New Year, New You

Well, we made it.

Kait Heacock’s Siblings and Other Disappointments is out in the world, and maybe even at a bookstore near you! It’s been a journey. As a team, we’ve all been grappling with some mixed emotions lately—from the particular thrill of seeing hard work pay off to the melancholy feeling of saying goodbye to an old friend—but what is Siblings itself if not an emotionally complicated experience from start to finish? We continue to be blown away by the positive and personal reactions that Siblings elicits in its readers, including this lovely review from Lauren O’Brien in Shelf Awareness. Though the lion’s share of our work with Siblings is behind us now, we’ll still be keeping up with the book—and with Kait, as she too moves on to new and different things. Keep an eye on Ooligan’s Facebook page and Twitter account for all the updates. (But you’re already following us, right?)

Meanwhile, we’ve started laying plans for the future. The Siblings team is becoming the 50 Hikes team as we get to work on a brand new project. At the end of last year, the press unanimously voted to acquire 50 Hikes in the Tillamook State Forest, a hiking guidebook originally published by the Oregon chapter of the Sierra Club back in 2001. The hikes have all been newly reviewed and vetted for 2017, and we could not be more excited to reintroduce readers to this guide that explores the state forests that we Oregonians are lucky enough to have right in our backyard. Even Portland’s annual January snowpocalypse couldn’t tamp down our enthusiasm for this project, and we’re now back in the swing of things and hard at work deciding what we want this book to be. The team already has tons of great ideas about design elements, marketing efforts, and supplemental content, but the first step, as with any new Ooligan acquisition, will be to take the Sierra Club’s manuscript through developmental editing, working with the original authors to make the text of the book as strong (and, in this case, as useful) as it can possibly be.

It’s sure to be a busy term for us, but we’ve got lots of talent on our team, and a new book is always something to get excited about. Here’s hoping this particular one will also be an opportunity to leave campus and get out into nature once the weather warms up. I’m already planning some field trips. See you on the trails!

Here We Go!

The launch of Kait Heacock’s debut collection Siblings and Other Disappointments is almost upon us and I, for one, cannot wait to share it with you. I started at Ooligan in the spring of 2015, the same term that we as a press voted to acquire Siblings, so I’ve been with it since the very beginning of its journey into publishing. It’s a bit of a bittersweet feeling to see the end of a project that we’ve worked so hard on for so long. I am filled to the brim with emotions, but chief among them is an overwhelming sense of pride to at last be able to show the world what we’ve made.
Siblings is so deeply rooted in the cities and towns of the Pacific Northwest and in the experience of living and working and growing up here that, when we started thinking about launching this book, we wanted to make sure our plans likewise embraced the totality of this beautiful region we call home—especially after we learned that Kait would be moving back here from Brooklyn. I hope she’s got gas in her car and good shoes on her feet, because she’s going to be traveling up and down the west coast for the rest of the year. Here’s where you can catch Kait—and maybe even a few Oolies—talking about this remarkable book over the course of the next few months:

. . . plus much more to come. Check in with our Facebook page or follow @ooliganpress or @kaitgetslit on Twitter to stay up to date with our latest happenings. And don’t forget that Siblings and Other Disappointments will be available from the finest online retailers and brick-and-mortar emporiums as of October 11. What’s that? You’re desperate to find out more but you don’t have a link? Don’t say I never do anything for you.

Coping With Galleys

Did you know Ooligan Press undertakes a backlist sales initiative every term? It’s true! Last spring the Siblings team dug into the Ooligan sales data and our past social media efforts to see what we could find out about our own efficiency as a sales force. Here’s one surprising result: an awful lot of our social media presence focused on the run up to publication—and dropped off sharply once the pub date had passed.

The realization that we needed to spend some more time talking about our books once, you know, people could actually buy them feels a bit like a well duh moment, but it’s not hard to see how it happens. So much work and worry goes into the process of making the book into a tangible thing that it’s easy to lose track of the fact that, to the rest of the world, things are only just getting started.

I bring all this up because we got the Siblings and Other Disappointments galleys in last week, and I was reminded again that—while our time with the book is coming to a close—the rest of the world is only just now becoming aware of its existence. Our goal over the coming months, as Siblings‘ pub date for October 11 surges towards us, is to stir up some excitement.

The galleys are heading back out the door already to potential reviewers and literary organizations. And they’re heading to our sales reps who have been working hard to push the book—who will surely be just as happy to see it in hard copy as we were. We’re nailing down the final details for our launch events and getting ready to roll out our marketing and social media plans. And in between we’re talking to booksellers and bloggers and the literary-inclined—in short, anyone who we think will connect with this beautifully complicated little collection.

