My Visit to CLMP by Patricia Riordan
The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses offers resources to smaller presses and literary magazines. CLMP was founded in 1967 by George Plimpton (founder of The Paris Review), Russell Banks (novelist and founder of Lillabulero), and many others. They now have over 500 small presses, literary magazines and electronic publishers. Their mission is to serve literary presses and magazines through shared knowledge and organizational tools. Presses and magazines have the opportunity to expand and diversify their audience by using the tools CLMP has to offer. Tribes has been a member of the Council since its inception in the fall of 1991.
“[The] community as a group is committed to give a voice to those who have been neglected by mainstream publishing,” says Jeffery Lependorf. He’s the executive director of CLMP and has over twenty years of experience in corporate sponsorship and strategic planning. Under Jeff, the Council has become a hub of knowledge. They link literary magazines together so they have an opportunity to benefit each other by sharing their skills and sources of membership. All of this is in an effort to create a community of mutual support.
Small presses and literary magazines work to identify and reach out to readers. The Council helps magazines develop a focused sensibility and a focused audience. “That’s a virtue,” Jeff emphasizes, “not a deficiency.” He makes it a point that a focused audience doesn’t mean a small audience, but instead means an exclusive audience. The goal is to figure out the unique profile of the potential reader and then reach out to that reader.
Once the target reader is established, the Council offers a variety of programs to help magazines reach out to the reader. They organize public programs, one-on-one meetings, workshops, conferences, and online discussions. The purpose of this is to introduce authors, publishers, and readers to one another so they can exchange information. The programs and the conferences also serve as a way for magazines to collaborate with newspapers and librarians for exposure.
CLMP develops programs that adapt to the needs of each individual magazine. There are some general programs that the Council offers that have made great improvements for its members. The Professional Development Consulting Program grants professional consultants to magazines. This has helped improve circulation and fundraising for many magazines. Other magazine find the Lit Mag Adoption Program to be incredibly helpful. This program gives desk copy subscriptions to Professors and discounted subscriptions to students in order to encourage Professors to include the magazine in their curriculum.
Not all programs have been a success and the Council knows that those programs need to be revised or cut. An example of a less effective program would be the Ad Exchange Program. This program helped magazines by notifying them of opportunities for print ads. With the rise of technology, CLMP has now refocused that program’s efforts on teaching magazines how to use social media in marketing efforts.
Jeff believes however that the Council's best program isn’t a program at all. Instead it is the day to day communication and resources that CLMP offers to magazines. The Council believes in a facilitative approach when assisting presses and magazines. They teach them how to solve conflicts with authors through strategies they can use again in future conflicts. They also teach magazines how to develop successful marketing and fundraising campaigns. The purpose of this is to develop the business aspect of the organization.
Tribes is a member of the Council by fulfilling three main requirements. A CLMP member must be a publishing source that is mission driven with literary and cultural merits. Fifty percent of what is published must be easily identified as literature. Second, the member must be defined by ethical practices. And lastly, the Council will only take on the members they believe they can truly help. Membership dues are on a sliding scale from $45 to $600 depending on the member’s yearly budget.
In my visit to CLMP’s New York office, I recognized the Council’s mission: to promote literature with cultural merits through shared knowledge within the community. I believe that the Council opens the door to developing a magazine as a culturally driven business. It is the responsibility of the magazine, however, to utilize CLMP. A magazine will only benefit from its membership if they take advantage of the opportunities the Council has to offer.