The Council on Literary Magazines and Presses joined with the Lila Wallace“Reader's Digest Fund to convene a group of 10 independent literary presses and experts on commercial and nonprofit publishing. The conference, held in late September, provided a platform to address issues facing independent publishers in a quickly changing book marketplace.
Celia O'Donnell, executive director of CLMP, told PW there was general agreement on the need to emphasize the distinctiveness of literary publishing. "It's not realistic to think we can brand individual presses," she explained. The group also offered comparisons between literary publishers and independent filmmakers. "Perhaps we need an indie-focused book festival," said O'Donnell. "Independent literary publishing may need its own Robert Redford."
O'Donnell reported that there was much interest in the American Bookseller Association's BookSense marketing campaign, and she noted that both CLMP and its nonprofit ally Small Press Distribution were currently working closely with the ABA on BookSense. While the publishers complained of the difficulty of tracking net sales (and expressed their continued commitment to independent stores), there was general acknowledgment of the steadily growing importance of online retailers.
O'Donnell said the group spent time discussing new funding paradigms pointing to "venture and social philanthropy and the giving patterns of Silicon Valley." There was some "worry that literature is an old-fashioned concept." The new philanthropists, she continued, "are looking for partnerships and relationships. They also seem more regional--California and New York. We've entered into a different climate for funding."
Among the presses involved in the conference were Arte Publico, Coffee House Press, New Press and Dalkey Archive Press. Speakers included Sandy Paul of the Book Industry Study Group and Ken Brooks of Barnes & Noble.