2014 has been about much more than
chronological milestones. The Press,
which publishes approximately 30
titles annually, is experiencing a
record-breaking year in sales. And it
has continued, as it has for almost a
decade, to amass awards and accolades disproportionate to its size, and
in defiance of being headquartered in
Minneapolis, far from Manhattan.
In 2014, Graywolf author Vijay Seshadri won the Pulitzer
Prize in poetry for 3 Sections, and two of the five finalists for
the 2014 National Book Award in poetry were Graywolf
titles: Second Childhood, by Fanny Howe and Citizen: An
American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine. And, in October, McCrae,
a British expat who came to Graywolf in 1994 from Faber &
Faber, where, for three years, she’d been director and senior
editor at its U.S. offices in Boston, received the Golden
Colophon Award from the Council of Literary Magazines and
Presses (CLMP) for “superlative achievement and achievement” in literary publishing.
With her usual modesty, McCrae tries to deflect credit for
Graywolf’s transformation from a struggling regional press with
a $200,000 deficit in 1993 into an international literary juggernaut, ascribing it primarily to her 12-member team. “We
match our editorial strengths with robust marketing,” she
explains, noting that while the common wisdom is that short
fiction, works-in-translation, and poetry don’t sell, “we go
roaring into those areas.” —Claire Kirch
Author and cofounder of
We Need Diverse Books
While discussing the need to advocate for more diversity in children’s
literature with two other YA authors
back in March, Ellen Oh uttered what
she now admits were “fateful” words:
“If we’re going to do something, we’re
going to have to do something really
big.” It wasn’t long before Oh, author
of the Prophecy trilogy of YA fantasy
novels based on Korean folktales, had the opportunity to put
those words into action.
After ReedPop announced in April that BookCon’s initial
author lineup would consist only of white people and Grumpy
Cat, Oh and a grassroots group of almost two dozen publishers,
authors, and bloggers launched a social media campaign.
Although #WeNeedDiverseBooks officially lasted only three
days, it had a huge impact on the book publishing industry,
which has been criticized for its lack of diversity for decades.
The social media campaign, which amassed 106 million Twitter
impressions within the first 24 hours of its May 1 launch, con-
tinues to reverberate throughout the industry and far beyond.
The group, which incorporated this summer as the nonprofit
We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), has announced a number of
initiatives to promote multicultural children’s books and their
authors, including a children’s literature festival in the summer
of 2016; underwriting the Walter Dean Myers Award for estab-
lished authors, to launch in 2015, as well as grants for emerging
voices; programs to bring authors and illustrators into schools
in underserved communities; and educational kits and materials
for schools and libraries.
Most recently, WNDB announced an internship program to
support individuals from diverse backgrounds who want to
pursue careers in publishing. And, Oh says an interactive app
of multicultural authors and books is in development. As of
press time, WNDB’s six-week Indiegogo fund-raising campaign to finance these initiatives has raised almost $322,000
from more than 2,200 funders, including $110,000 from Daniel
Handler, in the wake of comments he made at the National
Book Awards that many considered racist. The campaign ends
December 10. —Claire Kirch
Since releasing his first novel in 1976,
James Patterson has published more than
100 books and, according to Forbes, has
made over $700 million in the past decade
alone. But the remarkable thing about
Patterson is how deeply he believes that
books are vital to robust civic engagement, and how much of his own fortune
he puts toward that conviction.
In 2014, Patterson spread his generosity
among schools, libraries, and literacy efforts (including book
giveaways for kids and college students). He recently launched
a campaign called #SaveOurBooks, which includes a letter-writing campaign to Congress to increase public library funding.
And most notably, he pledged to give $1 million to independent
booksellers over the course of this year, most of which has
already been paid out in grants of up to $15,000, no strings
attached. Patterson, like a host of other writers, also strongly
weighed in on behalf of his current publisher, Hachette, in its
high-profile dispute with Amazon.
But while many of the issues raised by the Amazon dispute
are likely to fade into the background now that the two companies have reached a deal, Patterson’s efforts show that he is committed to addressing the deeper systemic issues facing writers,
readers, and publishers. “The future of books in America is at
risk,” he told PW earlier this year. “Bookstore traffic is down.
Kids aren’t reading as many books. I want to really shine a light
and draw attention to the fact that this is a tricky time.”
Continued from p. 24