St. Paul Literary Publisher Turns Readers Into Donors

Graywolf Press in St. Paul, Minnesota, has completed a $1 million fundraising campaign, thanks largely to individual donors — a feat that has implications for other nonprofit literary presses, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

While literary publishers such as Graywolf often publish books — including most of the poetry and foreign literature in translation in well-stocked bookstores — because, first and foremost, they believe the works deserve to be read, running a nonprofit press requires extra financial support, said Graywolf director and publisher Fiona McCrae. And although Graywolf had long enjoyed foundation support, it received little support from individuals. But a few years ago, a grant from the St. Paul-based Bush Foundation enabled it to launch an outreach effort to introduce local philanthropists who had supported other cultural groups to the world of nonprofit publishing.

The effort was a success, and late last year Graywolf met the $1 million campaign goal for its Advance Fund, with individual donors contributing most of the money. McCrae has used some of the funds to reprint the press's backlist, and sales have increased 18 percent since 2004. The extra cash also has allowed Graywolf to offer authors more competitive contracts, create a new prize for nonfiction, look farther afield for new voices, and open a New York office.

What Graywolf has accomplished by tapping a new pool of donors is both unusual and important said Jeffrey Lependorf, executive director of the New York City-based Council of Literary Magazines and Presses. "It proves that there is real support for literature, for really great writing," Lependorf said. "It also means that readers are learning more and understanding that they need to play an active role in their cultural landscape."

Marianne Combs. "Graywolf Is Turning Readers Into Donors." Minnesota Public Radio 12/29/2006.