Where to Get Your Book Fix

With all the closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have lost physical access to libraries as well as chain and local bookstores. Our access may be diminished, but our need for entertainment—or if we can’t be entertained, at least some kind of distraction—has wildly increased.

But fear not! Just because we can’t physically browse for new books doesn’t mean we’re left to lament a lack of bookish entertainment, or even wait for physical books we order online to be delivered to our home (a recipe for disaster as postal services are overwhelmed with delivering necessities, causing longer wait times than usual). Instead, I present to you in this trying time a fun way to get your book fix without ever leaving your home: ebooks.

You might not have an ereader, but that’s okay! Nowadays, if you’re able to read this blog post, you’re able to access an ebook. Most, if not all, of these options will provide you with some of that good book stuff!

The first option for accessing ebooks is also the most economical: your public library. Many libraries have now partnered with one of several online services to provide their members with access to ebooks. All you need is your library card. Don’t have that? Check with your local library. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, some libraries are offering residents in their area the option to sign up for a card online.

However, there are a couple of drawbacks to being able to access your local library digitally, like limited selection and long waitlists. If you run into these problems and can’t easily access what you want, there are a multitude of other places where you can get ebooks depending on what device you’re using as well as your personal preferences. For Apple users, there’s the Apple Books marketplace, where you can buy pretty much any ebook you can imagine. For other users, there’s the Google Play store and, of course, Amazon. You can access all of these through your device’s app store or through a web browser.

And for those of us passionate about supporting local bookstores, I present you with another option: Kobo. You can find local bookstores that work with Kobo on their website and support them with your ebook purchases. Kobo does have an ereader, but their app is also available on most systems. Not only can you get the bookish entertainment you need, but you can also help out your local bookstore!

So, while we’re all staying inside and helping to flatten the curve, we can all use these resources to make sure we have no shortage of books to read.

Listening Is Reading: The New Audio Frontier

If you grew up in the nineties, I’m sure you remember the ever-changing landscape of media formats, not to mention all of the frustrations they brought along with them. The vinyl record, a notorious stalwart, received its first major blow soon after cassettes were introduced in the sixties and seventies. Before compact discs (or my personal favorite, the MiniDisc), DVDs (or Blu-rays), or even MP3s, the cassette helped usher in a new way of consuming media portably and on demand. Instead of scheduling your life around an episode of Friends or Seinfeld, you could simply turn to your favorite audio or video cassette to fill the time.

Thanks to the National Library Service and their talking-book program, the practice of recording narrated material for the blind and those with physical disabilities began in earnest around 1931 after an Act of Congress. The main challenge in producing audiobooks is finding the talent necessary for narrating and mixing said audio. Setting aside the need for publishers and nonprofits to pay narrators and producers, the amount of time needed to record can also be an obstacle. The availability and accessibility of audiobooks has led to several instances where publishers either contract out their production work or have authors produce their own. In the case of small presses and self-published authors, handing over original content can prove to be a tricky matter, as the original intent of a work can be altered or completely lost in translation. According to an article on Literary Hub, the audiobook—whether it be fiction, nonfiction, or educational—”grew exponentially with the advent of cassette tapes,” and “revenue for books on tape reached $200 million in 1987 and $1.5 billion in 1995.” This exponential growth is reflected in the sales figures of the last two years, which grew 37 percent from 2017 to 2018. Certainly, audiobooks are a viable and worthwhile prospect for both small and large presses.

With the popularity and proliferation of digital devices like the iPhone and iPad, audiobooks and their close cousin, the podcast, have become uniquely convenient for those multitaskers looking to fill extra time during their commute or workout. This does bring up the question of whether or not this practice of listening rather than reading is a legitimate method of comprehension. Daniel T. Willingham notes that “print may be best for lingering over words or ideas, but audiobooks add literacy to moments where there would otherwise be none.” I’ll echo a sentiment found in John B. Thompson’s Merchants of Culture, where he quotes a small-press owner in Britain: “the very reading experience is one of the most intimate things there is.” This intimacy is reinforced within the medium of audiobooks, which, like many other digital technologies, is widening exposure for many authors.

Racing Forward with Iditarod Nights

Hello, everyone! With The Gifts We Keep by Katie Grindeland launched into the world and doing well, my team at Ooligan Press is racing forward with the next book to be published as part of our partnership with Multnomah County Library: Iditarod Nights by Cindy Hiday! This is the second of the Library Writers Project selections to be annually published through the unique partnership between Multnomah County Library and Ooligan Press, and we are excited to be taking this new manuscript through the publication process.

