Iditarod Nights by Cindy Hiday has been released, and that means a new Library Writers Project title will be coming your way in Spring 2021. Ooligan Press is excited to announce our next title in our partnership with Multnomah County Library: Finding the Vein by Jennifer Hanlon Wilde! This is the third title to be published through the partnership with Multnomah County Library and Ooligan Press, and we are thrilled to be working on this amazing story.

Since 2015, Multnomah County Library has called for submissions every fall through the Library Writers Project. The Library Writers Project gives local authors the opportunity to see their manuscripts published as ebooks through the library. This means that members of Multnomah County Library can check out the submissions via wonderful services like Libby or OverDrive. Ooligan Press and Multnomah County Library became partners in 2018 to feature local Portland authors and to bring ebook-only works into print as a part of the annual collection.

The collection’s newest title, Finding the Vein, is a murder mystery that takes place at Heritage Camp, a summer camp for internationally adopted children in Oregon. It follows the story of teenage camper Isaac and Detective Mikie O’Malley as they try to solve the case of a murdered camp counselor. Isaac and Mikie, the two narrators, show us two very different ways to solve a case—there’s the official way, the way of a detective, and then there’s the not-so-official way, in which Isaac’s supersmart camp friend Hal hacks into a few databases. As Isaac and Mikie start to get answers, more questions are unearthed, and they begin to realize that at Heritage Camp, murder is just the tip of the iceberg.

Get to know the author, Jennifer Hanlon Wilde:

Jennifer Hanlon Wilde lives and writes in Oregon. She is a nurse practitioner and teacher who thinks of her work as opening a kind of map to study the well-worn places where storytelling intersects with health. She also enjoys real maps, traveling the world with her family, and, as a doctoral student at Washington State University, nerding out over global health data. A robust community theater and music scene, acres of orchards, and unparalleled local cider and beer have made it a joy to put roots down in the Columbia River Gorge, but being a Red Sox fan is in her DNA. Finding the Vein is her first novel.

Finding the Vein will be available in print and ebook formats in Spring 2021, and we can’t wait for you to solve the case with Isaac and Mikie. Follow Ooligan’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for updates!

For more information about Iditarod Nights by Cindy Hiday, visit our book page. Check out the Multnomah County Library site to learn more about the Multnomah County Library Writers Project.

Designing Romance Covers: What Works?

What’s the best way to design a book cover for a genre you aren’t familiar with? What if it goes wrong, despite your best efforts? Iditarod Nights, Cindy Hiday’s adventurous romance set in Alaska, is the first romance that Ooligan Press has published. Because of this, we did a lot of market research so we could market the book in the best way possible. However, this research didn’t extend to cover design as much as it should have.

Every book that Ooligan publishes gets pitched to our distributor, Ingram, approximately six months before the launch date. The project manager speaks with a handful of sales representatives from Ingram and reviews the key selling points, the marketing and publicity highlights, and any other unique ways we plan on marketing the book and getting it in front of readers. When I spoke with Ingram last fall, I was a bit surprised to hear that our original cover design was not quite romance-y enough. But they were absolutely right—our previous cover design didn’t show readers enough about the budding romance between Claire and Dillon, nor was it as eye-catching as it could have been.

With that in mind, we (that is, Denise Morales Soto—our design lead—and Des Hewson, another Oolie who graciously volunteered their time to design a new cover) scrambled a bit to develop a new cover-design plan and put that plan into practice. We knew we didn’t want a bodice-ripper, too much focus on the couple themselves, any half-naked bodies, or anything that was mainly focused on typography. We wanted to create an effective romance cover without compromising the Ooligan style, but the pressure was on to stay on schedule.

When I asked Denise what she thought about the whole experience, this is what she said: “We had less than two weeks to reimagine a cover, do market research, lay out some mock-ups, and finalize a cover—that’s a lot of work with not a lot of time! It’s not easy to hear that you need to scrap a project and start over, especially when it’s one that you’ve already put so much time and work into. But it’s important to adapt and listen when people are telling you that something isn’t working, especially when it’s coming from the people that are trying to sell your book. We believe in all the books that we acquire at Ooligan, and we want to give them all a fighting chance in the market.”

