The Los Angeles Review of Books, which was originally scheduled to launch last October, will now make its debut this April after overcoming budget cuts and staff layoffs at the University of California at Riverside, the online periodical's primary sponsor.
At the helm of LAROB is Tom Lutz, professor and chair of the creative writing department at UCR and the author of the cultural histories Crying and Doing Nothing. "Things went a little slower than we expected last year because of the drastic changes in the economy," Lutz explained. "Also, I'm an academic, not a businessman. Creating the book review was much more challenging than I'd anticipated." The project was given a push forward when Taj Tedrow, creative director at Ted Perez Associates, agreed to create LAROB's Web site pro bono. "Taj is a serious literary supporter," Lutz noted. The splash page went live last week at www.lareviewofbooks.org/, and gives an indication of the level of commitment by authors, critics, and essayists toward LAROB.
Despite last year's economic stumbling blocks, Lutz said that the original estimate for LAROB's operating budget has tripled, from $500,000 to $1.5 million. "This is based on the level of interest we've generated from supporters, and what the paid staff will require," Lutz said, claiming that the six-month launch delay worked in the review's favor. "Enough pieces of the puzzle have had time to fall into place for us now." There is currently a staff of nine part-timers plus Lutz. Efforts to generate revenue through paid advertising on the site are underway, a task that "everyone" on LAROB's staff is participating in. Lutz said that the review is close to signing contracts with a number of advertisers, and that he still intends to utilize IndieBound bookseller members for click-through sales on the Web site.
The formation of LAROB's board of directors is another step forward that ensures an April launch, "barring any unforeseen issues with Web functionality," according to Lutz. Albert Litewka, former president of Macmillan and one of LAROB's new sponsors, will serve as chairman, and Jamie Wolf of the Rosenthal Family Foundation is confirmed as a board member. Lutz will announce the others in the coming weeks. In addition, he is in discussions with a large university press that he hopes will not only advertise but also function as a kind of publishing partner for possible future print editions of LAROB.
Lutz has an abundance of literary contributors from which to choose as he plans LAROB's soft launch, which will feature two or three articles; more will be added on a daily basis following the April debut. Writers including Jane Smiley, Christopher Rice, Barbara Ehrenreich, Mike Davis, Rob Latham, Janet Fitch, Glen David Gold, Annie Proulx, and Susan Straight have submitted book reviews, essays, and literary profiles; several dozen more are ready and in the lineup to be posted daily on LAROB this spring. "The updates will be staggered, so there will be a constant flow of news and original essays," Lutz said, adding that a dozen video interviews with writers have been taped that will add to the multimedia element of the site.
The launch will be announced through social media sites, e-mail, and traditional news outlets. "I'm very excited," Lutz said. Although LAROB plans to pay for submissions in the future, currently its budget doesn't allow for compensation. "People are really stepping up for us, and clearly this is a labor of love," he said.