stack of papers tied with black ribbon

Competitive Pitching

All aspiring authors know how difficult it is to write a query letter that stands out in a slush pile. You stress and stress over the exact wording, trying to create something that will make agents pick your manuscript out as the next big thing. But sometimes you just need a break from the standard method of pitching your novel. If you’re looking for a fun way to get your manuscript out in the world, check out #PitMad, a Twitter event put on by the organizers of Pitch Wars.
Pitch Wars is a mentorship program that matches a writer with an author, editor, or other industry intern. It’s a chance for writers to work with someone who will read their entire manuscript and give them suggestions. These mentors help their mentees prepare their manuscripts so they’re ready for the agent showcase. There’s a ton of information on the Pitch Wars website, so if you’re an unagented writer––or just want to learn more––check it out! There’s information on both current and past Pitch Wars, #PitMad––which I’ll be going into here––and other resources for writers. It’s a great site to check out if you’re looking for an agent or just want to connect with other writers.
One of my favorite things about Pitch Wars is #PitMad. Although Pitch Wars only takes place once a year, #PitMad happens in March, June, September, and December on Twitter. Each pitch day goes from eight in the morning until eight in the evening. Writers craft a short pitch using the #PitMad hashtag, and on designated days they post on Twitter. As a writer, you can post your own pitch for your manuscript using the 280 characters Twitter allows, or you can support your favorite writer friends’ pitches by retweeting. It’s a great community event which allows you to find new writers and future novels. And if you’re lucky enough, an agent will like your tweet and you’ll be able to submit your manuscript to them.
To start participating, just write up a few tweets that you’ll share throughout the day! It helps to have a few to work with, as you’ll want to tweet periodically over the day for more chances for agents to see your work. You’re allowed to pitch a manuscript a maximum of three times a day, and it’s recommended to pitch once every four hours in order to not crowd the hashtag. More rules are available on the #PitMad section of the Pitch Wars website and will help you navigate the #PitMad days on Twitter.
#PitMad is such a fun way to jump into the exciting world of competitive pitching. It may not always lead to an agent, but it’s a wonderful way to interact with the Twitter writing community, find some aspiring authors to follow, and see what agents are looking for.

A pair of headphones rests on a notebook

How Audiobooks Are Changing the Publishing Industry

It is no secret that our lives are often thrown into a chaos of busy schedules and unknowns. With so much going on in the world, it is a wonder anyone has time to read. Between full-time jobs, working toward degrees, walking our dogs (or cats, or other pets), and trying to fit in a yoga or Orange Theory class, who has time for reading? Many of us who love the dusty-vanilla scent of old books or the chemical scent of the ink on a newly printed book have opted for the audio versions instead. With so many choosing to listen to books instead of reading the physical copies, it is no doubt the publishing industry has needed to change with the evolving demands of technology and fast-paced culture. Much like the debut of ebooks, the prevalence of audiobooks has posed several questions regarding what this will do to the publishing world and books in general.
Books have been around in many different forms for centuries. From mosaic-like cave drawings to scrolls to leather-bound copies to electronic screens and now to audiobooks, they have long been proven as a means of storytelling and sharing information, both for education and entertainment. With that in mind, these concepts are not going anywhere. However, the mediums used to tell these stories and share information will definitely evolve as society evolves. Books, libraries, and publishing companies are still very active in our lives. Books are still being published, and yes, many of those are turned into audiobooks. The best ones are those with a full cast, in my opinion, but I digress. Audiobooks have not made print books obsolete, but rather have opened up the world of books to both busy readers and nonreaders alike.
The initial purpose of audiobooks was to engage nonreaders, but many avid readers have taken to them as well. According to this article from Business World, publishers have reported an increase in sales over the past year alone, with HarperCollins at a 5 percent increase and an elevation of 32.1 percent revenue overall earned by publishers from audiobooks alone. The numbers are only growing. So, the industry is certainly evolving but there is nothing to suggest that books themselves will become obsolete. In fact, many publishers are looking at audiobooks as “trendsetters” in the publishing industry.
One major factor to take into account when considering the value of audiobooks is that they have made books far more accessible to those who have visual disabilities or impairments but still want the enjoyment of reading a book. Accessibility is huge to be able to create a more widespread and diverse audience as well. If you’re like me and do have the choice of how you consume your literature, nothing beats reading a physical book—one where you can imprint those words onto your heart and mind. Still, reading is reading. I know many puritanical elitists who shun audiobooks and claim “listening doesn’t count as reading a book.” Yet, if you are still getting the information and the experience intended from the book’s author, what difference does it make? If audiobooks are making books more accessible for a wider audience, then so be it!

