FAULTLAND's red book cover featuring a map of Portland in the shape of a piano.

FAULTLAND Shakes Up Social Media

Ooligan Press is in a flurry of excitement over all the new projects coming out in the next few months, and the Faultland team is busy at the frontlines of it all. Ooligan’s newest speculative fiction novel is the next book on our release schedule and is due to hit shelves on March 30, 2021! Behind the scenes, the team is working hard developing new ways to promote the novel online and coming up with original ideas for how to get more readers to engage with the book through the Ooligan social media channels.

Faultland is set in a near-future Portland that is rocked by a major earthquake. While not Ooligan’s first foray into speculative fiction, Faultland is unlike anything we’ve published before. Author Suzy Vitello masterfully combines future-tech and family drama to bring her “what if” landscape of a not-so-distant Portland to life before razing it to the ground. When the city is hit by the Portland Hills Fault earthquake, siblings Morgan, Olivia, and Sherman are faced with keeping their family alive following one of the worst natural disasters in living memory. Once separated by secrets and resentment, the Sparrow family realize they are now united by survival.

Right now, the Sparrow family’s survival is at the forefront of the book’s online presence as Faultland moves into the all-important social media phase of our production cycle. While each step of a title’s development helps Oolies hone their publishing skills, there are few moments in a book’s lifecycle that allow us to be as creative as social media, so our team is using this moment to put all of our creativity to good use. We knew early on that Faultland was the kind of book that could carry a strong and unconventional social media presence, and our Oolies are busily working away to demonstrate just how accurate that prediction was. The whole team is committing their efforts to creating engaging copy and images to generate interest in the book, and all the while they’re sprinkling in their favorite quotes and excerpts from our fantastic early reviewers to make their posts really pop.

While there are few specific parameters around what topics the team members are able to talk about in their posts, most have been focusing on the landscapes that the author, Portland local Vitello, creates in the book. We see the city both before and after the earthquake shatters it, filtered through the eyes of the narrators in quotes and in images created by the team. Another focus has been on the subject of emergency preparedness, with many early readers of the book internalizing the warning at the heart of the novel—that being ready for this kind of emergency can lessen the physical, emotional, and mental toll that just such an event takes on all of us. Several posts link to preparedness guidelines through the CDC, Red Cross, and other emergency agencies in order to guide readers to resources that the Sparrow siblings don’t have access to in the novel.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this social media initiative is our advanced planning for an upcoming scavenger hunt to get readers even more excited when the book launches. That’s right, the Faultland team is busy working on an emergency preparedness–themed scavenger hunt that will allow fans in the Portland area to follow along with Olivia’s journey after the book officially hits shelves. While the specific details for this initiative will remain a secret until we get closer to the book launch, the Faultland team will be centralizing Ooligan social media channels to get it off the ground and get readers engaged.

Stay tuned into Ooligan’s social media at @ooliganpress on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for the latest news about what’s on the horizon for Faultland and to see some of the incredible work the team has put together there.

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.

Listening Is Reading: The New Audio Frontier

If you grew up in the nineties, I’m sure you remember the ever-changing landscape of media formats, not to mention all of the frustrations they brought along with them. The vinyl record, a notorious stalwart, received its first major blow soon after cassettes were introduced in the sixties and seventies. Before compact discs (or my personal favorite, the MiniDisc), DVDs (or Blu-rays), or even MP3s, the cassette helped usher in a new way of consuming media portably and on demand. Instead of scheduling your life around an episode of Friends or Seinfeld, you could simply turn to your favorite audio or video cassette to fill the time.

