The State of the Site: Year One

It’s been one year today since Paul and I launched the Seattle Review of Books, and it is my solemn duty to report to you that the state of the site could not be stronger.

In this past year, we’ve run 120 book reviews, about 2.25 per week on average. We have paid 85 writers, journalists, and poets to bring insightful critique, remarkable poetry, reports from corners of the book world, and the occasional tough look at local issues.

We are lucky that many of those writers have come back to write for us again, and we owe special thanks to our weekly columnists: advice (and spider) wrangler Cienna Madrid, and portrait painter, the goddess of the gouache, Christine Marie Larsen. Special thanks also to our first intern, the driven and talented Rebecca Garcia Moreno.

We are grateful to our sponsors, who keep the pixels lit by offering up their books and work for your consideration. Our sponsorship program started as an experiment, and continues as a roaring success, with only three of our first fifty-two weeks going unsold. This is notable and promising for such a new advertising model, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. As always, our motto has been: better for the reader, better for the advertiser.

Diversity is an important issue to us, and we have focused on giving platforms to women, people of color, and voices from across the diverse spectrum of the LGBT community. How did we do? Our Public Diversity Editor has been tasked tasked with letting us know — we are the first publication in history to ask for our feet to be held to the fire in this regard — and as soon as her first report is ready, you will find it here, on the site.

The Seattle Review of Books started on a lark — Paul had just left his job of seven years, and after his announcement of such on social media, I tweeted a joke at him, kidding on the square.

We went to Le Pichet one night soon after to catch up, and the joke tweet came up. I did a search, there at the slate-topped table, and we were both flabbergasted to learn that the domain name had never been claimed. Could it be that with my knowledge of design and building websites, and his stellar writing and editorial know-how, that we could put something together?

Laughing, we agreed to buy it. Paul gave me a $10 bill and we made a handshake agreement: whatever we did, we’d do it as partners.

A few months later we were gathered in the basement at Elliott Bay Book Company with a small group of friends from the book world. It’s to Paul’s credit that he could gather a room of people on a Monday night with the promise only of an mysterious announcement.

We had snacks, and socialized a bit, and then, talking about the hole in Seattle media focusing on the local lit scene, we announced this site, to a very pleasing round of applause.

The in-between — deciding what form the company should take, figuring out our tech, putting the thing together — that stuff is boring. It’s worth noting only to mention that whenever one of us took a step forward, the other was in almost total agreement. It was the easiest concept-to-release I’ve ever been involved in.

We have plans for the future. Were we to have a full editorial staff, and the time to dedicate to them, you may see a richer site, with broader coverage and deeper looks at issues we don’t currently have the bandwidth to cover.

But there is something to be said about keep our expectations at a certain level: our audience is you. We don’t want to scale to millions of viewers. We don’t want to add in advertising scams meant to milk every penny out of your generous attention. We want you to find things you love to read here. We are writing for those of you who look at us every day over lunch, or at the end of the day on the bus or light rail, or who binge-read at the end of the week. We’re writing this for you who follow us on Twitter or Facebook and click through when we publish something new.

What we want is to deliver, every day, is a site full of words you want to read so badly you can hardly wait to refresh and see if we've updated. Words to engage and disagree with, to feel passionately about. We want to offer you our world on your screen, and in doing so, create a bridge to your world, and in between we forge community.

Friends, the future of the Seattle Review of Books is bright. Stay tuned for new things, and expect more of the same we’ve been delivering every day for the past year. You've only just read the first chapter of a very long novel. We’ve only just begun to get to know each other.