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McSweeney’s will become a nonprofit

McSweeney's founder Dave Eggers, right, at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in 2011.
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

McSweeney’s is going to become a nonprofit, the independent publisher announced on its website Thursday.

This is good news and bad news. The good news is that if you wanted to support McSweeney’s by making a donation, starting today it can be tax deductible (at least in part).

The bad news is that if McSweeney’s can’t make a go of it, what hope is there for other independent presses? McSweeney’s, which has been publishing for more than a decade, has a great reputation, a unique aesthetic and a high-profile founder -- bestselling, prizewinning author Dave Eggers.

"[E]very year it gets just a little harder to be an independent publisher,” Eggers told the San Francisco Chronicle. “An independent literary title that might have sold 10,000 copies 10 years ago might sell 6,000 now, for example.”

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That’s bad news for anyone in publishing, corporate or independent, for-profit or not-for-profit.

McSweeney’s publishes novels, children’s books, poetry, works of criticism, a quarterly literary journal and the Believer magazine. It sometimes pushes form experimentally -- one issue of the Quarterly Concern was published as a newspaper; another was a crate stocked with eight separate booklets.

"[I]ncreasingly so many of the things that we wanted to do were nonprofit projects and were not really things that you could reasonably expect to break even on,” Eggers told the Chronicle.

There’s nothing wrong with being a nonprofit publisher. There are several successful ones: Red Hen Press in Los Angeles, Beacon Press in Boston and Graywolf Press, based in Minneapolis. Graywolf, for example, published two of the five finalists for the 2014 National Book Award in poetry.

In its announcement, McSweeney’s explains, “We believe that becoming a nonprofit will allow McSweeney’s to sustain itself for many years to come. ... We want to continue to pursue a wide range of ambitious projects— projects that take risks, that support ideas beyond the mainstream marketplace, and that nurture emerging work.”

The publisher also suggests doing your holiday shopping early: Today and tomorrow, all the books in its online store are on sale.

Book news and more; I’m @paperhaus on Twitter


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