An Analysis of Cover Art by an Ooligan Novice

This is my first term at Ooligan Press, and like the others in the program I love books. I love to read them, and I love to analyze them inside and out. I chose to look at all the Ooligan covers—past, present, and in development. The two that caught my attention the most were The Survival League and Forgive Me if I’ve Told You this Before. One cover I think is amazing, and the other one I think needs some improvements.

The Survival League, by Gordon Nuhanović is an older Ooligan Press book, and the cover shows that. At first glance it’s an intriguing cover, but after looking at it for awhile I noticed there were some flaws. The typography used for the title and author name of the book do not match the seriousness of the story. The author name is a typewriter style font that is laid out in a whimsical manner, which is okay for a children’s book but not an adult novel. The typography of the title of the book uses a similar typewriter font. The typewriter font, in my opinion, is a nod to the time period of the story, in which case it was a good effort. The overall tones of the cover are dark, and from far away the details of the cover are indistinguishable. Up close, the contrast of the colors is more apparent, but not enough.

If I were to redesign this cover, I would take what this cover is trying to do and twist it. The background image would stay black and white, but I would have the main image be of ruined Croatia after the war. The cross would still be there, but instead in the red, white, and blue of the Croatian flag. The title would be a sans-serif font, maybe Lucida Sans. The author name would be in a serif font, like Baskerville.

Forgive Me if I’ve Told You This Before by Karelia Stetz-Waters is a newer Ooligan Press book, and I adore the cover. The prospective reader gets most of what the book is about by the cover, which is what I think the cover’s job is. The cover screams YA lit, which is a good thing because YA lit is very popular and that’s the genre of this book. The warm colors invite the reader in to relax. The font is different and interesting, which reflects the personality of the main character. The background image is of a rural area, which is where the book takes place. There is also a girl on the cover, which makes sense because the story is about a girl. The girl is hidden behind the title, and that is also reminiscent of the character because she doesn’t have that many friends and gets made fun of.

I think what ultimately sells a book is the cover art. If the cover of a book is poorly designed, then readers will not give that book a chance, even if it is the next great American novel. Everyone always says don’t judge a book by its cover, but honestly readers do judge a book by its cover.

Growing with Ghosts: An Update on Allison Green

It’s a big day for Ooligan Press: The Ghosts Who Travel With Me, written by Allison Green, is going to press. It’s also the day of the Lambda Award Ceremony. Often referred to as the Lammys, they are arguably one of the most important book awards in the industry. It is a great honor to be nominated, and Ooligan is immensely proud to count two of our authors among this year’s finalists. Karelia Stetz-Waters’ Forgive Me If I Told You This Before is a finalist in the Children’s and Young Adult category, and Ghosts author Allison Green was one of 16 contributors to Outer Voices Inner Lives, a finalist in the Anthology category.

I’ve been on the project team for The Ghosts Who Travel With Me since Allison’s proposal came through acquisitions, and it has been an incredible experience to grow with this project since its very beginning at Ooligan Press. I was one of two students who initially evaluated the proposal, and I have been with the book through every phase since. There’s still quite a bit to be done prior to our launch, however. The project team for Ghosts is just starting the final proofread of the manuscript, and we were able to give Allison her first bound copy of the book during the AWP Conference and Bookfair. She says of the experience:

At AWP, Abbey gave me a copy of the bound galleys; there’s nothing quite like holding an actual bound book in your hands. I carried it around with me at the conference and showed it off to my friends when I ran into them. The bound galley reminded me, again, of how much time and careful attention you all have put into this project. I can’t tell you how grateful I am. It also makes me reflect on the journey I took writing it – how I started writing with no idea where the work would take me, how I struggled at times to define and organize it, and how it eventually began to cohere into something that, I hope, will be meaningful to readers.

I have learned so much from this book, and it seems fitting that quite a few members of our project team (myself included) will be graduating from the publishing program the day before the launch party. That week will mark the high point of two long but rewarding journeys.

The Ghosts Who Travel With Me releases today. The launch party will be on June 15th at The Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle.

Forgive Me Nominated for the Lambda Literary Awards

Ooligan Press is pleased to announce that Oregon native Karelia Stetz-Waters has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for her young adult novel Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before, published October 2014.

Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before is nominated in the LGBT Children’s/Young Adult category. The book tells the story of small-town high-school student Triinu Hoffman, who must navigate through bullies, first loves, and the upheaval of LGBT rights in 1990s Oregon.

Now in their twenty-seventh year, the Lambda Literary Awards are the nation’s preeminent award for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender books. Lambda Literary takes submissions for books all over the United States. Karelia Stetz-Waters has been nominated alongside writers published by the likes of Simon & Schuster, Candlewick Press, and Harlequin Enterprises. Karelia has been invited to a ceremony June 1, 2015, in New York City, where winners will be announced.

