Marketing on Air

Since fall of 2013, Ooligan Press has been trying to find the best ways to get Untangling the Knot into the hands of readers. It’s the same conversation our teams have about every book we take from manuscript to marketing: How can we identify readers who will be interested in this book? How can we reach them? Where do they get their information?

We often separate marketing plans by different forms of media: print, digital, and broadcast. Of course, a marketing team wants to hit every available outlet, but depending on the type of book, it makes sense to use resources wisely and put certain focus on certain types of media.

In December and January, we hit print and digital media hard—we sent galleys to dozens of print and digital media outlets, both LGBTQ-focused and not. As our launch date (March 5) neared, we needed more than reviews. We needed conversation. This, in fact, is what the marketing logic of Untangling the Knot has always been. The book itself is a conversation about marriage equality, comprised of twenty-six different experiences and opinions. Outbound marketing is still king: reviews sell books. Period. But with a book like Untangling the Knot, we’re not just marketing the story, we’re marketing the effect the content could have—the conversation of the book. This is where broadcast media comes in.

Broadcast media is able to, especially in the age of the internet and the podcast, combine outbound and inbound marketing. A conversation, rather than a single-authored review, about a book seems to open the space around the book for input from all four players involved in book marketing: the reader, the author, the media, and the publisher. We looked high and low in our search for appropriate broadcast outlets. We sent galleys to Good Morning America, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and All Things Considered. But the best connections to come out of our search were local. Both Late Night Library and Wild Planet Radio have been incredible in helping us publicize the book in that specific, conversation-building way.

We reached out to Wild Planet Radio (WPR), the only 100-percent queer radio station in the US, which launched exactly a week before Untangling the Knot. The day before their own launch event, Bobby Harsell, the creative director at WPR, invited us to come by the station (housed in the Q Center on Mississippi Avenue) to chat about Untangling the Knot. I was especially excited about the meeting because it sparked a new connection for Ooligan Press. We’ve published three books with LGBTQ themes in the last year, most recently The Ghosts Who Travel with Me this past June. A connection with an LGBTQ radio station with a potentially national reach will be an important one to maintain.

We met with Bobby, Thomas Elisondo, and Rhiannon Flowers from WPR. They let me gush about how much I love Untangling the Knot, and we talked about ways in which they might help us publicize it. A writer herself, Rhiannon is working on launching a podcast, Poison Pen, on which she’ll host authors and talk about their work. I asked her what makes air media such an important force in information distribution. She said, “That is the gift of radio and podcasts—they are mostly free, and their main drive is simply to connect, inspire, and inform each other on things we find important, interesting, and entertaining . . . this art form helps spread the word in a beautifully personal way.” This, too, is my favorite part about marketing—it’s more than selling books. It’s finding and fostering connections. It’s discovering and creating new ways to get books into the hands of readers, not just because it means more books sold, but because the readers might be changed, ignited, or soothed by the content. Air media is an outlet that fosters this kind of marketing by building conversations around books and their messages.

Check out this episode of Late Night Conversation about Untangling the Knot with authors Mel Wells, Ben Anderson-Nathe, and editor Carter Sickels.

Check out the conversation Rhiannon Flowers and I had on WPR about the book and Ooligan Press, and stay tuned for more from Rhiannon and Wild Planet Radio—they have some really exciting projects in the works.

An Interview with Paul Martone, Founder of Late Night Library

Late Night Library is a prominent fixture in Portland’s literary community. Since 2011, the organization has been dedicated to providing a space for debut and up-and-coming authors to publicize their work and an avenue for readers to discover previously unknown gems through podcasts, creative writing classes, author readings, and their own set of awards.

On Wednesday, April 22, Late Night Library is hosting a different kind of literary event—a literary-themed variety show. “All Fines Forgiven” will feature a diverse group of writers and entertainers. The roster includes New York Times bestselling author Chelsea Cain, the Seattle-based hip-hop band Ayron Jones and the Way, novelist Benjamin Percy, poets Arisa White and Cindy Williams Gutiérrez, and spoken-word performance artist Rasheed Jamal. Hosting the event is Arthur Bradford, award-winning author and Emmy-nominated filmmaker.

I had the wonderful opportunity to ask Paul Martone, the founder and executive director of Late Night Library, some questions about the organization and the upcoming variety show.

How did you first come up with the idea of Late Night Library? What has the journey growing from podcast to nonprofit literary organization looked like?

Late Night Library began as a bicoastal podcast in 2011. The initial show featured conversations about newly released books, and the responses we received from debut authors, in particular, caused us to realize a nonprofit mission. The journey from podcast to nonprofit wasn’t pretty. We didn’t have start-up money. It was hard work with no pay, but we loved doing it. Late Night Library became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2013. We further our mission through four programs: Late Night Media, Literary Voices, The Visiting Writers Series, and the Debut-litzer Prizes.

What was the inspiration behind putting on a variety show?

We’re hoping to create new readers for the writers we support while simultaneously promoting literature in the community. Author readings are great, and there are many in Portland. All Fines Forgiven is a different animal. We’re featuring one of Seattle’s hottest rock bands and one of Portland’s most talented rap artists, Ben Percy and Chelsea Cain are reading, and Arthur Bradford is hosting . . . all kinds of entertaining things will be happening on stage.

The variety show will feature a mix of writers, musicians, editors, and filmmakers. What do you think this eclectic group has in common with regards to their chosen art forms?

