The Rise of Risograph Printing

The risograph printer, developed in Japan in 1986, has enjoyed a recent revival in the graphic arts and art book publishing communities. What sets this extraordinary little machine apart from the standard printer is that rather than printing an entire image at once with the standard CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) inks, the risograph prints one color at a time. Rather than this being an obstacle, it opens up a whole new world of printing possibilities for artists. With each color printed individually the paper runs through the printer multiple times, giving the artist more freedom with the way the colors mix and bleed into each other. Additionally, one can theoretically run a page through as many layers of color as they want, giving the final images a depth and vibrancy of color your standard CMYK printing process could only dream of.

This printer has revolutionized the design and visual art print communities, but it has also bled over into the publishing community—pun intended. The resurgence of this printing process has especially influenced the art book community in America and abroad. The printing process is relatively inexpensive and makes the process of printing multiples both easy and experimental. The process of the application of inks one by one enables each addition of a book to have slight variation. This effect, which would be frowned upon by large-scale printers, is in fact part of the charm of the risograph. Reproduction through replication is the ethos of printing, but when the works produced are short-run art publications, the slight variations that occur through the replication render each piece unique.

The revival of this printer has led to a wealth of new riso studios and printing services, and in the production of riso art books. Scattered across the country are bookstores where these copies are proudly displayed in vibrant rainbows spanning their selves. Printed Matter NYC, located in New York City’s affluent, gallery-filled Chelsea neighborhood, is an artist bookstore established in the 1970s. They carry hundreds of riso printed artist books. The price range is between one dollar and one hundred dollars, depending on who made it and why. The location of this store is notable in that it is sandwiched between fine art galleries. People come to this neighborhood to view and purchase fine art. The quality and unique distinction of the riso book, including the ones available at Printed Matter NYC, make them into a commodity that is not merely a book nor merely a work of art. It is firmly situated in between. This style of publishing with its multimodal quality has only risen in popularity.

While riso printing is not something that would prove useful for large print runs, the place in the market these riso books occupy is an important one for the small press branch of the publishing industry. The individuality of each copy coupled with the short print run practice gives each book a special, collectible quality. This drives consumers to keep up with the artist publishers that create books they like, following them on social media, signing up for newsletters, or visiting shops and fairs that carry their books regularly. There is a level of trust and loyalty between riso book printers and their customers. The books are not necessarily purchased merely for their content, but for the practice of making them. In this sense, they are part art, part book, and part something special that cannot be replaced. This is a new extension of the publishing industry that should be paid attention to.

How Branding Allows YA Authors to Span Genres

The young adult (YA) genre has a clearly defined target age range: twelve through eighteen. Yet it simply doesn’t make sense that readers just put down their favorite author’s books when they reach a specific age. The appeal of the YA novel is in its approachability and candor. A lot of people, regardless of their age, connect with the emotions and confusion that happen during that turbulent period of life.

At a time when YA is on the rise, we must ask this question: How do YA authors cater to their older audience?

According to Caroline Kitchener’s article “Why So Many Adults Love YA Literature,” approximately 55 percent of YA readers are adults. This statistic covers pretty much everyone ages eighteen and up, but it goes to show that a large portion of YA readers are outside of the intended market.

This brings to mind the idea of crossover marketing for titles that serve a wider audience than simply YA or literary fiction. Think of Harry Potter or a series like The Hunger Games—fast-paced younger titles that still appeal to adults.

The issue is evidenced by the subgenres that have been created to address aging readership. Specifically, we can see this in the creation of the “upper YA” genre and the “new adult” (NA) genre. Readers don’t just put down their books when they turn eighteen, and this creates an untapped resource: authors can keep the same readership over time. However, while the creation of these subgenres shows the demand for older protagonists going through more mature problems, it doesn’t mean that authors can’t span different age groups and remain successful.

Ideally, creating a brand means the reader can pick up a book that is adult or YA and know from the cover not what the age group is but who the author is. The beauty of branding the author is that they can write in the genres of YA, NA, or adult and their work still fits into their own canon. If the goal is to keep the readers interested, it makes sense to keep the brand consistent between the two genres; however, that also means that the YA covers should inherently look more like adult novels from the get-go.

One example of an author publishing for multiple age groups is Rainbow Rowell. Her adult books look very similar to her YA books, and none of her books look out of place next to the others. Most of them have similar aesthetic styles that feature sans-serif fonts and illustrated images.

Here are (some of) Rainbow Rowell’s books:

In the same Atlantic article, Kitchener quotes John Green as saying, “Teenagers have a reputation for being jaded and cynical, but in fact, I find them wondrously lacking in cynicism and wondrously earnest in their un-ironized emotional experience.” The earnestness of the stories allows for a wider audience. Just because a protagonist passes into their twenties does not mean that the book is no longer accessible to the YA market and vice versa.

Through creating specific brands, authors should be able to publish stories for readers outside the YA age group and still include these stories in their canon.

Transmedia Marketing Is the Future of Publishing

If you haven’t heard of the transmedia marketing trend, don’t feel bad. I recently took a transmedia marketing class, and it took me several classes and a few hours of googling before I understood what it was. Transmedia marketing uses the world-building concepts of transmedia storytelling to create awareness campaigns, maintain or spark media buzz, and generate fan involvement. Instead of broadcasting a concise message across multiple advertising mediums, it focuses on creating opportunities for engagement, encouraging fans to interact with it and make it their own.