In 2018, Ooligan Press and Multnomah County Library partnered up to celebrate the Portland area’s local authors. Since 2015, Multnomah County Library has solicited submissions of self-published works of fiction and memoir by local authors to be added to its Library Writers Project ebook collection. Together, as a local library and a local publisher, we have joined forces to bring these previously ebook-only works to print in an annual series.

This year’s title, Iditarod Nights, is a Library Writers Project selection from 2016 that features adventure, romance, and dogs. The story alternates between the viewpoints of Portland criminal defense attorney Claire Stanfield and Nome bar-and-grill owner Dillon Cord. Both are running from secrets and trauma in their pasts, both must struggle to survive the Alaskan wilderness as they compete in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and neither wants to embark on a new romance. But sometimes the heart has other plans.

To give you a sense of the person behind the book, here is Cindy’s author bio:

Writing in the spirit of adventure and happy endings, Cindy Hiday has won numerous honors, including first place in the Kay Snow Awards for Fiction from Willamette Writers. Her 2014 novel Father, Son & Grace is a Five-Star Readers’ Favorite and a local book club choice. Cindy draws inspiration from the beautiful state of Oregon, where she lives with her husband and four-legged friends. When she isn’t hard at work on her next novel or mentoring the latest group of writing talent as a part-time instructor for Mt. Hood Community College, Cindy enjoys hiking, gardening, and traveling.

Iditarod Nights will be available in both trade paperback and ebook versions in Spring 2020, and I can’t wait to see how it develops along the road to traditional publication. Follow Ooligan’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for more updates!

To learn more about The Gifts We Keep and Katie Grindeland, please visit our book page.
Click here for more insight into the Library Writers Project and for information on how to submit your manuscript to the library.

YA Programs & Libraries: Developing and Maintaining

The Salem Public Library was my second home growing up. Half of the massive second floor was entirely dedicated to children. The thing I never thought about as a child, however, was how the “teen” books were grouped right alongside the children’s nonfiction.

They changed this right about when I moved from middle school to high school, which you’d think would have been perfect for me. The thing was, I was terrified and uncertain of this new “teen” scene—I had no idea what it was. I thought it was for older, more mature kids.

My sophomore year of high school, I started volunteering in the children’s Discovery Room upstairs. One of the librarians who had known me practically since birth recommended that I check out their teen scene. So finally, I did.

It’s an amazing place. They converted half the basement into a space where young adults could come hang out and work after school. Shelves of YA books stretch back for miles, and there are tons of endcap displays for “what to read if you like…” One section has a TV with video games and a couch. Every time I visit, there are always kids planted on that couch. Book recommendations written by teens are taped all over the walls. Over the years, as I came back more and more, I learned about the different writing programs they offered. Recently, I visited one of these after-school writing workshops to talk about Ooligan Press and the publishing industry. The kids loved what they were doing. Sonja, the main YA librarian, gives them fun, relevant writing prompts and encourages everyone, no matter how far-out their ideas might seem. On this same visit, I learned that my library had been picked to be one of twenty-five review committees that would select books for a “top ten YA” list. They had tons of advance reader copies shipped to them, and these lined the shelves in the office. The committee at each library is made up entirely of teens—they are the ones who get to choose which YA books are the best.

Growing up around this library program and watching it flourish over the years inspired me to take a deeper look at young adult programs in libraries for my thesis. How have they developed over the years? What makes them “successful,” and what defines success? How are librarians identifying and then meeting their communities’ needs?

As I’ve been diving into this research and studying different programs over the last decade, I’ve noticed several themes among programs that seem to be doing well and gaining attention. The first of these themes is the most critical: teen involvement in the decision-making process. Like the Salem Public Library, many libraries have committees or teen advisory boards made up entirely of young adult patrons. They give their input on everything from the kinds of books they want to read more of to their favorite authors to the programs they want to see at their own libraries. Another common theme is proper staff training. Libraries who employed a YA specialist rather than just a general librarian saw a significant increase in the number of students who visited and checked out books. One last theme was that students were more likely to come when the YA section was in a comfortable physical environment that allowed them to socialize with their friends. The days of the harsh, shushing librarian are over—the library is now a social space, one where teens can talk and debate and discuss the things they’re reading or simply enjoying in the world.

