From Fanfiction to Publishing

Have you ever been so engrossed in a book series that you just had to continue the story beyond the pages? If so, then you are not alone! Before the internet, members of the Star Trek fandom would write fanfiction to send to their friends and pass out at fan conventions. This phenomenon has been around for quite some time, and it continues to grow in popularity as more and more fandoms are created.

I have been reading and writing fanfiction since I was thirteen, and it’s something that I have continued doing as an adult. For many of us who are prolific readers, the book doesn’t just stop on the last page; its world goes deeper than what is written in the pages of the book. As fans of both the world and the characters, we want the legacy of the series to continue long after the series ends. This mindset can not only get you started on the path to writing your own works of fiction, but it can also allow you the opportunity to edit new works by different authors before they get out into the world.

Cassandra Clare, author of the well-known series, The Mortal Instruments, got her career started by writing Harry Potter fanfiction. (If you’d like to check out her current fiction, you can do so on her website). You have to start somewhere, right?

Creating fanfiction is a great place to start writing. You can get feedback from the community, practice developing characters, and delve deeper into a world that you already love. It’s a great way to hone your craft from the very beginning, in a safe and welcoming environment. I’ve even seen fanfiction authors who have created their own characters that fit into the world of the original book.

Many fanfiction authors even have what they call beta-readers, who essentially act as editors to help with organization, plot, world-building, character development, and more. Some fanfiction authors even have people who create custom artwork for their stories! There are so many elements that go into the development of fanfiction that it’s almost a microcosm of the publishing industry.

Many people automatically equate publishing with editing, which isn’t necessarily the case. While it is true that editing is a crucial aspect of publishing, it isn’t the only aspect. If you enjoy reading and contributing to the numerous (and usually hilarious) tags on AO3 and Fanfiction.net, then search engine optimization (SEO) and social media work might be a great option for you to pursue. Do you love art and design? Then you can work in a design department creating book covers and art for the interior of books. If you are fascinated by computers and coding, then you can work in the relatively new and evolving field of ebooks and audiobooks. The publishing industry has a place for every bibliophile out there—even fanfiction writers. The best part? You are getting paid to do it ! My advice to you is to keep calm, follow your dreams, and write fanfiction!

It Ain’t Just Grammar: Skills for Successful Copyediting

If you’re a writer or an English major who aced every spelling and grammar quiz in school, you might think to yourself, “Hey, I’m pretty good with words. I understand punctuation, possessives, and present participles. I would make a fantastic copyeditor!” And you could very well be right. But before you dive headfirst into this profession, it’s important to know that for a good copyeditor, grammatical know-how is just the tip of the iceberg; successful copyediting requires a number of additional skills that have nothing to do with whipping out that red pen to correct a dangling modifier. This post outlines some essential copyediting skills that are completely unrelated to grammar and spelling.

Technological Skills
It’s no secret that bookish types aren’t always the most tech-savvy people. But to make it as a copyeditor in today’s world, you need to be comfortable editing onscreen and using all the modern tools available to you. Microsoft Word is the software application most commonly used by copyeditors. You may think you’re an expert at Word because you’ve used it for schoolwork and basic word processing for your entire life, but once you dive into the “Track Changes” settings, you’ll find a whole world of editing tools that you might not be so familiar with. There are plenty of useful tutorials out there on how to use Track Changes in Word (this one, for example, provides a very basic introduction), and all copyeditors should spend some time poking around in Word and familiarizing themselves with all the features that might be helpful to them. These include the bookmarking feature, which makes long documents easier to navigate, and macros, which automate certain copyediting tasks to increase efficiency.

Though Word is the most common choice, copyeditors may be required to use other software—for example, they may need to edit PDFs using Adobe Acrobat. Copyeditors also need to know how to open, save, and back up different types of files and convert between file formats.

Organizational Skills
In order to stay on top of all the different files they work with, copyeditors need to be extremely organized. A huge part of the job is version control—a manuscript (or any other document subject to editing) needs to be saved at each stage of the editorial process, and these different versions need to be kept track of. To avoid mistakenly sending an out-of-date version to an author or designer, copyeditors need to develop a foolproof system of folders and file-naming conventions.

In addition to practicing file organization and version control, copyeditors also need to exercise strong organizational skills in other areas. For example, they must keep track of deadlines and production schedules (yes, this will likely involve spreadsheets), be methodical in their use of style sheets, and maintain an organized inbox for professional correspondence.

Communication and People Skills
Though copyediting might seem like a solitary endeavor for introverted bookworms, the truth is that it’s an inherently collaborative and social profession. You’re working on other people’s writing, after all. Being a good editor therefore requires effective communication with authors, whether that’s through queries, editorial notes, emails, or phone calls. Striking the right tone with a client—authoritative enough that they trust your judgment, but also sufficiently respectful and flexible—is practically an art form, and it can take years to develop one’s professional voice as a copyeditor.

In addition to being diplomatic in your interactions with clients, you may also need to navigate relationships with managing editors, other supervisors, and colleagues. Networking is a tremendous part of the work, especially if you’re a freelancer, and all copyeditors will need to have some tricky conversations about pay and other business matters from time to time. For these reasons, a certain amount of social aptitude and professional polish—in addition to technological proficiency and organizational skills—will likely be more helpful to an aspiring copyeditor than even the most impressive sentence-diagramming abilities.

