One Project’s End Is Another’s Beginning

The end of any project can be bittersweet. Returning to square one of the production schedule with a new book project can be a bit of a shock—but at Ooligan Press, we don’t have to go cold turkey because our previous project is still ours, and it serves as a critical reminder of what you’re working towards. Memories Flow in Our Veins has been out for two months, and it continues to surprise us with its sweet victories and positive reception.

In addition to being included on the Tumblr Queer Book Club’s list of top ten April book releases, Memories received its first review in the June/July print issue of BUST magazine—the one and only magazine that provides a book rating system on a scale of one to five tiny boob icons. (Spoiler alert: Memories knocked it out the park with a five-boob [OMG AMAZING] review—find it on newsstands this summer!)

We’ve been hustling behind the scenes to maintain this momentum, assembling all the necessary materials to help the summer team follow through on our postpub sales and publicity goals. Some endeavors, like our effort to pitch Memories to local specialty markets, have already yielded promising results. Other efforts, like our work to present our anthology as a new go-to text for the college classrooms where CALYX titles have previously thrived as academic tools, have proved to be more involved and will require ongoing pursuit from the summer team if they choose.

As for our next move as a team, we have already been assigned to our new project, and its development is well underway. Earlier this spring, Ooligan Press voted to acquire a new young-adult-fiction manuscript by debut author Meagan Macvie. Meagan’s work first came to the attention of Ooligan’s acquisitions managers at the 2016 Write to Publish conference, and as the acquisitions department was abuzz about the manuscript from the moment they heard the pitch, our team was delighted to dig in on this new assignment. Our first round of developmental edits is complete, and the summer project team will be eagerly waiting to receive the next draft.

Next up: additional rounds of developmental editing and heavy line editing, researching and building our marketing plan, brainstorming titles, helping CALYX Press to plan a small summer reading tour, and setting up a brand-new Start to Finish page. Memories, over and out!

Rough and Tumblr

For those not in the know, Tumblr is an incredibly popular microblogging platform where users can post content of all kinds—video, text, pictures, music, and more. Personally, I have had a Tumblr since 2010; I adore it as a creative outlet and a means to discover new things. While my Tumblr is just for fun, all of the big five publishing houses, most of their imprints, and many small, midsized, and independent publishing houses have Tumblr accounts. Ooligan has been operating its Tumblr since 2013. For the latest Ooligan book, Memories Flow in Our Veins, we created a new Tumblr, Memories Anthology, dedicated solely to the book as part of a marketing strategy and social media experiment.

In the initial proposal for creating the Tumblr account, the purpose was outlined to market the book, create an engaging and interactive site, distribute feminist-oriented content that leads back to Ooligan, and explore the potential of Tumblr and the effectiveness of a sub-blog connected to the Ooligan account. Basically, the goal was to create an interesting site with literary and feminist content that reached beyond the typical audience of the main Ooligan Press blog. The four goals outlined in the proposal were:

  1. Market Memories utilizing posts and tags, and following and engaging with the many robust feminist communities on Tumblr.
  2. Increase the online visibility of Memories and Ooligan Press during our awareness campaign, which coincides with Women’s History Month.
  3. Cultivate an intellectual space surrounding female writers and feminism to generate interest in Memories and contextualize it in the trend towards diversity in reading/writing/publishing.
  4. Explore the potential and effectiveness of book-focused sub-Tumblrs for future use by other Ooligan project teams.

To meet all of these goals, the Memories Tumblr has a wide variety of posts, including quotes from women writers; articles on gender, sexuality, diversity, and feminism; pictures of books, libraries, and other reading; and of course, information about the book. The Tumblr campaign was active for roughly eighty days before activity on the blog halted. Over the course of that time, the Tumblr account accrued a total of twenty-two followers, which by Tumblr standards is a pitifully small number. To add salt to that wound, over half of the followers were current Ooligan students who were instructed to follow the account. The Memories team identified interesting feminist and literary content with which to populate the blog, amassing 377 posts which gained a total of ninety-five likes and reblogs. Again, rather small numbers considering our attempt to expand our audience.