My hope as I continue to do this research is that I can create some kind of framework or best practices guide that can aid librarians as they continue to develop and maintain programs targeting teens. In this way, hopefully we can match the growing genre of YA with the space that teens need to find their identity.

The Changing Face of Marketing in Academic Publishing

When most of us think of “bestsellers,” we tend to think of celebrity memoirs and genre fiction titles by big-name authors. What we don’t normally think of are scholarly works published by university presses. To the average reader (and perhaps even the average trade publisher), the world of academic publishing may appear to be a closed-off realm in which scholars exchange dusty monographs with their colleagues, showing little interest in attracting readers outside their field. After all, it’s hard to imagine a riveting book trailer promoting a specialized work like Nan Z. Da’s Intransitive Encounter: Sino-U.S. Literatures and the Limits of Exchange (a recent title from Columbia University Press).
But the reality is that university presses make important contributions to society by disseminating knowledge and upholding high standards for factual accuracy; and in order to remain economically viable, they have to market their books just like everyone else. In the face of modern challenges like widespread digitization and shifting priorities in higher education, university presses are getting creative in their efforts to promote their books and connect with readers.
In order to understand the evolving marketing strategies of university presses, it’s important to know what kinds of books these presses publish, and where these books have historically been sold. In addition to academic journals, university presses publish monographs (highly specialized works directed at a narrow academic audience) as well as trade books (titles that are expected to attract a wider readership) and midlist titles (books that fall somewhere in between). Historically, university presses relied on university libraries to buy and stock their journals and monographs. However, this has changed in recent years as commercially published journals have begun to claim a much larger share of library budgets, which are already shrinking due to cuts to higher education funding. On top of this, university administrators facing budget constraints have grown increasingly skeptical of the importance of university presses (which are usually subsidized by their affiliated universities), and some of these presses have even been shut down. Finally, the onset of the digital era has changed the game, forcing university presses to rethink their well-established marketing and sales models.
So how are university presses adapting to all these recent challenges? One of their key strategies has been to embrace the social media revolution. A quick perusal of the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for Duke University Press, University of Chicago Press, and Columbia University Press (just to name a few) shows how these century-old academic presses are keeping up with the times by engaging with readers on digital platforms. Social media allows university presses to promote their books and journals outside of academia, thereby expanding their brands and reaching a wider audience of non-scholarly readers who are interested in their midlist and trade titles. Rather than relying on libraries as they did in the past, university presses are focusing on marketing directly to a diverse readership.
Another platform that university presses have begun to utilize in recent years is YouTube. Oxford University Press, in particular, has been very invested in marketing through videos: according to an article in Publishers Weekly, as of 2014, the press’s marketing department had more than forty staff members working on video production and related projects. That investment seems to be paying off: as of January 2019, OUP’s YouTube channel, The Oxford Academic, had over 48,000 subscribers. This may come as a surprise to some, since the channel’s content (which includes a variety of interviews with authors and academic experts) focuses on the press’s more scholarly works. Similarly, the Harvard University Press YouTube channel features a video of a talk by mathematician Paul Lockhart (author of the HUP title Measurement) that has garnered over 47,000 views.
These examples show that despite recent changes and setbacks, university presses can still appeal to large audiences. People are still hungry for the thoughtful, high-quality content that university presses have to offer—it’s just a matter of finding a modern platform that will help presses engage with those readers.

Presenting The Gifts We Keep

Hello, everyone! My name is Emily Frantz, and I became a project manager way back in April. Sorry for the delayed greetings! But I promise that during all that time, I’ve been busy helping launch an amazing new project for Ooligan that I am thrilled to finally share with you. The Gifts We Keep, by debut author Katie Grindeland, is the first of the Library Writers Project selections to be annually published through the unique partnership between Multnomah County Library and Ooligan Press.

Since 2015, from mid-October to mid-December each year, Multnomah County Library accepts submissions from local authors who would like to see their work added to the library’s ebook collection. Now, through this partnership, selections from the Library Writers Project will be traditionally published by Ooligan Press—joining the forces of local authors, a local library, and a local publisher to help our literary community as a whole flourish into the future.