So keep an eye on Ooligan Press this fall. You can be sure we’ll be talking about Siblings on October 18—and because we’re publishing students and we learn our lessons—in the months that follow as well.

Spilling Our Guts

Spilling your guts is just exactly as charming as it sounds.
—Fran Lebowitz

Sorry, Fran. We think that spilling your guts is charming, and we plan to gush about Kait Heacock and Siblings and Other Disappointments constantly. Since unveiling the cover, we have been working hard to develop the marketing and social media plans and to support our interior designer, Leigh Thomas. A first year student, Leigh submitted gorgeous cover drafts for consideration and has been selected as next year’s Ooligan Press design manager. Her design carefully captures many of the key themes of Heacock’s collection:

The challenge with the interior was to represent the collection’s gritty undertones while still presenting a visually polished piece. Generous use of space helped reinforce the stories’ themes of loneliness, and stumbling upon a font that closely fit the aesthetic of the hand-lettered cover carried through the handmade Siblings tone. Adding in tiny huckleberry glyphs was just a bonus. (Leigh Thomas)

The interior design of a book must visually organize and present the guts of the work in a beautiful, readable format. As we celebrate the milestone of having the interior designed, it is also a great time to think about how we can most effectively spill our guts about the power of these short stories and Heacock’s amazing rising voice. Our social media and marketing goals are divided by our various phases of promotion: awareness, preorder, launch, and sustained sales.

With generosity of support we know the fans of Ooligan Press to possess, we know our readers will be just as jazzed about us spilling our guts about Siblings and Other Disappointments as we are.

The Cover is HERE!

Getting our sales kits out the door, each with a chapbook, postcard, tipsheet, marketing plan, and small treat (coffee-related, obviously) was one of the driving forces for getting the cover concept finalized. After much effort and Pantone finessing on the part of our designer, Ryan Brewer, we have a cover we love! In honor of the momentous occasion of unveiling the face of Siblings, we thought it might also be appropriate to put some faces and names to the hardworking members of the project team who often go unseen.

Alexis has been on the Siblings team since September 2015 and plans to depart for graduation in June. Primarily an editor, they were especially involved in the copyediting stage; there are only two stories in the collection that they didn’t work on. When called to the challenge of participating in marketing and publicity, a departure from their usual area of focus, Alexis has knocked it out of the park with exceptional copywriting for blurb and review requests. Alexis also does the amazing work of providing the team with superior vegan baked goods.

Kristin has also been with Siblings since the book’s acquisition. She worked tirelessly on the research and development that led to the book’s final title and brainstormed preliminary cover design concepts. She also has her hands in tasks like polishing the author photo, brainstorming sales strategies, and keeping track of vital data and potential contacts. The contribution she’s proudest of is writing marketing copy because a book’s success hinges on catching and keeping readers’ interest.

Emily came to work on Siblings in January and has had the privilege of being a part of some pivotal moments in the book’s progress. Helping to develop the marketing plan and a classroom discussion guide allowed her to flex her creative muscles. Additionally, Emily procured one of the early glowing blurbs. Her copywriting work contributed to the finalized back cover copy, and she photographed and designed what became the postcard collateral for the sales kits.

In addition to being the 2016–2017 project manager for Siblings, Sophie designed and created the chapbooks we sent to the sales reps and continues to make content, like design briefs and booksheets, beautiful. Although she says marketing can be a challenge for her, Sophie has stepped up at every occasion, trying new things and learning the ropes with a smile and infectious laughter. As she continues to adopt more of the leadership role, we know there are more great things to come.

Cade has been a crucial contributor to design, sales, marketing, XML coding, corporate sponsorship, and event planning. Her unique abilities to be empathetic and creative make her a major asset for author relations and brainstorming unconventional ideas. When communicating with Heacock to discuss major considerations for the work (developmental edits, the final title, etc.), Cade took the time to truly acknowledge our author’s motives and aspirations. Her cover concept was the first runner up, and there will be more great design work coming from Cade throughout her time at Ooligan.

Some of Alex’s proudest contributions to Ooligan Press have been helping to bring Siblings to print. She helped develop the design briefs and offered feedback on the early jacket designs. Alex’s expertise in book publishing and Ooligan’s workflow and office administration have been invaluable in creating the sales kits to get booksellers excited to spread the word about the collection. She has also been pivotal in the creation of an analytics system that will be used to track the marketing and sales metrics for Siblings and other titles in the future.