Wise words from our design lead. After the rush to get the new cover designed and tweaked as needed, we ended up with an absolutely gorgeous, eye-catching cover. It featured a strong romance element while keeping the snow and the aurora borealis from our previous design. We moved forward with the confidence that we would attract the readers we wanted.

So, when it comes to designing romance book covers, what works? It depends on your press, the content of the book, and the readers you want to target. Iditarod Nights is not an erotic romance novel or a bodice-ripper, so we didn’t have any close-up shots of half-naked individuals. Many recent romance covers focus on typography, but we wanted to keep the elements of the aurora borealis and the snow-flecked trees. Additionally, Iditarod Nights is a relatively light romance, so it made sense for us to split the focus between the setting (the snowy trees, the aurora borealis, and the starry Alaskan sky) and the couple. The design of our new cover made the most sense for our book.

When you’re designing your romance cover, think about what your readers want to see and what will catch their eye; think about what design will best serve the content of your book. And if something goes wrong, sometimes the best thing for everyone is to go back to the drawing board and create something great.

Marketing Ooligan’s First Romance Title

Iditarod Nights by Cindy Hiday, a romance and action-adventure novel set in Alaska, launches April 14, 2020. This novel is the second title in Ooligan’s Library Writers Project collection, which is published through a partnership with Multnomah County Library, and it will be the first romance published by Ooligan. It’s wonderful to blaze a trail, but what does this mean in practice? How can you market a book with no prior contacts and little experience in the genre?

  1. Research. Find out what’s happening in the market of your genre. What’s popular right now? What are reviewers saying about best sellers and your comp titles? Who are the reviewers? The Iditarod Nights team did two separate research projects: one on best sellers within the genre and one on our comp titles. Both of these projects helped us learn a bit more about the genre, what reviewers typically say, and who is doing the reviewing. This information helped us add to our contact list and gave us more options for potential blurbers and reviewers.

  2. Think outside the box. Sometimes the best contacts aren’t within the same genre—or even the book industry. For Iditarod Nights, we spent time researching contacts in Alaska, in the travel industry, and in the mushing industry, in addition to romance bloggers and local Pacific Northwest outlets. Who would have known that there was an NPR podcast about the Iditarod Race called the Iditapod? Digging in unusual places can lead you to great resources. Think about what makes your title unique. What other categories and industries can you reach out to? You might be surprised by who could be interested in promoting or selling your title.

  3. Keep chipping away at it. Something I learned during the marketing process is that it is a process. Some items, like your contact list, might never feel finished, and that’s okay. Your ideas and moments of inspiration for your title will fluctuate. Perhaps taking a break from marketing efforts and focusing on another aspect of the publishing process will bring a surge of new ideas. Maybe a new member of your team will have a brilliant idea that didn’t occur to you. The possibilities are limitless, and your amazing marketing ideas should feel that way as well.

  4. Ask a colleague. You never know what a fresh set of eyes will accomplish. I’ve been so buried in a project that I could only see the next task right in front of me, and it seemed like I had no energy to even begin thinking outside the box. I felt like I needed to focus on each task and move on to the next. Sometimes the blinders are too strong. Sound familiar? A peer within the field might be able to see a blind spot in your list, provide some expertise in the genre, or even give you a valuable contact. Maybe your coworker down the hall is a huge romance fan or has a friend who’s an up-and-coming writer in the genre. A few of my colleagues at Ooligan had multiple suggestions for how I could reinvigorate my marketing efforts; I just had to ask for their help. You never know what connections you’ll find.

I’m learning more and more about marketing a romance title every day, but these tiny lessons have helped me the most so far. Best of luck on your marketing efforts, and keep an eye out for Iditarod Nights next month!

Start to Finish: Iditarod Nights

The process of publishing Ooligan’s second title from the Multnomah County Library Writers Project continues! Iditarod Nights by Cindy Hiday will launch in April 2020, and we can’t wait for you to read it. This action-packed romance takes place in Alaska and follows a budding relationship between Claire Stanfield and Dillon Cord, two mushers racing on the Iditarod Trail. Claire (a defense attorney from Portland) and Dillon (a former Portland police officer turned bar-and-grill owner) both have secrets about their traumatic pasts. They’re running the Iditarod to try and escape those secrets, but neither of them expected to fall for someone along the way.

