Some of our readers are already aware of the nefarious practices of the Italy-based “publisher,” Faligi Editore (read the background here, with links to a translation in Italian).
The one thing we can say in Faligi’s defense (so to speak) is that they are not alone — not alone in the world and certainly not alone in Italy. The latest contestant in the “Figure Out A Creative Way to Cheat Writers” competition is Leonida Edizioni, located in Reggio Calabria.
Recently, Leonida sponsored the “Gaetano Cingari Prize for Literature.” Leonida offered winners of the prize an attractive publishing contract: release of rights for only a year (excellent) and a royalty of 9% on the cover price beginning with the first copy sold (practically unheard of for a small publisher).
One winning author, however, had the foresight to forward his contract to the worthies at the Italian writers’ group, Scrittori in Causa, who immediately noticed the small matter of a paragraph that required the author, in order to cover editing, layout, administrative costs, mailing and distribution expenses, purchase of an ISBN bar code, and official registration of the contract (a bureacratic step Italy imposes on many types of contracts, including residential leases), to fork over €580.00 to Leonida (approximately $742.00 US at today’s exchange rate).
If you read Italian, you can get all the details on the Scrittori in Causa page “Concorso letterario: hai vinto? PAGA” (Literary Prize? Did you win? PAY UP.) All the details in this case include a series of incoherent comments by an anonymous poster who defends Leonida and, as regular as the blossoms in Spring, threatens to sue Scrittori in Causa for diffamazione.
Because the word diffamazione is so close to the English word “defamation,” our readers might be confused, so let us define the term clearly: “Diffamazione, noun. The act by which a malefactor seeks a court’s permission to extort money from the person who blows the whistle on wrongdoing.” In Italy, it’s hard to know which tradition has a stronger hold on the collective consciousness: threatening to sue people who’ve exposed your misconduct or going on vacation in August.
It’s also worth noting that Leonida’s literary competition and prizes were funded by grants of public money obtained from the Ministry for Italian Heritage and Culture and the Office of the President of the Calabria Regional Council. So if the contest was funded by public money, how come Leonida is asking to be paid (again) before it publishes the winners’ books?
How come, indeed.
And what’s this news doing on the site of a translators’ organization? It’s here because translators are writers, and what happens to them happens to us. Or, to say it more accurately, what’s been happening to us for a very long time is now happening to them as well.
We must all hang together or … well, you already know the rest of that famous phrase.