Part of my work for the Tumblr account was to reach out to other popular feminist, LGBT, and book Tumblrs to submit information about, and images of, Memories Flow in Our Veins in hopes of gaining coverage. After many submissions and no replies, success! Queer Book Club included Memories in a roundup of 10 Queer Books Out in April. Seeing results, even a single post, was incredibly rewarding, especially because of the amazing titles Memories was placed next to. This positive feedback would have reinvigorated my efforts, but the post came out a few days after the Tumblr campaign came to a close.

It has been frustrating to put so much effort into writing the proposal, creating and designing the website, finding and managing content, and reaching out to other Tumblr users only to achieve minimal results and have the site become inactive. From the beginning it was planned that the Tumblr would stop being updated shortly after the publication of Memories, but it is difficult to see all the work I’ve done simply fall into disuse. But, despite the frustrations and minimal success of the Memories Tumblr, a lot was learned that can be applied to the Ooligan Press Tumblr. For example, the effort to gain and engage followers is ultimately futile if the blog is temporary, so it seems more productive to apply those same efforts to the Ooligan Tumblr instead. Additionally, followers seemed to enjoy (via likes and reblogs) a wide variety of content, which is something the Ooligan Tumblr currently struggles with. Visual content—especially book images, illustrations, and paintings—was especially popular with the Memories followers. So follow the Ooligan Press Tumblr now if you want to see if these new ideas are put into action.

Memories Portland Launch: Feminist Pub Trivia

I was nervous to start the Ooligan program this term, but when my project team told me our first task was to launch Memories Flow in Our Vein by hosting a feminist pub trivia event, I knew I was in the right place.
Though Memories Flow in Our Veins launched at this year’s AWP in March, the book’s Portland launch was on April 21, surrounded by the warm and open atmosphere of the Belgian pub Bazi Bierbrasserie. Somewhere around fifty people showed up for the event; the tables were packed, and even the bar was full of trivia contestants. Ooligan students, professors, friends, the CALYX team, and even some strangers scattered here and there chatted over beer and pub food while waiting for trivia to start.
Memorable team names included Michelle Obama’s Arms (because why not?), My Interesting Lady Friend (yes, that’s a reference to Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), and impressively, two separate Susan B. Anthony puns.
The Memories team had worked hard to ensure that questions were difficult, diverse, and interesting. Consequently, when teams were asked what kind of fluid ancient Roman women wore to improve their complexions, there were some unusual responses. Of course, the actual answer was also weird—the sweat of gladiators—but the fluids brainstormed by my team were significantly more disgusting. If I had been worried that there would be tension or uncomfortable competitiveness, it was quickly dismissed with everyone’s reactions to this question.
We really did try to make these questions difficult so that no single team would have all the answers. The group I sat with won third place, but no one on the team had any idea when the first woman ran for president, let alone what her name was. (For those interested, it was women’s rights activist Victoria Woodhull in 1872.) My group had only discussed possibilities from the twenty-first century, perhaps thinking that if people have such a problem with Hillary Clinton today, nineteenth-century politics wouldn’t have even allowed for a female candidate. It turns out we just haven’t made as much progress as we thought.
For those who weren’t up on historical facts about women’s rights, there were questions about sports, politics, literature, science, and pop culture. If you didn’t know what kind of creature Nettie Stevens used to determine biological gender through chromosomes (mealworms), you might know instead the hashtag that Star Wars fans used to call attention to the lack of merchandise that included female protagonist Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (#WheresRey).
Because anything can be a marketing opportunity, we shamelessly plugged Memories Flow in Our Veins right before we got to the trivia category focusing on Memories and CALYX. Teams were allowed to buy the book and then flip through for answers, and since many of us are college students, we know how to quickly navigate through front and back matter. Though each group performed admirably, the team from CALYX scored the highest, to no one’s surprise. (To their credit, they graciously declined their prize of Ooligan backlist books and merchandise, granting it instead to the runner-up.)
For many of the Memories team members, the feminist pub trivia event was the culmination of a long, sometimes hectic but ultimately fulfilling process. Some of them are graduating at the end of this term, so launching the book was as much a goodbye as it was a celebration. For me, so new to the program, it gave me a glimpse of what I can look forward to in the next couple of years: hardworking students, supportive professors, a feeling of camaraderie, beautiful books, and hopefully more Belgian beer.
The Memories project team members, past and present.