Desk with glasses resting on a laptop with a vase of pink flowers to the side.

How Technology Improves the Publishing Business

Steve Jobs in 1990

There’s something more going on, there’s another side of the coin that we don’t talk about much. We experience it when there’s gaps. When everything’s not ordered and perfect, when there’s kind of a gap you experience this in-rush of something. It’s the same thing that wants people to be poets instead of bankers. I think that same spirit can be put into products.

Hardware to Software to Market Trends

Industries change when technology improves and when gaps are filled. Publishing is no different. From ’80s desktop hardware to the overwhelming number of apps and sites today, innovation isn’t slowing down. To be a successful business, a publisher needs to keep up to date.

Our current audiobook situation is the best example of innovative technology changing the publishing industry. Technology has allowed the average global citizen to carry a library of audiobooks on their phone, and according to Forbes they are the fastest growing sector of the publishing industry: “US publishers reported audiobook sales in 2018 that totaled $940 million.” Hindsight allows publishers to see what’s on the horizon. We can’t be scared of the ones and zeros.

DTP: Hardware that Streamlined Publishing

Desktop publishing, or DTP, reinvented the day-to-day work of a publisher. Before Apple Macintosh (1984), Hewlett-Packard’s LaserJet printer (’84), Adobe’s PostScript (’85), or PageMaker (’85), publishers used typewriters, hired career typesetters, and even managed entire type shops despite their additional overhead. Layout and design on a computer took years off lives. Being able to print galleys at the office saved time and resources. Publishers didn’t cut and tape paper to print images and words on the same page. DTP meant publishers could create a printable document and have ten copies of it in one sitting. That’s something we all have today and it has improved alongside digital communication efficiency.

Task Managers: Software that Improved Publisher’s Communication

Every business is run through the internet by increasingly updated software. Many modern companies rely on the internet to promote their stories, often through apps that manage their tasks and information—task management software. A team proficient in Mailchimp, Trello, Monday.com, Hootsuite, or Slack has a better chance of succeeding.

Today, teams can be spread out in varied time zones and countries. Freelancers are more prevalent with sites like Upwork, Fiverr, and PeoplePerHour. Teams with members spread out across the globe make video chats less practical and miscommunications more costly because they can take hours of emailing and waiting. Hootsuite allows an account holder to schedule social media posts and Trello makes it easier to move projects from team to team. Learning to use these systems can feel like a time suck, but with a dedicated team a press will benefit as much as the first press to take a risk on desktop publishing products.

Where to Look

Hindsight only takes you so far. With AI, changes in metadata management, SEO, personal data mining, ad blockers, and increased voice searching, all potential influences on the industry looking forward can be overwhelming. There are some projects out there worth paying attention to.

Technology for Publishing has a Publishing Innovations newsletter that compiles articles touching on everything listed above. It’s worth checking for news about multimedia conglomerate buys and the Big Five if you don’t already get that from Publishers Weekly and the Bookseller.