Thanks to the National Library Service and their talking-book program, the practice of recording narrated material for the blind and those with physical disabilities began in earnest around 1931 after an Act of Congress. The main challenge in producing audiobooks is finding the talent necessary for narrating and mixing said audio. Setting aside the need for publishers and nonprofits to pay narrators and producers, the amount of time needed to record can also be an obstacle. The availability and accessibility of audiobooks has led to several instances where publishers either contract out their production work or have authors produce their own. In the case of small presses and self-published authors, handing over original content can prove to be a tricky matter, as the original intent of a work can be altered or completely lost in translation. According to an article on Literary Hub, the audiobook—whether it be fiction, nonfiction, or educational—”grew exponentially with the advent of cassette tapes,” and “revenue for books on tape reached $200 million in 1987 and $1.5 billion in 1995.” This exponential growth is reflected in the sales figures of the last two years, which grew 37 percent from 2017 to 2018. Certainly, audiobooks are a viable and worthwhile prospect for both small and large presses.

With the popularity and proliferation of digital devices like the iPhone and iPad, audiobooks and their close cousin, the podcast, have become uniquely convenient for those multitaskers looking to fill extra time during their commute or workout. This does bring up the question of whether or not this practice of listening rather than reading is a legitimate method of comprehension. Daniel T. Willingham notes that “print may be best for lingering over words or ideas, but audiobooks add literacy to moments where there would otherwise be none.” I’ll echo a sentiment found in John B. Thompson’s Merchants of Culture, where he quotes a small-press owner in Britain: “the very reading experience is one of the most intimate things there is.” This intimacy is reinforced within the medium of audiobooks, which, like many other digital technologies, is widening exposure for many authors.

Photography & Social Media: It’s not Terrifying, I Promise

Photography is one of those terrifying things that seem to intimidate a lot of people. Let me be the first to say, I knew nothing about photography at the beginning of this year, and I’m certainly not a pro now. But learning the basics was not nearly as complicated as I thought. And the more I got into it and the more I learned about social media, the more I realized how the two things go together like pie and ice cream. You could have one without the other, but the pie would be so much less exciting.

Big companies have the money to outsource photographers, and that’s great. It provides freelance photographers work and gives them a great source of income. Many smaller businesses, and especially publishers, do not have those kinds of resources. So we have to make do. But how?

You don’t need a fancy camera to start taking pictures. With most phone technology nowadays, you have access to a pretty decent camera right in your pocket. The main challenge—and by challenge, I mean fun part—is setting up the photo. Where do you take it? How do you set it up? This all depends on your business or publishing house but doesn’t take nearly as much effort as you think. Ooligan Press is a very Portland-centric press, so we can walk right outside and take pictures of the bridges, the parks, the rain—and it all fits with our message. Take a book from your press to the coffee shop. Take it home and snap some pictures of it with a plant or favorite blanket. Take it to the bar, on a walk, maybe even a dog shelter. You can take books anywhere.

But the photo can’t just stop there. Not with digital photos, anyway. You need to edit them for branding and consistency.

Branding is important in the sense that it establishes a page’s content with one simple glance. A viewer clicks on the Instagram page and boom, they can get an instant-read of what that business is all about. Half of this is the subject matter—what you take pictures of. The other half is editing the lighting and colors to look consistent.

This is the really scary part for most people, but it’s actually the easiest part.

My favorite app for editing photos on my phone is Lightroom, but this costs money. My favorite free app for photo editing is VSCO. I started out with this app, and it helped me learn so much. The interface is extremely user-friendly. Jump on the app and mess around with the different settings, especially with colors. It takes a few tries, but eventually, you’ll get the hang of moving the sliders around and controlling the lighting and colors on your photo. Higher contrast tends to make for sharper, cleaner images. Warmer images tend to give off happier vibes. Cooler images give off more wintery vibes.

Having clean, authentic images really boost your social media game. They help create a consistent, professional-looking feed. And photography is just a fun thing to jump into.

Why the Publishing Industry is Thriving (Not Dying)

When I told friends and family that I would be pursuing a graduate degree in book publishing, I was met with varied reactions. Some people thought it sounded wonderful—the perfect niche degree for a bookworm like myself. Many others were surprised and pessimistic: “Isn’t that a dying industry?” I admit it made me question my choice at times. Was I really about to go thousands of dollars into debt to hopefully get a career in an industry that would soon cease to exist? But I’m grateful I trusted my gut and pursued my passions, because, as it turns out, the publishing industry is far from dead. In fact, more people than ever are reading. The industry has adapted with the changing world and new technology. Audiobooks and ebooks have expanded the book format, increasing accessibility. Bolstered by social media, celebrity book clubs have become popular again, as Reese Witherspoon and Emma Watson join Oprah in encouraging people to read. Now is an exciting time to be in publishing.