Though Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before is Stetz-Waters’s first young adult novel, it’s only one of her LGBT novels. Her other books—The Purveyor, The Admirer, and most recently Something True—all feature lesbian protagonists. Triinu Hoffman’s story parallels Karelia Stetz-Waters’s own adolescence. Like Triinu, she grew up in Oregon in the 1990s, when the political upheaval around Ballot Measure 9 tried to change state law to classify homosexuality as a sexual deviancy on the same level as pedophilia. Karelia would show her support for Queer Nation by sporting a sticker that said, “Don’t hate me because I’m queer; hate me because I’m beautiful.”

Her connection to the story is evident in the way she describes Forgive Me on her website:

Triinu Hoffman has one hope for high school: that the bullies who tormented her in junior high won’t find her in the crowded hallways of her new school. When she accidentally stabs a lecherous youth minister with a Bic pen and gets branded a lezzie Satanist, she realizes there is no way she is going to escape their torment. Moreover, Triinu has started noticing a beautiful girl dressed in all black, and she begins to think there may be something to the accusations of lesbianism.

Since its October release, Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before has steadily gained a larger audience. At Ooligan Press, we can’t wait to see what else is in store for the book. For more information about Ooligan Press, Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before, and Ooligan’s other titles—and to see how Karelia does at the Lammys—visit our website.

Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before’s Launch at Another Read Through

Another Read Through is a charming bookstore on North Mississippi Avenue that provides an appealing mix of new books from local authors and used books from a wider range of authors and genres. Staffed by friendly folks, the store hosted the official launch for Karelia Stetz-Waters’s Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before on Sunday, November 16. Another Read Through’s event space is small, intended to seat about thirty people, but the event was packed with closer to fifty people; it was standing room only before anyone even stepped up to the podium. Thanks to the Eisenhower Bagelhouse, an abundance of free coffee was available to attendees after the reading and panel discussion.
Elisa, Another Read Through’s owner, began with a touching introduction detailing how her personal attachment to Stetz-Waters’s writing led her to stock her books in the store. She was followed by Ooligan’s own Jess Miller, who has been with the press since Forgive Me was acquired. Stetz-Waters shared elements of the long but rewarding journey with Ooligan Press that brought Forgive Me to publication. The highlight of the event was her animated and thoughtful reading from the chapter “Dance, Then, Wherever You May Be,” which is available to watch in the video below.

Following the reading, the discussion opened up to George Nicola, a longtime Oregon LGBTQ rights activist who represents the Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest, an organization dedicated to LGBTQ history. He focused on Oregon’s fraught track record with the LGBTQ community, which includes thirty-five attempts to ban same-sex marriage or homosexuality in some form or another; these are not only measures that made it onto a ballot (such as the antigay Ballot Measure 9 from the early ’90s, featured in Forgive Me’s plot), but also those that never left the state legislature. Equally upsetting is the fact that statewide civil rights protection was not achieved until 2007. Mr. Nicola then handed it over to lawyer Lea Ann Easton of Dorsay & Easton, LLP, who was an integral part of the legal team that worked to strike down Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban last year. She discussed the intricacies of the legal process, as well as the landmark 2012 tax lawsuit originating in New York state, Windsor v. United States, which allowed states to contest same-sex marriage bans through lawsuits rather than by altering state constitutions.
Thoughtful events like these demonstrate the care with which Ooligan approaches the publishing process and release of each title. It was heartwarming to hear the author’s side of the journey and positive experiences with Ooligan, and I think the attendees appreciated the chance to not only hear Karelia Stetz-Waters read from her novel but also to find out more about the LGBTQ struggle for equality in Oregon. The continued support of Another Read Through, the fans, and LGBTQ celebrities like Tegan and Sara confirm the importance of Triinu’s story.

Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before’s Launch at Jones Bar

On the heels of a successful official launch event for Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before, the book’s project team played host to a second celebration—this time, at Jones Bar in downtown Portland. With its neon and starburst lighting, 4-Player Pac-Man console, and Cure posters, this retro-themed venue was the perfect place to cut loose and celebrate Forgive Me, a book that takes place in early-nineties Oregon and is alive with references to the music of the era.

Though normally closed on Thursdays, Jones Bar gave the Ooligan crew a warm welcome, even creating a playlist based on the music that winds its way throughout the book. (Joy Division! Pet Shop Boys! Bauhaus! And of course, Madonna!) In all, nearly 100 people—friends of Karelia, past and present Ooligan folks, and curious passers-by—came through to mingle, dance, talk shop, and revel in the glow of our latest title.