In November 2019, a new browser called Brave launched it’s 1.0 stable version. Brave Software was founded in 2015 by Brendan Eich (creator of JavaScript and former CEO of Mozilla FireFox) The browser is working to solve the problem of ad blockers, which are so widely used no business can trust that their ads are being seen. Brave pays users to view ads, incentivising digital publishers, advertisers, and anyone off the street to use the browser. At launch they had eight million monthly active users. A month later they had ten million. Innovations like Brave have the potential to change the way publishers advertise. They are one example of what to keep your eye on as a publisher.

If you want to outsource your digital work, you could reach out to Publishing Technology Partners and search for articles with their names. I’ve found timely articles by all four partners on Publishers Weekly.

Whatever changes, we know from history that technology will play a large part. Spending the time to learn new technology will allow publishers to work smarter, instead of harder.

The Mod of Twitter Fiction

The Twitter novel, falling under a category coined “Twitterature,” is a modern phenomenon in which authors publish their stories in increments of 140 characters at a time to eventually form a full narrative that online viewers can easily access for free right in the palms of their hands. It is important to note that Twitterature as a whole does not limit itself to novels, but to all kinds of writing including poetry and aphorisms. Some writers choose to work collaboratively while others release their work on an individual basis.

Twitterature takes an innovative stance on both the publishing world and the digital community, with writers releasing original content on a platform that is accessible to all. Twitter fiction has become especially prominent, with award-winning authors—including Pulitzer Prize winners—taking part in this inventive and groundbreaking format. Founded in 2009, the Twitter Fiction Festival promotes Twitter fiction from a multitude of established authors every year. There are several magazines devoted to Twitter fiction, such as Outshine and Nanoism, which give authors even more exposure and readers an opportunity to compartmentalize their content.

Twitter novels can be published over the course of months with one or two tweets a day being released from the author. This allows for the literary technique of using a cliffhanger to precede the text being released. The concept of releasing stories in increments is not new; serialization of literature began as early as the seventeenth century due to the prominence of moveable type. Books were a great expense to produce during this period, so to reduce costs and expand readership, publishers produced larger works in small installments called fascicles—considerably the formative version of the Twitter novel. Charles Dickens is a prominent author who wrote serialized fiction such as his renowned and infamous novel Great Expectations, which was released in parts in the literary magazine All the Year Round from December 1860 to August 1861. Great Expectations remains a vital literary classic to this day despite its initial periodic publishing format.

Examples of Twitter fiction span far and wide. Released by Sceptre Books, an acclaimed work of fiction entitled The Right Sort was released by author David Mitchell in 2014. The story combines compelling elements of psychologically thrilling content with magical realism. Jennifer Egan’s Black Box was released on the New Yorker‘s Twitter feed in 2012 as a work of science fiction which rose to high critical acclaim.

Titles such as these prove that literature is boundless in its reach. Twitter fiction has brought on a new way for the public to connect with literature on their own terms, at their own pace, and by their own means of discovery.

The LAUREL EVERYWHERE Virtual Launch Party

There was a time back in March of 2020 when we imagined an in-person book launch for Laurel Everywhere. Unfortunately, COVID-19 had other plans, and we pivoted to a virtual event and a virtual reading tour. Though in-person book events have a magical quality to them, my team and I worked extremely hard to bring that magic online.

On Tuesday, November 10, at 6:30 p.m. PST, Ooligan Press hosted Erin Moynihan, author of Laurel Everywhere, on Zoom for the virtual launch of her book. We invited editors and designers from the press to join Moynihan in conversation about the publishing process, and we dove into topics like developmental editing and cover design.

Moynihan also took over the Ooligan Instagram on Friday, November 6, to introduce her book and offer a space for anyone to ask questions about her writing process, character development, and what she’s currently working on. She also answered some of these questions during the Zoom launch party.

One of the highlights of the event was the launch party book giveaway. We hosted the giveaway on our Instagram page, and anyone could enter by liking the informational post and tagging two friends. The winner had to attend the book launch, and received a signed copy of Laurel Everywhere for free! In addition to the giveaway, anyone who preordered the book up to a week after the launch received a signed bookplate to go along with their copy of the book.