Riding the Post-Pub Wave

Perhaps you’re wondering, now that we’ve successfully launched Memories Flow in Our Veins and tracked its production from start to finish in this blog series, what does the “finish” really look like for an Ooligan Press title? The answer is complex, and it is best answered with another question: when your title is ostensibly finished, what do you do next?

Once Memories was released, the project team made a very familiar return to a document that we’ve used throughout production as a guide to our goals and a map to achieve them: our marketing plan. At the suggestion of Ooligan’s marketing lead, our team took a quick post-publication reassessment of our marketing plan and some of our early marketing brainstorms to seek out those great ideas that had yet to be implemented and what marketing strategies might be upcycled in fresh ways for our sell-through plan.

In tandem with our publicity strategies already underway—including our feminist trivia launch event in Portland, our continued efforts to spread our digital marketing artifacts to reach readers seeking out more women for their bookshelves, and our work to research and pitch Memories as the fresh and insightful women’s lit resource we know it to be for academic markets—we’re continually working to prepare for new opportunities to publicize our title. Even as we gear up to take on the next project acquired by Ooligan Press later on the spring, our team is in constant motion to make sure that all our strategies for Memories are in place and ready to be unrolled over the coming weeks and months.

What do you do when your book is finished? You hop on that sell-through plan your team has created and ride the publicity long-tail all the way to shore; and if you can keep running from there, you keep running right into the backlist. As we’re taught in our Business of Book Publishing course: always sell your backlist!

Happy #BookBirthday! Memories Flow in Our Veins Has Arrived

Last week, amidst the flurry of the twelve thousand writers, publishers, and book lovers in attendance at the 2016 AWP Conference in Los Angeles, Memories Flow in Our Veins: Forty Years of Women’s Writing From CALYX made its long-anticipated debut. Those of us on the project team who have been, up until this point, the book’s biggest fans were completely delighted and so grateful to everyone who stopped by the Ooligan Press booth to heap praise and appreciation on Memories and talk to us about the project. We lost track of the number of times someone beelined towards it to remark on how beautiful the cover is—cover judgment totally welcome. Thanks, everyone!

With our books in hand, the project team back in Portland has plenty of upcoming work to keep us busy. We’re planning a local launch for the book (info below!) and strategizing the marketing and publicity long-tail for the anthology—continuing to pursue post-publication reviews, make pitches to potential sales partners, and generate promotional content to carry our title into the hands of readers.

If you missed the launch in Los Angeles, there will be many opportunities ahead to come out and celebrate: on Thursday April 21 from 7 to 9 p.m., Ooligan Press will host a night of Memories-inspired feminist pub trivia at Portland’s Bazi Bierbrasserie, featuring general trivia about women in art and literature, feminism in politics and pop culture, and our favorite feminist icons.

We’ll see you there! Visit the Memories book page here to read more about the book and find it in a bookstore near you.

Checklist to Stereotypical Female Characters

April 1 marks the end of Women’s History Month, and Ooligan Press is going out with a bang. Today at the AWP Conference & Bookfair in Los Angeles, we are launching Memories Flow in Our Veins, an anthology of prolific women writers that was collected in partnership with CALYX Press. After months of hard work, Ooligan is making sure Women’s History Month continues on throughout the rest of the year.