I have been working hard with my team on The Gifts We Keep, a selection from 2015 that has been among the most popular titles offered through the Library Writers Project. It is an evocative work of fiction told through the eyes of five protagonists about family, pain, loss, and the gifts left in the wake of tragedy. Dangerous secrets, past tragedies, and a violent obsession emerge when Emerson and her estranged family agree to care for a ten-year-old Native-Alaskan girl and a complete stranger, Addie. Emerson has buried her emotions since her husband’s suicide a decade past. Meanwhile, her younger sister, Tillie, pursues a new romance with a woman and avoids her questions about the accident which left her in a wheelchair. Their mother, Eve, flits through life unable to address her daughters’ pain. And the handsome neighbor, Henry, jumps from one adulterous relationship to another while pining for the woman he truly loves. If these five can face their true selves, each other, and their past, they just might find a way forward to a life filled with love and happiness.

My team is now at the stage where we are collecting reviews, sending out press releases, and crafting social media in preparation for the release of the book in April. But it feels just like yesterday that I was starting out on this project with no idea where it would go. We have come so far, and this partnership will continue long after The Gifts We Keep is published and out into the world. I am so happy that I have seen the beginning of this new chapter at Ooligan and can’t wait to bring you the final version of The Gifts We Keep. Until then, stay tuned on Ooligan’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates. The Gifts We Keep will be available in both trade paperback and ebook versions on April 16, 2019.

To learn more about The Gifts We Keep and Katie Grindeland, please visit our book page.
Click here for more insight on the Library Writers Project and for information on how to submit your manuscript to the library.

Instant Entertainment: Ebooks at the Library

Tech-savvy bibliophiles around the globe have frequently asked for a “Netflix” for books. However, what they seem to be forgetting is that this service already exists. It’s called the library. However, as with anything publicly funded, the digital side of libraries has been slow to grow. In 2016, Publishers Weekly reported librarians’ general worry over the expense of ebooks. And a 2017 report from the Library Journal indicates that on average, libraries allocate only 9 percent of their budget to ebooks. Because of this slower growth, a couple of other subscription-based ebook services have popped up.

That being said, there are a few reasons to choose the local library for your ebook needs. First of all, it’s free! The quality of the titles is another reason. While some of the other services may boast more titles, they often pad their numbers with whatever cheap publication they can find, and these are often self-published ebooks. A library’s titles are chosen by the readers and the highly trained librarians. Libraries also support small publishers and self-published books through programs like the Library Journal self-e, which focuses on local authors.

Overdrive, the leading ebook lending service, connects to thousands of libraries around the world, and just celebrated their 1 billionth ebook rental. Overdrive has millions of digital titles, and any library can acquire any number of those titles. This is where the budget comes in. The more the digital services are utilized at a library, the more of the library’s budget can go towards ebook titles.

Overdrive is easy to sign up for and use. They’ve even instituted a digital library card program, so now you really can download the app, get a library card, and borrow dozens of ebooks all without ever leaving your home. Of course, it’s mobile too! Ebooks are great for traveling, and there are even some airport kiosks that offer temporary library cards for travelers (a service soon to be obsolete with the new digital cards).

Libraries are important. This is a sentiment most book-lovers, students, and publishers agree on. Like most services that are publicly funded, libraries must remain important in the public eye in order to retain their funding. This means that readers are important to libraries. Unfortunately, the Multnomah County Library has some alarming numbers to report: this year, only 55 percent of those polled thought it would be a great loss for a library to shut down. This number fell from 71 percent in the last ten years. While libraries may be a little slow keeping up with the fast pace of the digital world, they are working hard to do so. Now it’s up to readers and book-lovers everywhere to embrace and support their local libraries as they continue to adapt to the public’s needs.

Oyster, Scribd, Kindle Unlimited & Overdrive: More Developments in Stream-Reading

Recently, there have been several big changes in the book-subscription-service world.

Oyster, an ebook-subscription service, announced in September 2015 that it would be ending all services in January 2016. In June 2015, the Scribd subscription service announced it would be limiting the number of romance titles in its catalog due to their extreme popularity. Kindle Unlimited has changed the way its authors are paid for their ebooks, from a number-of-books-borrowed to a number-of-pages-read metric.

