Inside Ooligan: A Day at ABC Children’s Institute

One of the first things you learn in the publishing industry is to accept a kindly phrased “no” as an answer to your pitch. Whether it be an acquisitions pitch, a blurb pitch, or a sponsorship pitch, you learn quickly to let go of your fear of rejection. This lesson may sound a little bitter; however, anticipating being told no makes receiving an enthusiastic yes feel even more rewarding. I experienced this myself last term when we reached out to the American Booksellers Association (ABA) in regards to attending their ABC Children’s Institute conference.

Near the end of last term, the project team for our upcoming YA novel, The Ocean in My Ears, was assigned to write a pitch letter to the ABA requesting student passes and a table for Ooligan Press at their annual ABC Children’s Institute conference. Since we’re publishing more and more YA literature, the prospect of attending this conference was very exciting for us, but we were also aware of the barriers in our path.

Everyone knows that conference tickets aren’t inexpensive, and as a teaching press, Ooligan Press doesn’t have the budget to buy tickets to every conference in Portland. However, we also understand that hosting a conference isn’t inexpensive either, which meant that balancing our request with the ABA’s needs was vital to our pitch’s success. Gloria Mulvihill and I worked under our team leader Margaret Henry’s guidance to find a way to show the ABA that offering us free passes and space would be a win-win situation. We ended up pitching the most valuable thing that Ooligan Press has: our students. We pitched the fresh perspectives and networking power of the publishing industry’s newest professionals, and we were ecstatic to receive a positive response!

Gloria and I were given the opportunity to represent Ooligan Press in the Publisher Consultation hall on the last day of the conference. We arrived to discover that the ABA had very graciously given us a table in the center of the hall, directly opposite the main ballroom entrance, and we eagerly arranged our selection of YA titles and promotional materials. Since neither of us had ever attended an event like this before, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. To be honest, we were a little worried that we wouldn’t be approached by many booksellers. However, we were pleasantly surprised when our display of YA titles began attracting so many attendees that Gloria and I were often simultaneously pitching different titles to different people. We met wonderful booksellers from all over the country who were genuinely excited about our titles, which made us even more excited to talk about the stories we love.

Overall, the experience was a little overwhelming but massively rewarding. Most of us joined this industry because we love shutting ourselves away with books, and it feels amazing to break away from that isolation and immerse yourself in a community of people who are just as enthusiastic about storytelling. Thank you to everyone who stopped by our table to speak to us or sign up for a DRC. We hope to see you all again next year!