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The CLMP Newswire
WELCOME TO THE CLMP NEWSWIRE
We are pleased to bring you the first issue of The CLMP Newswire, a biweekly news dispatch on the world of literary publishing. Los Angeles-based journalist, Leslie Schwartz, will cover the literary publishing beat, reporting new and underreported news of interest to independent publishers of fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction nationwide. The CLMP Newswire is distributed free of charge to CLMP members and to non-members for $12 a year. Suggested news items should be sent directly to Leslie Schwartz at email@example.com. All other questions, concerns and commentary should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope you enjoy this newest service from CLMP!
Table of Contents for March 15, 2001 (Volume 1, Number 1)
Small Press Month is back, celebrating its fifth year with a book fair and announcement of the annual Poor Richard's Award winner honoring an independent press for outstanding contribution to publishing.
The yearly March event comes at a time when so-called mid-list authors are taking the small press industry by storm, contributing to the $14.3 billion dollars in book sales generated by fifty thousand independent publishers last year.
"It's wonderful that so many independent presses are flourishing," says Karin Taylor, executive director of the non-profit Small Press Center, co-sponsor of the event, along with the Publishers Marketing Association. "Small Press Month will help these presses by showcasing their books and encouraging the public to seek out new and back list small press titles from their local bookstores and libraries."
While thousands of bookstores and libraries throughout the country celebrate the event with displays and special programs, the Small Press Book Fair will take place at the Small Press Center in New York City on March 24th and 25th.
This year's winner of the Poor Richard's Award, presented by the Small Press Center, is Bill Henderson, founder of the Pushcart Press. Drake McFeely, president of W.W. Norton will bestow the award at a reception on Friday, March 23rd.
The following day Henderson will take a retrospective look at small presses and then lead a discussion on the importance and role of independent presses in the 21st century.
"What is wonderful and important about small presses today and yesterday is their total commitment to publish the best literature they can find, unshackled by any necessity to make a lot of money," says Henderson.
Special events at the fair include readings from noted small press authors, a question and answer session with small press publishers and a panel on publishing and the First Amendment. There will also be over 200 independent presses selling their books.
The Small Press Book Fair takes place at the Small Press Center's offices, 20 West 44th Street, New York, New York. Admission is free and open to the public.
SPD Books, the non-profit distributor of independent presses, sold a record 108,000 titles last year. According to Brent Cunningham, sales and web manager for the 33-year old company, that's an increase of 47,000 titles since 1997.
While all areas of sales are up, the strongest growth has occurred in fiction, moving from 15 percent to 20 percent of total sales. Second in line is SPD's "cultural writing" category that has grown to 28 percent of sales, compared with 26 percent four years ago.
SPD's customer base has grown sharply as well. The largest area of sales growth was to the retail chain store sector, which has rocketed 188 percent since 1997. Sales to universities followed, with a 109-percent increase, and sales to libraries were close behind, growing 108 percent in the same four-year period.
"Corporate consolidation with the New York Publishing houses over the years means that at the big houses, there has been less of a commitment to mid-list writers," says Emily Grossman, marketing and sales director at SPD.
She attributes the rise in sales primarily to the fact that the reading community is hungry for titles that small presses publish - non-mainstream literary fiction and geographic and cultural poetry and prose. These are areas that Grossman believes the larger houses, with their emphasis on the financial bottom line, can no longer afford to support.
But Grossman and Cunningham also see the rise in Internet technology and the speedy dissemination of information by and about the literary community as a boon for small presses.
"Anyone who logs on to Barnes and Noble's website will notice there's no distinction between independent publishers and large publishers, so the small presses automatically get some exposure."
Finally, according to Grossman, internal changes at SPD have turned the company's focus mainly toward the business of distribution.
Five years ago, SPD didn't have a sales and marketing director. In 1997, SPD closed its bookstore to focus solely on distribution. And while the company still sees value in performing community service, it now only conducts public literary programs in conjunction with other organizations.
"We have become more focused and dedicated to distribution as a way of furthering our mission, which is to nurture a cultural context in which literary arts are valued and sustained," says Grossman.
For more information on SPD sales and facts go to http://www.spdbooks.org
Cross River Publishing Consultants recently completed a study on book industry returns for the Publishers Marketing Association (PMA). The result is ominous for all segments of book publishing, with the overall cost of returns to publishers, wholesalers, distributors and booksellers estimated at $7.1 billion.
"Returns are the bane of the publishing industry and it will take bold, hands-on steps at all levels to reduce them," says Jan Nathan, executive director of Publishers Marketing Association.