The simplest way to explain it is through specific examples. For instance, to promote the movie Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Tim Burton joined forces with Marc Jacobs to create a themed fashion line, which was displayed at Saks along with a Snapchat code to unlock a filter that fans could use to create pictures of themselves as Peculiar Children and spread them around social media platforms. Additionally, 20th Century Fox unleashed two fully costumed young cast members on London, where they acted as tourists. These Peculiar Children explored local attractions in character while taking selfies. Londoners then documented the surprising duo, splashing images across their own social media accounts and generating media buzz.

Over the past decade or so, many businesses have struggled to adapt their broadcast style to actively engage consumers. As users, we go to great lengths to prevent businesses from broadcasting their messages, and we are very vocal about our interactions with products and services, leaving reviews for other would-be users to consider. When was the last time you went to a movie or purchased a book without first checking user reviews? It’s a rare moment when I do. I often spend hours poring over reviews for a product or service, looking at their star rating and weighing it against the number of reviews they’ve received, thereby giving reviewers’ voices far more weight in the decision process than the words of advertisements.

This shift has been forcing many industries, publishing included, to think beyond their broadcast models to find new ways to engage with their audiences. Most publishers offer only the most basic levels of engagement. Promotions are often limited to emailed newsletters involving some variation of awareness campaigns, swag giveaways, and tour dates. It’s not that I don’t love swag giveaways, but they don’t generally inspire further interaction. HarperCollins has taken sizable steps toward transmedia marketing. Epic Reads, their dedicated teen and young adult website, creates spreadable content with videos and quizzes and promotes fan communities, but it rarely generates earned media buzz.

There are some obvious limitations to transmedia marketing in book publishing. Having a visual element to latch onto is often key in transmedia storytelling, making this strategy easier for book genres with strong imagery, like science fiction, fantasy, and YA. Even so, there is much we can explore in terms of incorporating transmedia storytelling into marketing plans, and much of it isn’t cost prohibitive, even for the tightest budgets and the smallest presses. You can start social media accounts styled in the voices of the characters and have them banter with each other and interact with fans. You can collect fan art and publish it in future editions or the next book in a series. Or you can make Snapchat filters to generate engagement between fans and the book’s website. If you have the time and creativity to invest, the possibilities are endless.

For more information on transmedia storytelling, click here!

Ooligan vs. the Literary Magazine

As many of you know, undergraduate publishing programs are few and far between. The fact that my undergraduate institution had an editing and publishing minor at all was a resource I only learned of once I had fallen head over heels with the art of editing. With a full heart and open mind, I made it my goal to take every publishing class my school offered. This is how I found myself working on the staff of the literary magazine Silk Road Review: A Literary Crossroads. And let me tell you, my three years as a junior editor-turned-managing editor were nothing like my short time at Ooligan thus far.

Silk Road is a magazine edited by undergraduate and graduate students in the creative writing program at my home institution. It works like this: Undergraduate students wade through a slush pile of short story, nonfiction, and poetry submissions from around the world. Once these undergraduate junior editors find something they like, they send the piece to remotely located graduate students who have the final say on acceptances. However, this process is heavily moderated by faculty members who help with marketing, budgeting, and shaping the magazine’s direction. This is why I was so shocked to learn on my first day at Ooligan Press that everything was completely student run. Whereas students at Silk Road have independence, students at Ooligan have control.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The breadth of Ooligan’s operations are so much more vast than anything I’ve ever dealt with—as it should be. Where Silk Road accepts short-form content that can be answered with a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down, Ooligan has an entire department (albeit small) whose job is to acquire manuscripts. I’m fascinated to learn more about how this process works. Ooligan Press boasts a host of students who perform edits in various levels of intensity, from deep developmental edits to finishing proofreads. Meanwhile, Silk Road performs one round of polishing copyedits before shipping off to the printer. Silk Road has one web content advisor; Ooligan takes the same job and splits it between two or three people. This boils down to the fact that Ooligan, as a press that publishes full-length books, is much larger than a small literary magazine that puts out an anthology once or twice a year. My first Ooligan executive meeting was the largest amount of people I’ve ever been in a room with who care about publishing just as much as I do.

At the end of the day, interest is really the key factor. Silk Road has fewer resources available because it is a smaller part of a creative writing program. There are fewer moving parts and more heavy burdens on a handful of individuals. Silk Road is a great starting point for those few interested in the editing and publishing program, but for most, it’s a resource for writers to gain experience on the other side of the coin. Contrast this with Ooligan Press—a full publishing press run by students whose primary interest is in publishing—and this leads to more of a team emphasis, allowing specialized leaders to shift the weight around, which allows Ooligan to take on projects of a much larger scope.

The recent weather has prevented me from diving in deep with this program, so I’m not the most knowledgeable about the innermost workings of Ooligan Press yet, but I expect I will be comfortable in no time. Settling in at Ooligan has been an adjustment, but one that has so far proven to be worthwhile.