While my team and I were brainstorming ways to bring joy and excitement to this virtual event, we came up with a couple of great ideas that I hope captured the attention of our wonderful audience. We researched different mock-tail and tea recipes that correlated with the personality and description of each sibling in the Summers family. We curated a playlist on Spotify and YouTube to help readers empathize with Laurel, and it’s mostly made up of cathartic songs that you can listen to for a good cry when you need it. We sent out a virtual care package to attendees with links to the playlist, drink recipes, even a couple paint-by-number pages so that they can participate in a self-care routine as they read Laurel Everywhere.

We promoted the event through our social media and we also reached out to others in the literary community to boost the event on their own social media pages. We reached out to the booksellers in our community as well as reviewers and other Portland authors to spread the word about the event. We also reached out to these community members to plan our virtual reading tour, and all the events of the launch party were hugely successful.

We had an incredible turnout for this event, and attendees thoroughly enjoyed listening to Erin talk about her writing process for the book. It was also wonderful to listen to her talk with Ooligan editors and designers about how the book came together, and it gave the audience a look into what it’s really like to publish a book. All in all, the publication of Laurel Everywhere was a joyful and memorable experience, even though it was all done remotely. It’s not impossible to recreate some of that in-person book launch magic, but it does take a little more work.

Books from Media: Published in the Real World

If you are a fan of the shows Parks and Rec, Jane the Virgin, or Younger, then you’ve probably heard of the books that were published by characters in those shows. But are you aware that those books have been brought into the real world?

These television shows have each produced fictional works based in the unique world of each show and written by the shows’ characters. These works are often created by ghostwriters, or with contributions from the shows’ creators, producers, and directors.

The facade is taken quite seriously. If you venture to the publishers’ websites, the authors and their bios are all consistent with the shows’ characters. Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America from the show Parks and Rec, published by BBC Books (an imprint of Penguin Random House), has even included “reviews” from the fictional characters of the show, including Andy Dwyer, Chris Traeger, and Tom Haverford.

Snow Falling, the novel by Jane Gloriana Villanueva, the main character from Jane the Virgin, was published by Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. The second TV-to-book adaption for the publisher was Marriage Vacation, a novel written by Pauline Brooks, a character from the show Younger which follows the New York publishing scene.

One of the most successful TV-to-book series is from the show Castle. It follows a crime writer, Richard Castle, who shadows a detective in New York and writes books based on their experiences. Seven of the novels from the show produced by The Hachette Group have made the New York Times Best Seller List and have a huge following.

These aren’t the only examples by a long shot. For instance, cookbooks based on television and movie series have recently grown in popularity, including Insight Editions’s Supernatural: The Official Cookbook and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: The Official Black Spire Outpost Cookbook, as well as Titan’s, Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook.

With so many forms of media competing for the public’s attention, it seems publishers have hopped on the trend of accompanying popular digital productions. Editor of Marriage Vacation, Christine Pride, describes the relationship as one of gaining readers who may not read otherwise and come to these books via their televisions. She states, “In this competitive media landscape, those are the kind of edges that we’re trying to leverage.” Ghostwriter of Marriage Vacation, Jo Piazza, explains that these kinds of tie-ins are very important to the book industry. Sarah Berger, contributor to CNBC, concludes that this phenomena “is a case of life imitating art, and this type of immersive experience could soon be the new norm.”

The success and popularity of this concept have proven it to be a way to reach a new audience, or rather a pre-established one, and it is working. Sales of published works based on or taken directly from shows and movies have been extremely high, and while the publishing industry struggles with predicting book sales, producing books this way can be a safer bet.