So, word nerds and grammar gurus of the world—do you have what it takes?

Interning as an Oolie

The best thing about the Ooligan Press graduate program, as I am sure you are aware, is the opportunity every student has to work on and publish actual books. This experience is what helps set Ooligan apart from other programs, and it sets the students up for success. While I haven’t yet experienced how the skills learned at Ooligan can be applied to full-time publishing jobs, I can speak to how Ooligan has helped me with my time as an intern.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had several internship opportunities with a wide range of publishing houses. My role and the types of tasks I’ve performed at each have ranged from contacting authors and bookstores to setting up author tour dates to “I totally forgot the intern was showing up today, does anyone have any envelopes that need stuffing?” And while the first option can definitely feel more rewarding, I can say from experience that there is a certain satisfaction in sending out countless advanced reader copies. It’s true that the vast majority of work you will perform as an intern may be relegated to the “busy work” category—compiling various lists, searching the internet for potential contacts, and the aforementioned stuffing of envelopes—and as tedious as the work was at times, absolutely everything I did as an intern was greatly appreciated. Generating contact sheets or sending out books for review aren’t the most glamourous assignments, but without those steps a book is doomed to failure. What allowed me to do these things well—to create useful contact lists and write outreach letters that had a chance of getting a response—was that I had plenty of practice from my time in Ooligan. Every now and again there were a few instances where I got to do the cool book marketing stuff, and when I told my mom what I did all day at my internship, those were my main talking points. The coolest thing I ever got to do was schedule a book tour for one of the more well-known authors at a publishing house. This included contacting stores, calling hotels, and coordinating with the author’s talent agent (yes, that’s right, talent agent) in order to have a successful book launch.

Aside from the actual work that was done, the best part of being a publishing intern is simply being inside an actual publishing house. Simply being around professionals in the industry and listening to the way they bounce ideas off of each other was the most beneficial part of my time there. One of my internships was for a small, two-person business, and witnessing the amount of hustle those two had when it came to procuring, producing, and promoting their titles was intoxicating. There are some things you can’t learn in school, and the grittiness required to run a successful small print publishing company is one of them. I’ve taken something away from all of my internships, and I’d like to think I’ve given something back. Through all of them, it was impossible to miss how the work I’ve done at Ooligan Press has helped set me on the path toward a career in the publishing field.

The Evolution of an Oolie, Part Three: Travis Kremer

We’ve reached the end of this series, my friends. After hearing about the anticipation of a green Oolie and the expectations of a graduating Oolie, it’s time to hear from the one you’ve been waiting for: an alum extraordinaire—an Oolie all grown up.

Name: Travis Kremer

Graduation year: 2013

Origin: Portland, Oregon

Alma mater: Portland State University

Bachelor’s degree: Economics

What was your favorite class in the program?

Can I say most of them? Because that’s the answer. There was an entrepreneurial publishing class that was incredibly fun and taught me a fair bit about how to move from being a graduate student to a working professional. The editing and design classes provided me with enough of a background to immediately start picking up paying work.

What positions did you hold in Ooligan?

I foolishly volunteered to be a project manager my first term (I was bad at it, but I learned a lot). After that, I spent three terms as an operations manager (I think this has been retitled to “publisher’s assistant”). I was one of the graduate assistants for the program during my second year. I also spent a lot of time working on other projects such as the Ooligan website, a few of the ebooks, the Write to Publish conference, and one term a friend and I put together a very short-lived (we were both working and couldn’t get our schedules to line up) radio show about publishing with KPSU.

What are you doing now?

I’m an editor at an odd little legal publisher in Portland [called Trial Guides] that focuses on practical skills and strategy books for trial lawyers. It’s like a mix between publishing business books and how-to manuals. The company is very small so I get to do a lot. Some days I get to the office and our salesperson will need a full-page magazine ad in two days. Other days I manage book projects, hire contractors, write marketing copy, design covers, copy edit—I get to do a huge range of things; it’s rarely dull. Today I’ve been putting together cost estimates for our upcoming titles and finishing edits for a manuscript that’s going into production next month.

How do you think graduating from the program prepared you for your career?

I wouldn’t have this career if I hadn’t gone through the program.

What do you wish you did differently in the program?

I wish I’d taken some digital marketing classes. It would have made finding a job easier, and I like data.

What is something you’ve had to learn on the job you didn’t learn at Ooligan?

There are a lot of publishing-related jobs and niche markets that very few people talk or seem to know about. There are a lot of things that an Ooligan grad is capable of doing that have nothing to do with mighty random penguins.

Is book publishing everything you thought it would be?

Let’s say it’s confirmed some of the suspicions I had when I started the program. Most of the work people want to pay you to do is boring, and most of the interesting things are going to be what you do in your spare time.

What would you tell incoming Oolies to help them make the most of their time at Ooligan?

It’s up to you. Literally. Once you graduate, no one is going to care about your past GPA or test scores, so do too many things, go nuts, take risks, and always, always, always treat others with kindness and respect. The publishing world is a very small pond, and you never know who is going to be sitting on the other side of that interview some day in the future. You have to be willing to get outside of your comfort zone and talk to people—and you really should! Publishing people are some of the best people, and some of them will even help you get jobs.