Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lependorf's Letter

(Wed, Sept 6, 2006, e-mail from Jeffrey Lependorf.)

Hi King. I'm happy to answer your questions. I've placed answers below:

(Mr. Lependorf, two questions for a report I'm writing.
1.) Who made the decision to ask Rick Moody to write the Foreword to your 2006/2007 Soft Skull directory?)

I did. Each year we ask a well-known writer to dontribute a foreword to our Literary Press and Magazine Directory. Past writers have included Kimiko Hahn, Grace Paley, and Sherman Alexie. The primary purpose of the Directory is to allow writers of poetry, literary fiction, and creative non-fiction to find out about and best get their work to the publishers who care most about what they do, the mission-driven, independent literary publishers that make up our community. That said, our community doesn't operate in a vacuum, but rather as a vital part of a much larger publishing ecosystem that includes bottom-line-driven conglomerates, booksellers (both independent and otherwise), distributors, marketers, librarians, etc. Many fine writers sadly seek publication only with the conglomerates, either because that's all they know about, they have illusions about fame and fortune, or they aren't aware of what an indie publisher can offer them. We ask a commercially well-known writer to create a preface for the Directory to attract attention to the book, and to hopefully write something of value to those just seeking publication. The writers we have asked have all demonstrated great generosity to the small press and literary magazine community. We tend to ask writers who got their start in small publishers, or who go back and forth. While Mr. Moody has published several big house books, he's also a regular in literary magazines and he's very generous with his time in supporting causes like CLMP.

(2.) What's the explanation for the transformation of the CLMP Board of Directors the last few years, from small press folks to chiefly monied people with tight connections to the big book monopolies?)

If only my board were awash in "monied people!" What you have interpreted as a transformation is in fact an expansion. The CLMP board still has small press publishers and writers on it (poet Kimiko Hahn, for example, has just cycled off the board and another writer will be invited to take her place), but now also has members of the larger publishing community who care deeply about literature and independent publishers and wish to help. The primary responsibility of any board is that of fiscal governance and fundraising. This was lacking in the past and we're working to widen our field of support and expertise. One of the new programs to come out of this growth, for example, has been a number of programs through which small publishers have been able to work with literature-friendly folks from some of the larger houses, many of whom entered publishing because of a love of literature and "ended up" working in larger houses for any number of reasons. These big house folks have been quite generous in sharing marketing ideas and information on issues like foreign rights and other brass tacks equally important to well-functioning small publishers. Small publishers do not operate in competition with their larger, commercial counterparts. In fact, it's often the case that, contrary to what one would assume, literary titles at large houses get less support than equivalent books at small houses. In any event, the CLMP board hardly consists of big money folks wielding power; the CLMP board members who are associated with commercial publishing publishing have strong interests in real literature and want to assure that literary publishing remains vital and vibrant. CLMP exists to help small publishers achieve a common goal of getting the work of writers they serve into the hands of readers. We invite help from all who wish to help in carrying out that goal.

I hope that's helpful,


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