Guest post by Kevin Simpson from The Colorado Sun
Disruption in the media industry has claimed many casualties, including thousands of jobs nationally and hundreds in Colorado. Avid readers of literature probably have noticed something else in short supply: coverage of books and their authors.
A little more than a year ago, when 10 journalists at The Denver Post decided we had seen enough of the staffing cuts and decided to chart our own digital course as The Colorado Sun, we had many discussions about how we wanted to serve the state. Among our priorities was nurturing a literary element, something that would help bind us together as a community through the stories told by the state’s many talented authors.
And so, as we launched our site — www.coloradosun.com — with the kind of thoughtful, important journalism we’d pursued throughout our careers, we also embarked on a parallel course with a feature that we call SunLit. By offering our readers weekly excerpts from acclaimed Colorado-connected authors, accompanied by interviews that fleshed out the writers’ experience, we felt we could reinforce the fabric of our collective identity with stories from both the fiction and nonfiction realms, with a dash of poetry.
For the past year, we have each week offered a virtual literary smorgasbord — free of charge, as our site has no annoying paywall — in which readers could sample works from several genres. To ensure quality, we partnered with Colorado Humanities and Center for the Book, which oversees the prestigious Colorado Book Awards.
We draw our excerpts from the works nominated for the annual awards. The authors themselves choose the excerpt they’d like to feature, and then answer a series of questions about their background and the process of producing their work. Then we archive them all so that, at any time, readers can peruse the collection, read any they think might appeal to them, and — by linking directly to a purchase page on the BookBar web site — find an easy means of purchasing anything that strikes a chord. As our growth permits, we plan to expand SunLit and offer an even wider variety of literary offerings.
In fact, starting later this month, readers can participate in the Colorado Sun Book Club (although Sun members will get extra perks), which each month will feature a volume by one of the award-winning authors and a discussion about the book — led by that author. We kick it off at 7 p.m. on Oct. 28 at BookBar with “Mister Tender’s Girl,” the thriller by Carter Wilson. Please RSVP for the book club meeting at: coloradosun.com/bookclub
Our hope, of course, is that even if you come to our site for the literature, you’ll stay for our coverage of people, places and issues that define our wide-ranging state. Our staff includes some of the best writers in the region, including a former Colorado Book Award winner and multiple Pulitzer Prize winners. Like authors on a stepped-up deadline, we aim to put the news into broader perspective with reliability and style.
We charge nothing for this — not because we have an economic death wish, but because our business model relies, much like public radio or TV, on avid readers who value what The Colorado Sun offers and contribute toward our work, starting with as little as $5 a month. But whether you help us toward sustainability or not, the words and pictures — and snippets of remarkable literature — are there for you to enjoy.
As with any startup publication, visibility is crucial. The Colorado Sun continues to push toward our goal of gaining the attention and earning the respect of our readers, ultimately achieving economic sustainability. Even though we’ve been publishing for barely a year, we’re tantalizingly close to that goal — and hope you might help get us over the finish line.
Fans of literature are, by definition, the kind of discerning and committed eyes that we seek. If you’re not already familiar with The Colorado Sun, please check us out. You can find our SunLit feature under the “Culture” drop-down menu at the top of the page. Browse a few excerpts. Check out the author interviews. We’ve also got a year-in-review piece that helpfully summarizes all our offerings from 2018, plus a fascinating summer reading list in which we enlisted authors to offer their recommendations.
If you’re a member of a book club, maybe this range of samples will inspire your group to pick a Colorado author for your next selection. Not yet in a book club but would like to share literature with a thoughtful group at a welcoming venue like BookBar? Join The Colorado Sun Book Club that meets there each month.
Each month, we’ll discuss one of the top-notch books that we’ve excerpted in our SunLit feature. Better yet, we’ll have the author on hand to participate in the discussion, answer questions and sign copies of their book. While it’s obviously a great idea to read the book ahead of time, it’s not a requirement and there will be no pop quiz. Here’s our lineup for the rest of the calendar year so you show up prepared at BookBar:
At the very least, SunLit will make you aware of the wide world of options awaiting you at your local independent bookstore. And while you’re at it, check out our journalism. It’s some of the finest you’ll find in Colorado.
Maybe you’ll want to become a member and join the thousands of others who support strong local journalism. (It’s easy at www.coloradosun.com/join.) But even if you don’t, or you just want to kick the tires a little more to see if it’s worth your investment, please feel free to sign up for our free newsletter, The Sunriser, which delivers links to the most compelling writing in Colorado — including the weekly offering of our featured author — three times a week to your email inbox. Just go to www.coloradosun.com/newsletters. Did we mention it’s free?
We hope you’ll consider joining our community as we work to bring important journalism, and top-flight literature, to Colorado.
Kevin Simpson is a writer and founder at The Colorado Sun.