It is hard to tell how well these services are doing. Statistics are selectively released to the public. Scribd boasts one billion pages read in 2014—impressive, yes—but we don’t know what kind of success that is for the company. Were they aiming for half that? Three times that? How much did it cost them? Kindle Unlimited paid authors more from May to June 2015 than the Nook store did, but we still don’t know what kind of reveue the company has created. Oyster and Scribd miscalculated profit and loss in a way that directly affected its readers. As a result, one is shutting its doors, and another has removed many of its more popular titles.

One suggestion is that standalone ebook-subscription services are unsustainable, but recent data show that ebook subscribers spend more on books than nonsubscribers do. This still doesn’t mean the standalone model is profitable; we still don’t have the numbers to show whether it is or not. Simply put, the readers cannot read more than the company spends on books.

Something that is often missing from this conversation is that there is already a “Netflix for books.” Public libraries have existed in the United States since the late 1800s. Overdrive is the largest of the digital library vendors, partnering with thirty-four thousand libraries worldwide. Libraries celebrated a one-day record of over half a million checkouts through Overdrive in June 2015. Many libraries, unlike Scribd, have limits to the number of titles a single user can have at a time and the number of users a single title can have at a time. These statistics might be even higher if there were no limits; 195,000 users have placed themselves on a waitlist for a title on the same day.

There are no data that show how many library users are also ebook-service subscribers attempting to cover a gap in a subscription. No one has done a study showing how many people are tired of waiting for a book and leave the library for Scribd. More data should be collected if the publishing industry wants to know who its real power users could be. Those who use the library heavily but also purchase ebooks are a very real, untapped market. Similarly, there are no statistics yet showing the number of romance titles checked out of Overdrive after Scribd pulled them from its catalog. Keeping statistics close to the vest might be good for individual services as they adapt in this rapidly changing environment. We won’t have to wait long to see what happens next.

Marketing to Libraries: Why It’s a Good Idea

Libraries seem to be one of the most underrated marketing opportunities that many publishers tend to pay less attention to than they should. Something about libraries gives the impression that marketing to libraries is more of a by-product of publishing books rather than a highly profitable use of marketing manpower. The reality is that libraries are a $5 billion market that is totally worth putting time and effort into.

Many publishers buy into the diverse myths about libraries and even librarians that, when we actually look at the facts, are completely unwarranted, and keep these companies from really taking advantage of a great source of revenue and even advertisement.

One of the misconceptions of marketing to libraries is that libraries only buy one copy of a book at time. Publishers decided that the sale of one book is not worth the effort it takes to get the library to buy the book. However, the truth is a different story. Libraries most often buy multiple copies of a book. Indeed, the more popular they believe a title will be, the more copies they will buy. This also goes for reference material; it is a common practice for libraries to buy at least two copies: one for their reference section and one a general circulation copy.

Because circulation copies of books are often destroyed after a period of time (some shorter than others) libraries have to constantly restock their supply of books as they come back damaged from patrons. As a result there is long term revenue coming from these libraries as they continue to replace damaged books. As a bonus, libraries are not subject to the return policy that is often so devastating for publishers.

Many publishers worry that selling to libraries will reduce their sales in bookstores and direct sales, but past experience shows different. Often, when a book does well in the libraries, this will drive bookstores to buy more copies. Let us not forget those book buyers who like to, in a way, test drive books before buying them from a store. If they like the book, or the first book in a series, they are more likely to go buy it from a bookstore so they can have their own copy.

Libraries also provide a great advertising service to publishers who reach to this market. While some believe that the only books that get reviewed in library publications are those printed by large publishers, many librarians work to find books from small publishers as well. They see even-handed reviewing between big trade publishers and small presses to be beneficial, not just for the industry, but for the library as well. The more information and knowledge they can have of the current state of publishing the better, and reviewing books is one way of doing this.

Not to mention the sheer amount of books that libraries often put on display. The best part about it is that they are not all books from large publishers, nor are they always brand new books. Often, libraries will display books that go with whatever holiday is coming up, old favorites, and sometimes their own personal favorites.

In the end, it’s a pretty solid marketing plan to make sure that libraries are included in a publishers efforts in selling and promoting their books. Especially with the unfortunate decline of bookstore sales, publishers will find the libraries have now become one of their greatest assets for the success of their press as long as they are willing to put in a little extra effort to reach out to them.

Replacing The Myths About Marketing to Libraries on the Combined Book Exhibit website is a great source for those worried about going into this area of marketing and debunks many of the myths that surrounds this lucrative market.