Escape with Audiobooks

It goes without saying that self-isolation has been hard on all of us, especially if you had plans to travel somewhere this year. There’s nothing that can truly replace travel experiences, but I’ve been looking for ways to fill the void of that loss. I’ve found myself gravitating toward audiobooks in order to escape. It’s definitely not the same––there’s nothing like the excitement of traveling to a new place and smelling the differences in the air for the first time, or that little thrill you experience when you first step into the sun of a new country––but with audiobooks, I’ve managed to forget for a while that I’m sitting on my couch.

Before self-isolation, I only really listened to audiobooks in the car, but now I find myself listening when cleaning or taking a walk. When I find myself unable to focus on a book, audiobooks allow me to read while I keep my hands busy or just zone out. Sometimes all I need is to have someone else read to me, the words of the story taking on a life of their own with their narration, in order to get out of my slump. So if you’re like me and miss traveling––or merely need to escape your current couch situation––these are some audiobooks to help you escape to a different place.

Explore the Stars with Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Though the characters remain on Earth, there’s nothing mundane about this full cast audiobook. Sleeping Giants explores what it means to be human when a discovery shows that we’re not as alone as we thought.

Discover Family with Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Two girls with no idea the other existed soon find themselves thrown together in shared loss. Suddenly sisters, this novel-in-verse explores what it means to be family. As a bonus, this audiobook is read by the author!

Expand Your Knowledge with Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

After a worldwide apocalyptic flood, Dinétah was reborn in a world where monsters and gods are now real. This urban fantasy explores what it means to confront your past and starts right in the action, so it’s a good one to jump into and you’ll learn more about Dinétah while reading.

Run the Iditarod with Iditarod Nights by Cindy Hiday

Iditarod Nights is an Ooligan title with a little bit of romance and a lot of adventure! If you’re interested in dog sledding and the world of the Iditarod, or if you just want to imagine you’re in a cooler place for a while, Iditarod Nights will let you escape to the cold wilderness of Alaska.

Explore History with Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

This historical fiction novel explores friendship and what people do to survive. It’s set during the Second World War and is a harrowing audiobook of two friends who will do anything to save the other. I recommend it if you enjoy historical fiction.

There are far more audiobooks to explore than the five mentioned here and I urge you to explore your favorite genres. I love finding audiobooks with full casts as they really allow you to truly experience the book. Happy reading!

How Goodreads Helped Me Find My Memories

An unsettling thing happened when I went home to Colorado for the holidays last year. While my family sat around a fire in Summit County, trading stories and recent news, my sister asked me about a time she and I had shared that she remembered vividly.

“You don’t remember that?” She stared at me emphatically, as if asking the question would light the match to the memory that had clearly grown cold and damp in my mind. No such luck. In fact, I couldn’t recall even a portion of the memory she described to me—a memory that wasn’t from too long ago, but distant enough that it’s not tangible anymore, something vaguely familiar.

I don’t know when I started noticing gaps in my memories of things, but it became more pervasive and embarrassing in my early 20s. Large swaths of time suddenly go dark, dissolve from within me. It starts small, with a drive home from a late shift that I couldn’t really describe, to a song that sounded like something I knew but couldn’t pinpoint who it was. People waving and saying, “How are you?” who I didn’t recognize or couldn’t name. Then more of those questions:

“Remember that time?” “What year was that?” “When did you get that tattoo?” Significant portions of my own timeline were missing. I became skilled in leading conversations away from my frustration and increasing anxiety over these lost portions of time. I started leaving myself notes around the apartment.

“Don’t dry the tan, wool shirt!” “Remember your sister’s birthday is on the 13th, CALL HER.” “There is spinach in the fridge, if you don’t eat it, it will go bad and you will feel like a failure again.” While some of these were reminders about small tasks, I started to wonder if this was how my life was just going to be now. The problem for me wasn’t just why I couldn’t remember, but how I could get these memories back.