Kicking off the event, author Karelia Stetz-Waters read a pivotal scene from Forgive Me—fittingly set in the City Nightclub, an all-ages space that once thrived in a nearby neighborhood. The book is based loosely around Karelia’s own coming-of-age experience, and the author maintains that Triinu, her goth-loving protagonist, is Karelia “had [she] been cool.” As she read, wearing knee-high boots in tribute to Triinu, her voice full of love and humor and fury, no one could deny that whoever she was as a teenager, Karelia, is now one very cool woman—and we’re so proud to call her an Ooligan author.

Events and More

Now that Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before is out in the world, we’ve been putting all our energy into preparing for upcoming events. Karelia and Elisa, owner of Another Read Through, were a huge help in setting up the official launch. We celebrated the book’s message and insight into growing up gay in the early 90s, specifically in Oregon. It’s important to reflect on how far we’ve come and what had to be done back then to pave the way for the recent strides towards equality for everyone. Karelia read and signed books, and we also had a representative from GLPAN there to discuss the anti-gay Ballot Measure 9 featured in the book. Additionally, we were excited to host one of the lawyers responsible for overturning the ban on gay marriage in Oregon back in May. This panel of activists did a great job answering the audience’s questions about the equal rights movement then and now!

This coming Thursday, November 20, we invite you to join us in a more relaxed celebration of the release of Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before. In the nostalgic spirit of the coming-of-age novel, set in Oregon during the politically charged years leading up to infamous anti-gay Ballot Measure 9, we will come together at Jones Bar for an author reading, raffle, and 90s themed dance party. The bar will open early for us at 7:00 p.m., food and full bar available, and music. Everyone twenty-one and over are welcome. We hope to see you there!

If you aren’t able to make it to Jones, Karelia will also be reading at Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing on Tuesday, November 25th at 7:00 p.m..

We’re Published!

Friday marked the official pub date for Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before, and we couldn’t be more excited to see where the book goes from here. Even before the thirty-first, Amazon was shipping out pre-orders, and we’ve already started seeing reader reviews and ratings roll in—some of them from as far away as France. More and more readers have been adding the book to their “to-read” lists, and we plan to reach out to them this week to let them know the book is now available for purchase in stores and online from Powell’s,Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.

Karelia is doing her part to get the word out by saying “yes” to interviews that come her way. She discussed her personal connection to the story and how she and Triinu aren’t exactly the same person with Late Night Library. She talked with one of the Oolies working on the book to answer questions for PDXX Collective. And finally (for now), she wrote a guest blog for Powell’s that will pop up any day now.

It’s impossible to talk to Karelia about Forgive Me without asking questions about the antigay Ballot Measure 9 that Oregon faced in the early 90s. If you’d like to learn more, she plans to address many of these questions, as well as how the battles fought then are so closely connected to those being fought now, during her official launch at Another Read Through on November 16th.

Great News for Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before

With November just around the corner, we’re hard at work on the final stages of marketing for Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before.

Karelia Stetz-Waters’s Triinu Hoffman, like so many other LGBTQ teens in public schools, is the subject of bullying—both from fellow students and from faculty. Triinu hides who she really is behind her goth exterior and keeps her pining for a friend, Ursula, a secret.

Stetz-Waters’s lyrical storytelling was what hooked me when I first read the earliest draft pitched to Ooligan. But reading through it again this past week, I remembered why I felt this novel absolutely had a place at our press. I fell in love with Triinu again as she tried to find her way through a world that did want her as she was. I loved Isabel for her fearlessness, I loved Pru-Ann and her ridiculous boy-craziness, and I loved Triinu’s classics-quoting parents. Despite the twenty-year gap between the novel’s events and the present day, Triinu’s story mirrors the struggle of so many young people, and it’s why I believe that this book is an important one—for us as a press and for the Young Adult genre, and especially because October is LGBTQ History Month! Websites like LGBT History Month have a countdown of LGBT icons, including Lord Byron, Billie Holiday, Marc Jacobs, Freddie Mercury, Frank Ocean and CeCe McDonald.

On October 11, 1987, hundreds of thousands participated in the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. To commemorate this march, October 11 has become National Coming Out Day*. After the march, several LGBTQ organizations formed that still exist today, including the National Latino/a Gay & Lesbian Organization (LLEGÓ) and AT&T’s LGBT employee group, LEAGUE. Additionally, October was officially established as National LGBT History Month in 1994 in order to include National Coming Out Day.

And to celebrate National Coming Out Day, we’re offering a free download of the ebook of Forgive Me if I’ve Told You This Before here that day. Anyone who downloads the book on October 11 will be entered in a drawing for a free signed copy of the book if they review it on Amazon or Goodreads and send us the link via Twitter (@ooliganpress)! The winner will be chosen and notified by October 31, 2014.

“To this day National Coming Out Day continues to promote a safe world for LGBT individuals to live truthfully and openly.” —Human Rights Campaign.

For more information on LGBT History and National Coming Out Day, check out these resources:

  • *National Coming Out Day is a day to celebrate coming out. This does not mean it is mandatory nor should anyone be outed.

