said. We were born independent and were determined to stay independent. Indie publishers get gobbled up by the Big Six Five, they said. Conceived in the years following 9/11, in the words of Europa’s co-founder, Sandro Ferri, Europa “was born with the intention of creating bridges between cultures.” You can’t build bridges with books, not now, not anymore, they said.
We published our first book, a slim volume by the then unknown Italian author, Elena Ferrante, in September 2005. It was edited, designed, and printed in Italy, and shipped from Rome’s ancient port of Fiumicino to our distributor’s warehouses in the American mid-west. Thanks to the early support and enthusiasm of reviewers, booksellers, and readers, that book surprised everyone. “Europa Editions has its first indie bestseller,” wrote Publishers Weekly at the time. I don’t think even they realized that not only was it our first best seller, it was our first book!
Some things have changed since 2005, though we still have one foot in Europe, where our production, design, and contracts are done, not to mention much of our editorial strategy decided. However, the support we get from reviewers, booksellers, our sales force, and readers, and its importance for the way we do business, have not. We are extremely grateful for this support. Publishers exist to provide safe passage for an author’s work as it makes its often-perilous way to readers. It is for our authors that we exist. We are awed and inspired by all of our authors, and grateful for the trust they and their agents have placed in us. And of course, we are enormously grateful to the many talented translators who have made our work possible for the past ten years.
Over this same ten-year period, there have been seismic changes in the industry, from the rise of digital device reading to changes in the habits of book buyers to law suits and mergers involving the industry’s biggest players. Through them all we have maintained a belief in the power of storytelling and a conviction that good storytelling happens everywhere—it is the publisher’s job to find it, nurture it, bring it to its intended audience in the best and most appealing way possible.
In this time of conglomeration, bibliodiverstiy is more important than ever, and it is indie presses more than anyone else who work to ensure that a diverse book market exists now and in the future. There has been an increased awareness of the role that independently owned businesses of all kinds play in the economic and cultural life of the country in the past decade. There are the shop locally and localvore movements, Plaid Friday, Independence Week, and Small Business Saturday initiatives, and, of course, the flourishing of IndieBound. These movements suggest that a new appreciation for independence not only as a cultural value but also as a viable business model has re-emerged. It is no coincidence that Europa has thrived in the same decade as these other initiatives, organizations, and businesses.
We are planning to celebrate our tenth anniversary as an independent publisher in a variety of ways, from live events, festivities, bookstore collaborations and promotions, to media events and the release of some very big books! These activities will begin early this year and continue throughout 2015. We will be in touch about our plans, and we hope you’ll join us as we celebrate our tenth year in business.