Marketing Iditarod Nights has been a bit of a unique challenge. Ooligan Press does not typically publish romance titles, so doing research on romance bloggers and reviewers was a bit like reinventing the wheel; but it was rewarding to devote the time to ensuring that the book would be marketed in the best ways possible. We also focused on outdoor and adventure bloggers, Alaskan bloggers, a variety of Alaskan media, and some Iditarod-specific media outlets, along with general fiction bloggers, media outlets throughout the Pacific Northwest, and literary sites and podcasts around the country. It was fun to get a little creative with our marketing, too; since Iditarod Nights wouldn’t exist without the determined sled dogs, we spent some time researching sled dog and musher media. We even discovered the Iditapod, a podcast about all things Iditarod produced by NPR.

The design process for Iditarod Nights has been thrilling from the beginning as well. The cover above was not the result of our initial cover design brief—more on that in one of my future posts about designing romance covers—but all the same, we were very excited about the cool wintry tones and the gorgeous aurora borealis that are featured on the final cover above. This beautiful cover represents our best attempt at capturing both the majestic beauty of Alaska and the emerging romance between Claire and Dillon.

Iditarod Nights has undergone a line edit, a heavy copyedit, a medium copyedit, and a print proofread. We also spent some time fact-checking elements in the manuscript, like the various Alaskan towns and race markers that Claire and Dillon encounter. It was exciting to learn more about the history and traditions of the Iditarod through the fact-checking process. For more information about the Iditarod, which happens every year in March and traverses the state of Alaska, visit the official Iditarod website—and keep an eye out for Iditarod Nights from Ooligan Press, launching in April 2020!

Here’s some information about Cindy:

Writing in the spirit of adventure and happy endings, Cindy Hiday has won numerous honors, including first place in the Kay Snow Awards for Fiction from Willamette Writers. Her 2014 novel Father, Son & Grace (republished as Destination Stardust in 2019) is a Five-Star Readers’ Favorite and a local book club choice. Cindy draws inspiration from the beautiful state of Oregon, where she lives with her husband and four-legged friends. When she isn’t hard at work on her next novel or mentoring the latest group of writing talent as a part-time instructor for Mt. Hood Community College, Cindy enjoys hiking, gardening, and traveling. Follow her online here.

Racing Forward with Iditarod Nights

Hello, everyone! With The Gifts We Keep by Katie Grindeland launched into the world and doing well, my team at Ooligan Press is racing forward with the next book to be published as part of our partnership with Multnomah County Library: Iditarod Nights by Cindy Hiday! This is the second of the Library Writers Project selections to be annually published through the unique partnership between Multnomah County Library and Ooligan Press, and we are excited to be taking this new manuscript through the publication process.

In 2018, Ooligan Press and Multnomah County Library partnered up to celebrate the Portland area’s local authors. Since 2015, Multnomah County Library has solicited submissions of self-published works of fiction and memoir by local authors to be added to its Library Writers Project ebook collection. Together, as a local library and a local publisher, we have joined forces to bring these previously ebook-only works to print in an annual series.

This year’s title, Iditarod Nights, is a Library Writers Project selection from 2016 that features adventure, romance, and dogs. The story alternates between the viewpoints of Portland criminal defense attorney Claire Stanfield and Nome bar-and-grill owner Dillon Cord. Both are running from secrets and trauma in their pasts, both must struggle to survive the Alaskan wilderness as they compete in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and neither wants to embark on a new romance. But sometimes the heart has other plans.

To give you a sense of the person behind the book, here is Cindy’s author bio:

Writing in the spirit of adventure and happy endings, Cindy Hiday has won numerous honors, including first place in the Kay Snow Awards for Fiction from Willamette Writers. Her 2014 novel Father, Son & Grace is a Five-Star Readers’ Favorite and a local book club choice. Cindy draws inspiration from the beautiful state of Oregon, where she lives with her husband and four-legged friends. When she isn’t hard at work on her next novel or mentoring the latest group of writing talent as a part-time instructor for Mt. Hood Community College, Cindy enjoys hiking, gardening, and traveling.

Iditarod Nights will be available in both trade paperback and ebook versions in Spring 2020, and I can’t wait to see how it develops along the road to traditional publication. Follow Ooligan’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for more updates!

To learn more about The Gifts We Keep and Katie Grindeland, please visit our book page.
Click here for more insight into the Library Writers Project and for information on how to submit your manuscript to the library.