    Busy Times.

    It’s safe to say things have been pretty busy in the Forgive Me world. We closed out the summer with some big news and exciting plans. Team member Ellie’s hard work, personalizing letters and digging for blurbers, paid off with three amazing, heartfelt quotes for our cover:

    Young-adult author Ruth Tenzer Feldman said the story is “compelling, compassionate, and leavened with humor.”

    Heather Lyn MacDonald, director of the documentary film Ballot Measure 9, said our protagonist Triinu is a “genuine young heroine who reminds us, not without humor, that small acts of courage move the world forward.”

    Finally—coming in right before our printing deadline—Sara Quin of the hugely popular music duo Tegan and Sara sent her personal reaction: “I absolutely loved this book. I cried my eyes out, so touched and amazed to read something that so closely echoed my own adolescence …The injustice and fear that homophobia unleashes on society’s young people has twisted so many coming-out stories into ones of tragedy. I will cherish Forgive Me and its message of kindness and hope while cheering the trailblazers who came before me; in their simple acts of defiance and love, they have changed the world.”

    Sticking close to the book’s tone, we nailed down the perfect location for the Forgive Me launch. In fact, we love the book so much, we nailed down two locations. Karelia will bring her story to the public for the first time at Another Read Through on Mississippi Avenue on Sunday, November 15th. She’s looking forward to mingling with customers and hopes this is a great opportunity to connect to younger readers. Then, on the following Thursday, November 20th, Jones Bar will open early for a party celebrating all the hard work that went into this beautiful book. Karelia will read, everyone will toast, and the DJ will play the best of the ’80s and ’90s. Everyone is welcome!

    As the fall term takes off, and the new Forgive Me team members get comfortable, we will continue increasing Karelia’s and the book’s presence on the internet. We will also be scheduling more events across the state and making connections with LGBTQ, literary, and educational organizations to form partnerships and promote the book.

    Inside Ooligan: Author Advertisement

    Everyone has some sort of idea about what goes into producing a published book. With great excitement, I will explain one aspect of the “how” with respect to a current working Ooligan title called Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before, coming out this fall. Here, you’ll learn why a book’s author is becoming more crucial during the leap from manuscript to bound book.

    An author’s importance results from the fact that the publishing process is not just built around cooperation and collaboration with an author. Better marketing and advertising for a book requires a complete understanding of an author. Not knowing hinders overall popularity and reach of a book title. For example, Forgive Me has two websites catering to two different audiences. Ooligan Press has a page all about this title here and our author, Karelia Stetz-Waters, has a page as well.

    Not knowing where to advertise and who to market toward means that all creative work put into creating the physical product could be misdirected. An author is influential given that their brand of marketing and advertising is based upon an author’s life, from their personal contacts and social interactions to their location. Knowing the latter means spreading word to areas that an author lives or has lived in, and the places that are frequented most often among those.

    Based on my limited experience, it seems easy to get lost. At times, I’m focusing on the wrong aspects and aiming the reach of Forgive Me in the wrong direction. I had to find a compass to keep me on track, and to do so, I created a list of bullet points about the author and her situations and experiences to help me find relevant outlets. For example, Karelia wrote Forgive Me based on her experiences. Though this title is not a biography in the truest sense, keeping a list of facts about Karelia keeps me focused on finding the right way to cater to a targeted demographic. Knowing our author makes it easier to advertise and results in a more extensive reach in marketing outlets like event venues, social media, and print or radio.

    I did not immediately ask who our author was, and it initially gave me pains when compiling a list of book awards. Book awards are another way to market a book. If we win or receive notable mentions, we get extra attention. Some require the author to have a certain background or experience as a writer, and in my initial search, I had little to go on. I did not know where Karelia lived or the colleges she graduated from. I knew nothing whatsoever about her life activities and the importance of her being a faculty member in a writer’s association called the Golden Crown Literary Society. I eventually got the hint, and because of that, I could do more than simply base my search on the specific genres under which the title is placed.

    A publishing company like Ooligan requires a team, and while working together is essential, so is knowing the author in order to market and spread the word about a new book title. I may not have known this at first, and I still have many things to learn yet, but I suggest getting to know who the author is as a first priority. I have gone so far as to ask Karelia herself about the way this information flow between author and publisher works when publishing a book in general, and her response put things into perspective. She told me:

    As a writer, I try to remember that I am working on a need-to-know basis. I need to know what my editors expect, when the book is coming out, how to best combine my marketing efforts with my publishers’ marketing efforts, etc.

    Karelia points out that marketing is not solely the effort of the publisher, but also requires her efforts and help. Working on a need-to-know basis reflects that on each new step at Ooligan, there might be more information to be had, and if I understand right, further shows that marketing capitalizes on who the author is and what the author does or has done.