The study focuses on six areas: the history of returns in the book industry, the reasons for returns, the economics of returns, comparisons to other industries, new technology and returns, and other return issues.
"Returns are costly to all parties," says Tom Woll, President of Cross River Publishing Consultants, "but no one seems willing or able to propose and initiate policies that mitigate change and that will have a positive impact on the industry as a whole."
However, PMA is determined to alter that trend. As a part of Small Press Month, PMA will hold a press conference on March 15 at the Small Press Center to address the nagging problem of returns and outline initiatives to assist publishers in dealing with the troublesome issue.
For more information about the press conference or to learn more about the report, log on at http://www.pma-online.org
After a long illness, C.W. "Bill Truesdale" founder of Minneapolis' New Rivers Press died on Monday, February 26. He was 71.
According to poet Robert Alexander, who was the creative director of the press, a member of the board and one of the press's authors, Truesdale started New Rivers on a dare.
Apparently after a long diatribe one night about the sorry state of publishing, Truesdale's brother-in-law suggested that Truesdale do something about it and "put his money where his mouth is."
Truesdale did just that, launching the press in 1968, in a small shed in Massachusetts. Still running after 30 years, New Rivers became one of the oldest continuously running independent presses in the country.
"Bill completely devoted himself to publishing new and emerging writers," said Alexander. "He was very tenacious and kept at what he was doing despite the changes in publishing over the years."
Truesdale is one of the first publishers to seek non-profit status for his press at a time when there was little or no government funding for the arts.
"Bill was one of the pioneers in terms of going outside the NEA for funding," said Allan Kornblum, founder of Minneapolis-based Coffee House Press. "He was very generous, giving away copies of the paperwork he put together to gain non-profit status, and in that way helped many of us out."
Truesdale is credited with launching the careers of several acclaimed writers, including National Book Award winner Charles Baxter and St. Paul African American writer, David Haynes.
The press, which suspended operations two months before Truesdale's death, is currently searching for a strategic and creative partnership and hopes to re-emerge within the next few months.
A recent article in the Los Angeles Times heralded the dawning millennium as a "New Chapter for Black Literature."
Last week, The Dallas Morning News boldly proclaimed a boom in black literary fiction calling it our "brave new black literary world."
Both articles referred to the new African American imprints coming out of New York's biggest houses - Stiver's Row of Random House and Warner Books' Walk Worthy Press.
For Ginger Thornton, managing editor of Callaloo, a small literary journal that features stories and essays by and about Africans and African Americans, the literary buzz and marketing hoopla are bittersweet victories.
"It's both gratifying and frustrating that what we've been doing for the last 25 years is suddenly fashionable," says Thornton. "We're not in this thing to make money but if we're lucky enough, we can ride the wave."
Callaloo (http://www.people.virginia.edu/~callaloo/), which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, has withstood the test of time to become the longest continuously running journal of creative and scholarly writing featuring work by African Americans as well as writers from throughout Africa and the African Diaspora.
The publication was originally inspired by a series of creative writing classes taught by Charles H. Rowell at Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA. The mission was to publish the creative and scholarly works of the black southern writing community that emerged during the tumultuous civil rights era. Since then, Rowell moved the publication to the University of Kentucky and, more recently to the University of Virginia where it now resides.
With each move came a shift in focus toward a more global audience and a broader base of international contributors. Callaloo, which refers to a Caribbean stew containing a little bit of everything, now publishes poetry, prose and scholarly works, as well as visual art from the United States, Africa and the African Diaspora.
"Callaloo is a who's who of African and African American literature," says Thornton. In the past the publication has featured work by Ralph Ellison, Ernest Gaines and Gloria Naylor.
A recent issue featured stories and articles by and about black Germans and an upcoming special double issue will explore work by Cuban writers on the mainland and exiled Cuban writers living in the United States.
With the 25th anniversary celebration, the journal plans to publish three "best of" issues, one each in poetry, prose and the African Diaspora. The first issue of their 25th anniversary celebration will devote a sizeable chunk to southern writers on the Confederate Flag.
AND SPEAKING OF BIRTHDAYS...
The Antioch Review (http://www.antioch.edu/review) celebrates its 60th year of publication with a whopping 392-page anniversary issue titled, "Sowing Words for Sixty Years." Selections include work by Ha Jin, Bret Lott and W.S. Merwin.
Ausable Press (http://www.ausablepress.com) just gave birth to its first book, "Love About Love" by Poet C.K. Williams. The New York-based press was founded in 1999 by Chase Twichell. Its mission: "To publish poetry that investigates and expresses human consciousness in language that goes where prose cannot."
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