Some have claimed that print is dead, but the 687.2 million books sold in 2017 suggest otherwise. According to Publishers Weekly, unit sales of books have risen 10.8 percent since 2013, and are up nearly 2 percent from last year. It’s not the biggest jump, but with so many forms of entertainment vying for our attention, even a small amount is a reason to celebrate. Growth is also being seen across several genres, with sales made through retail and club channels rising 3.5 percent. Literary fiction saw sales increase by 2.1 percent, hardcover sales by 3.6 percent, and paperback sales are up 1.5 percent. Juvenile nonfiction saw the biggest gain, up 7.8 percent from last year. This is especially promising because it proves children are still reading despite access to iPhones and iPads. Instilling a love of reading in children is the best way to create future adult readers. Even poetry is showing signs of life. Rupi Kaur’s collections of poems (Land of Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers) have sold over three million copies combined. You can’t argue with stats like these.

Another thing I hear is that nobody joins book clubs anymore. Oprah paved the way for celebrity book clubs when she launched hers in 1996 (persevering past the James Frey debacle), but few have ever taken advantage until recently. Instagram and the popular bookstagram hashtag may have something to do with it. There are currently 23.9 million photos associated with the hashtag. Hermoine herself (and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador), Emma Watson, launched an online book club in January 2016 called Our Shared Shelf that recently promoted Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries. With nearly 48 million followers on Instagram, Watson has a wide reach and the potential to create millions of new readers. Her club already has the largest following on Goodreads, with nearly 220 thousand followers in addition to having 358 thousand followers on Instagram. Last year, actress Emma Roberts also founded an online book club called Belletrist, which features a new book as well as an independent bookstore every month. Over 188 thousand people follow Belletrist on Instagram, and Robert’s 12.3 million followers aren’t too shabby either. Reese Witherspoon’s online book club, Reese Witherspoon Book Club, has 459 thousand followers (her personal account has a following of nearly 15 million) and chooses a new book every month. Witherspoon’s recent book-to-TV adaptation, Big Little Lies, was a huge hit for HBO, with a second season underway. Another Witherspoon book club choice, Little Fires Everywhere, a New York Times bestseller, will soon be a series on Hulu, after an intense network bidding war.

Then there is the so-called digital threat. When ebooks first hit the market, people gasped and said it was the end of print, but print sales are actually outselling ebooks, and the publishing industry has instead embraced and adapted to new formats. If people don’t have time to read, they often have time to listen. Audiobooks are perfect for passing time spent stuck in traffic. Ebooks are light and easy to carry, can hold multiple titles, and can make reading a 1000-plus word book much more enjoyable. Genre fiction has become especially popular on the ebook format, with many readers devouring mystery after mystery and romance after romance on their ereading devices. The number of people checking out ebooks from the library has risen. A survey conducted by digital library checkout app Overdrive found that fifty-eight library systems across the country have each loaned out over a million ebooks and audiobooks combined. Some are even exceeding 2 or 3 million. The Multnomah County Library system reported a 28 percent growth in ebook and audiobook loans from 2016 to 2017. It makes sense that ebooks and audiobooks would be popular at libraries, as it’s hard to beat the convenience of not having to physically pick up and return books.

Overall, the book format hasn’t changed much since the invention of the printing press, but the book publishing industry has adapted to changing times and has taken advantage of new technologies. Social media provides visibility in a crowded marketplace. Oprah, Reece, and the Emmas use their celebrity as a tool for encouraging more people to read. Libraries provide access to ebook and audiobook titles for millions of readers. Print sales are on the rise, proving that print is most certainly not dead. As long as people still love books (and the numbers suggest they do), the publishing industry will continue to thrive.