My partner and I were talking about books we had read in 2019; books that blew us away and books that we wished we had put down sooner. I knew I had read stellar books last year, but I couldn’t pinpoint those titles. I reached for my phone, as many of us who need to remember something right away do, and opened my Goodreads app. My “2019” shelf sat, neatly and chronologically ordered for me to peruse. Month by month, the books I had slogged through and the books that shone brilliantly awakened in my memory, but something else happened too. I began to remember other parts of my life in those months, what I was doing while reading The Song of Achilles, or where I had been sipping a particularly delicious sticky rice tea in Sellwood while devouring La Fronterra in June. One by one, my memories filtered back in, and as I looked further and further through my Goodreads archive, pieces of 2017 and 2016 came together before me.

It turns out, it’s not just me; our memories are getting worse and that’s largely due to the
Google effect, in which the ability to look up or search is so readily available to us that our minds have “decreased dependency on internal memory storage.” I can’t recall the amount of times I’ve been thinking of a word for something or a fact about so-and-so and just Googled it. While I was briefly euphoric at the discovery that Goodreads had carefully catalogued the past three years of my life for me with dates and metadata to support the timeline, I wonder about the accuracy of archival memory. It’s unsettling to consider that memory may become something that lives on a server farm somewhere, susceptible to be infiltrated, altered, or vanished. But there is a rather simple solution: write more. Research has shown that writing things down is essential to memory retention. Perhaps the digital cataloguing of the books I’ve read in some way has captured those memories within the pages of those books. In rereading the titles, I am able to relive those parts of my life with more clarity, and to engage again with my life through the “written” lists of how my past was spent.

When We Dream About the Future: Digital Ambiguity in 2020

Greetings from the Digital Department here at Ooligan Press. First, a quick query for our more CMOS-centric students and readers. Even before I was given the role of Digital Assistant last winter term, I pondered the correct verbiage for our department. I’ve overheard others call it the Digital “Asset” or “Content” department and feel I must clear things up. “Content,” as a (contemporary) cultural touchstone has become almost ubiquitous within our digital lives: we consume content constantly, daily, minute by minute. The term has even entered popular slang with creatives and business professionals alike in an abbreviated form with “slingin’ ‘tent” popularized by writer and producer Scott Aukerman. Both asset and content connote the objects we are making at the press, yet both fall short of describing the breadth of bringing these works into the world. We don’t often get comments, but if you’ve got an opinion on our official title, we’d love to hear it!

According to Publisher’s Weekly, companies like the juggernaut Penguin Random House “…are producing bespoke events and experiences around their content, and I think we should all be doing that…This has given us all an opportunity to go a little bit beyond that, but also to produce content that feels really authentic to certain groups of people who are hungry for it.”

Along with traditional book objects and newer media like audiobooks, ebooks, and interactive storytelling, publishers are also reinventing the convention space (more often these spaces are virtual). Rethinking our concepts of what is digital, what is physical, and what the grayness in between looks like is the bigger idea that I’d like to cull out of this modest blog post. Inspired by our brilliant professor Dr. Kathi Inman Berens’s Digital Skills course, I’ve set a long-term goal to focus our department’s resources on our stewardship. We are only here for a short time and part of our work is to always improve, innovate, and embrace ambiguity; to work through it. Certainly, this pandemic has highlighted the ways in which our lives have been shaped by our digital landscape and simultaneously prepared us for remote learning, remote working, and for change.

This shift can also be seen in the ever-present space of the library: a wellspring of digital content and a champion for the ebook (a technology that mirrors The Little Engine That Could). “In my opinion, one of the issues libraries face in the digital realm is that the publishers are so deeply invested in twentieth century models. I am hoping this helps shake them out of that,” [Carmi] Parker said. “This opportunity to experiment with different models means that when we start talking again with publishers about how e-lending can work best for all of us, we will have some real data to go on.” The pandemic has in fact amplified a progression of ebook popularity and has lent to a “Watershed Moment for Library Ebooks” according to Andrew Albanese in his article for Publisher’s Weekly. I feel privileged and grateful to be part of such an exciting field laden with meaningful opportunities for cultural transformation.