With an amazing collection of short stories to rally around, an endlessly enthusiastic and creative author, and a competent and compassionate team of publishers, it’s no wonder these updates can be so overwhelmingly positive.


Learning How to Brag About Our Short Story Collection

Leading up to a brief break between terms, our group members have been astonishingly productive. After the cover concept was selected by the press, we worked with Kait Heacock to offer notes and feedback to the designer, Ryan Brewer, who continues to improve and expand the cover each day. We expect to have a final cover ready for unveiling in the next few weeks. Also within the realm of design, our group constructed an interior design brief and received more than ten applications. Leigh Thomas was selected for the honor of designing the Siblings interior, and we are thrilled to see her initial drafts soon.

On the marketing, publicity, and sales fronts, we got a handful of printed and bound copies to send to a few prospective blurbers. This is the first time the book has appeared in codex form, albeit in an undesigned word document on regular printer paper. It was an amazing preview into the excitement yet to come! We are hoping that these physical copies will find their way into the hands of some notable authors by the end of the month. Tell Cheryl Strayed to check her mail.

In addition to pitching to blurbers, we shared our enthusiasm about Siblings with our sales representative in a brief sales call last week. Preparing for the sales call, constructing the tipsheet, and drafting early backcover copy means finding concise, powerful ways to talk about Heacock and her work, highlighting the themes that run throughout each story without underselling the collection as homogenous. Learning how to most effectively talk about the strengths of this collection is an ongoing process, but our group could not be more suited to the challenge.

Our biggest upcoming task will put our creativity and marketing skills to the test: We are constructing sales kits that will get our distributor’s sales representatives excited and passionate about this collection. Stay tuned to hear what kinds of artifacts and collateral we include and how we articulate the literary eminence of Siblings.

Positioning a Book: Where Do These Stories Belong?

Ooligan Press does things a little differently. A debut author being published at a major publishing house might look something like this: a managing editor gives extensive feedback and queries throughout the developmental and line-level editorial stages in order to guide the author’s work in a specific direction, shaping the text with a very specific audience in mind; the cover and interior are designed by one or a few people who have likely only read the marketing plan and some excerpts; the design is okayed by the managing editor and presented to book reps and the author when finalized; the marketing and publicity teams work to promote the book in print, online, and radio media by paying for some ad placement and sending potentially hundreds of advanced copies to national reviewers.

At Ooligan, we have a tight budget but a wealth of talented, enthusiastic, and curious student publishers. Our company ethos is heavily democratic, and our reverence for our authors and their works is unparalleled. We have a team working on every step of the process: editorial, design, marketing, publicity, etc. This means that no single ego can dominate a book project, but it also means lots of emails, meetings, texts, and phone calls to stay on the same page about the vision and expectations.

The uniqueness of this company culture and the workflow strategies it requires are never more apparent than during the book design process, an exciting moment for any book and in my opinion especially interesting for short story collections like Siblings and Other Disappointments. As I mentioned in the last post, we accept submissions for cover concepts from anyone in the press, including the professionally trained illustrators and highfalutin digital geniuses (who can afford to be pretentious because they will own the world soon), but also the most novice of visual artists. With Siblings we went through four rounds of submissions, public review, and democratic feedback before narrowing the pool to three designs by three different designers. After each designer had the chance to talk about their idea and after a group discussion about Kait Heacock’s initial reactions and the strengths and weaknesses of each concept was had, we had a press-wide vote with paper ballots to select the winning concept.

So we have a cover concept selected and a great designer hard at work. But you can’t see it yet. For now, just revel in how neat the process is. Don’t worry. This will be worth the wait.

Trends in Cover Design: Actually, That Is How You Can Judge a Book

Young adult publishers certainly do like to put disembodied body parts on their covers, don’t they? They also like that hazy Instagram look and showing the protagonist with his or her back to the reader. And they really like a hand-drawn font. It’s getting to the point where it’s almost as hard to find a contemporary YA title that doesn’t feature one (or more) of these clichés as it is to find a potboiler romance without the obligatory cover clinch (be it your Fabio classic or an acceptably muscled substitute).

Articles cataloging the current book cover design trends (usually YA covers, but every genre has its own set of clichés) have been having a bit of a moment lately. One can hardly throw a metaphorical stone on the internet without coming across some kind of exhaustively thorough compilation of overused designs. It’s always fun try to figure out what set off the worst offenders in a particular craze (for example: gee, I wonder if the spike in black, white, and red color schemes with pictures of hands cradling significant objects could have been in response to anything in particular), but the truth is, while fads may get out of hand, this kind of standard imagery can also serve as a shortcut to let the reader know exactly what to expect.