What the artists have in common is that they’re all supremely talented. I like your use of the word “eclectic.” We’re seeking an audience as eclectic as the artists themselves. The show does have a central theme, however. It’s the kind of thing you need to experience firsthand, but I assure you, all fines will be forgiven.

As per your mission statement, Late Night Library is “dedicated to sustaining book culture, promoting literature in schools and communities, and supporting a diverse array of writers early in their careers.” How do you see All Fines Forgiven as furthering some or all parts of Late Night Library’s goals as an organization?

We’re featuring a diverse array of writers, compensating them, selling their books, and promoting their work via print and digital media. Now consider the venue, the talent, and cost of production. We seek to promote literature in communities, and therefore tickets are sold for $11 (general admission) and $9 (students). In other words, it’s a variety show at the cost of a movie ticket.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you’ve featured on Late Night Library?

My favorite authors are the ones who are nice to the people supporting their efforts. Most of the authors we’ve featured are therefore my favorite.

What aspect of your work with Late Night Library are you most proud of?

We’re an inclusive bicoastal group of readers and writers, and we’re resilient as all hell. Nobody handed us Late Night Library. We built it. The LNL fam. That’s what I’m most proud of.

An Internship at Late Night Library

Late Night Library. I immediately liked something about the name. Perhaps it was the notion of a library—evoking a sense of community, egalitarianism, a quiet coziness—that first grabbed my attention. Or maybe it was something about this concept combined with the term “late night”—the continuation of the literary quest while all the rest of the world was winding down—that ultimately attracted me. Visiting the Late Night Library website, I was intrigued by what I read and listened to: from contributor columns and writerly contests to debut book reviews and author interviews to podcasts with publishers and booksellers across the United States, the website projected a collaborative, grassroots vibe without being overly kitschy. When I met with Paul Martone, the executive director of Late Night Library, for my internship interview a week later, he instantly created a dialogue of reciprocity, inquiring about my publishing classes, my work at Ooligan Press, my favorite books, and how Late Night Library might best assist me on my professional journey. The qualities that I noticed on their website and in my initial conversation with Paul—community, dialogue, a strong sense of reciprocity—are what really define Late Night Library and my internship experience so far.
In its original incarnation, Late Night Library was divided into three parts:

  1. Late Night Conversation, a podcast focusing almost exclusively on discussions with publishers and booksellers;
  2. Late Night Debut, a podcast highlighting conversations with debut authors about their books and their writing processes;
  3. Late Night Review, the home of contributor-based book reviews and author interviews.

This had been a great place for Paul and his then-business partner, New York City resident Erin Hoover, to begin their venture into the wild world of book culture. It gave the organization variety while at the same time keeping the staff focused on a specific set of goals. Paul and Erin’s venture succeeded in a tangible way, gaining listeners across Portland and New York City as well as positive feedback from organizations like Tin House, Poets and Writers, and Fiction Writers Review. Indeed, Paul was looking to expand even further just as I was arriving at the doorsteps of the Late Night Library headquarters (a.k.a. Paul’s house).

Managing editor Candace Opper and communications director SteveClauw

Managing editor Candace Opper and communications director SteveClauw in dialogue at the headquarters conference desk (a.k.a. Paul’s
dining room table), where we gather each month for staff meetings. [Photo courtesy of Late Night Library]

In keeping with Paul’s vision for the evolution of Late Night Library, managing editor Candace Opper and I began the process of seriously rethinking the structure and function of Late Night Review. It was necessary to be frank in our initial discussions: we had to let go of any illusions that our writers’ reviews could compete with The New York Times or Publishers Weekly and start focusing on what we could offer our audiences that would be both refreshing and indicative of the tone of our collaborative. Brainstorming with this reality in mind, we established five fresh columns:

  1. “Read This Book,” a new spin on the traditional book review that asks readers to craft personal essays exploring connections between their own lives and the books they read, how these connections might translate into larger global themes common to the human condition, and just what it is about that particular novel that makes them tell every person they meet, “You just have to read this book!”;
  2. “The Late Night Interview,” where staffers and contributors converse with their favorite authors about their novel(s), writing, and what it is about books that gets us all so twitterpated;
  3. “Dog-Eared and Dispatched,” a weekly news column focusing on the latest information to hit the book world;
  4. “The Rookie Report,” where we ask debut authors to answer ten nontraditional questions, such as “If your book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?” and “What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?”;
  5. “Freshman Reading List,” where we revisit books we loved as children and explore how our perceptions have adapted with age.
Staff page on latenightlibrary.org

Hey, look: that’s me!
[Photo courtesy of Late Night Library]

With the introduction of these new columns, I officially moved up in the ranks of Late Night Library, taking on the position of editorial assistant. My duties now include editing submissions, corresponding with contributors, and authoring the “Dog-Eared and Dispatched” column each week. As we head into the fall, Candace and I will be adding more columns to the mix, with one future write-up focusing on book lovers’ guilty literary pleasures.
I feel extremely fortunate to have been welcomed into a literary arts association like Late Night Library so early on in both its growth and my own professional career. Paul’s passionate enthusiasm is infectious, and at a time in my life when the presence and panic of the “real world” beyond academia is looming ever closer, it gives me a sense of hope to be a member of a group with such spirited ambition—an organization fueled by avant-garde initiatives; a collective where collaboration is king, queen, and jester; a place where literature never sleeps.

Staff of Late Night Library

Most of the staff of Late Night Library
[Photo courtesy of Late Night Library]