Some of the repetitive covers we see are attempts to cash in on an already popular property, but there are also many that primarily function as a little clue for potential readers. It took until around the turn of the last century for publishers to figure out that covers could function as advertisements for their books’ contents, but since transitioning away from solid-colored cloth we’ve spent the intervening hundred or so years building up a visual vocabulary that can be just as effective as written copy in telling a reader what to expect. The shadowy figures and bold sans serifs of thrillers, the black-and-white close-ups of troubled YA faces, even good old Fabio—all of these are little nudges to help the reader quite literally judge a book by its cover.

All of this is especially relevant to Ooligan right now as we begin the process of designing a cover for Siblings and Other Disappointments, Kait Heacock’s upcoming collection of short stories. One of Heacock’s biggest literary influences is Raymond Carver, so it makes sense to look at the covers of some of his work for inspiration. But at the same time, Heacock’s book is her own, and it requires a solution unique from that of Carver (or of other short story collections, for that matter). The perfect cover will need to incorporate conventions of the genre without resorting to cliché. It can be a tricky balance—so keep an eye out for the new Siblings cover to see if we get it right.

A Face to a Name

In a gratifying collaboration between Kait Heacock, Ooligan’s editorial lead, and the members of our project group, we have finalized the copyediting for this title! We didn’t waste any time sending this shiny, clean manuscript off to reviewers and authors we admire for early blurb requests. In our classes, we often discuss how much blurbs do or do not actually help in the life of a book. Whether they result in higher sales or not, blurbs are still a standard practice in the industry, and we believe that Heacock deserves plenty of praise and compliments for her work—blurbs are a great way to get that feedback early and from people whose opinions we value. In addition to requesting blurbs, this week our final manuscript will be divided up and XML coded in preparation to be passed to the designer of the book’s interior.

With our final passes of copyediting, our team brainstormed, vetted, and eventually fell in love with a new title suggested by Heacock. This rich collection of short stories will be on the market as Siblings and Other Disappointments. We love the punch and multidimensionality that this title has, and we have been drawing inspiration from it for the cover designs that have been evolving and improving for the last three weeks.

The book cover is often referred to as the title’s best marketing tool, and with a short story collection, the task of epitomizing the work in a single image is that much more challenging and important. We need something that will capture the Pacific Northwest regionality, the relational tensions of familial relationships, and the characteristic wit and darkness of Heacock’s storytelling. The strong designs we have seen are coming from Ooligan Press students with every level of design experience, composing images in PowerPoint and InDesign alike. There are so many strong aesthetics to chose from, and with the final cover vote fast approaching, we will soon be able to put a face to a name.

What’s in a Name?

In the weeks since our last update, we have made great progress in the earliest stages of book production. We have selected a publication date for this special collection: October 11, 2016. Our budget has been established, and our tipsheet is coming together with a finalized author bio, the book description, a few highlighted selling points, some comparative titles, and a pithy keynote to capture attention. Our team has gathered the contact information for various authors we will reach out to in the coming weeks to request blurbs from.

One of the greatest learning experiences this month has been the construction of the design brief. With Alex and Sophia taking the lead, our group discussed major trends for short story collections and how Heacock’s rich sense of place could best be captured. Imagining how a reader might first judge our book by its cover, we had to strip down our project to the basics. How could we create a cohesive image that distilled the grit and power of twelve unique tales? This task forced us to reimagine Heacock’s writing visually, a process that helped us get to know the collection even more intimately and with more nuance.

With an eye for search optimization and the power of metadata, our team also revisited the title for this project. Novices to these concepts, our team realized that Siblings: Stories was likely to get buried under millions of search results, making it hard for our book to stand out. Just as important as the cover, a title is one of the first chances to capture the attention of a prospective reader, and much thought and energy went into combing through the manuscript to pull out quotes and phrases that spoke to the complexity of human relationships and the bond of family. As Heacock has so beautifully said, “it is so strange sometimes finding the balance between creative and commercial, but I know it’s important to consider both.” There are many strong options in the running, and a final title is on the horizon, coming in before the end of our fall term. It feels like we just started to get to know the characters that populate Heacock’s pages, and yet here we are with a publication date on the book, a finalized title around the corner, and cover design submissions in the not-so-distant future!