To celebrate the amazing contribution women have made to literature, both as the authors of works and the characters within them, have a satirical checklist guide to creating a stereotypical, commercially-approved “strong female character.” Let’s see how many popular heroines we can check off this list, shall we?

  • Have her beat up a man within the first twenty pages. The closer you make the beating to her introduction, the stronger a female character she will be. In the best case scenario, she enters the story already karate kicking. Bonus points if she knows science-y stuff.
  • Avoid femininity in favor of a sexual militant look. This sexual militant look must be effortless and accidental, because strong female characters are too strong to put time into their appearance. That would mean they were shallow or weak (except for that one scene where she wears the slinky dress and we realize she’s human … or at least a viable sexual partner).
  • Give her a generous amount of dialogue relating to her independence and autonomy. This is to make sure that people understand she is a strong female character. If possible, throw in some jabs at the male characters and their maleness, because the best way to eradicate the objectification of one gender is to objectify another gender.
  • Emotional scarring is a must. Emotional damage is a good way to explain her lack of soft, feminine values, especially if this damage relates back in some way to a man. This adds complexity, making the strength of your female character actually a flaw that needs to be fixed (probably by the hero).
  • Keep her alone on her pedestal of perfect strong female character-ness. While male characters can be surrounded by buddies without losing integrity, it is best if your strong female character is a lone wolf. Too many strong female characters may push the story into “feminist” territory, and no one wants that. (The one exception to this rule is if you have another strong female character and they are in conflict with one another. Everyone likes catfights.)
  • Multitask, and knock out the diversity requirement by making her a minority. Let’s face it, modern stories don’t just require that women be included. They also need diversity. A clever way to meet this requirement is to knock out both at once and make your strong female character black or Asian or Latina. Now you’ve got more room for more white male characters.

If you are looking for some realistic, engaging female characters to counter these stereotypes, consider purchasing your own copy of Memories Flow in Our Veins. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for more information about our Memories launch party on April 21, with Feminist Pub Trivia Night at Bazi Bierbrasserie.

Advice from CALYX Authors to Inspire You to Be Your Most Awesome Self

CALYX Journal, the feminist literary periodical, was founded forty years ago on March 11, 1976, by four women intent on providing a forum for the many wide-ranging and diverse voices that make up women writers and artists. To celebrate, CALYX and Ooligan Press have been diligently working to ready Memories Flow in Our Veins: Forty Years of Women’s Writing from CALYX, an anthology of poetry and prose handpicked by the CALYX Editorial Collective for publication in April 2016. CALYX has won numerous literary awards and has served as a launching pad for a host of female writers, from Julia Alvarez to Sharon Olds to Barbara Kingsolver, among four thousand others. Here are sixteen brilliant quotes from CALYX writers to guide you toward being an even better, kinder, and smarter person than you already are.

On Wandering:

“There are ways in, journeys to the center of life, through time; through air, matter, dream and thought. The ways are not always mapped or charted, but sometimes being lost, if there is such a thing, is the sweetest place to be. And always, in this search, a person might find that she is already there, at the center of the world. It may be a broken world, but it is glorious nonetheless.”
―Linda Hogan, The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir

On Learning:

“If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.” ―Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

On Purpose:

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” ―Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

On the Body:

“This body is yours. No one can ever take it from you, if only you will accept yourself, claim it again—your arms, your spine, your ribs, the small of your back. It’s all yours. All this bounty, all this beauty, all this strength and grace is yours. This garden is yours. Take it back. Take it back.” ―Jean Hegland, Into the Forest

On Morality:

“Do nothing because it is righteous or praiseworthy or noble to do so; do nothing because it seems good to do so; do only that which you must do and which you cannot do in any other way.” ―Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore

On Worry:

“Don’t create snakes out of ropes. You have enough to worry about.” ―Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Mistress of Spices

On Spontaneity:

“Don’t plan it all. Let life surprise you a little.” ––Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies

On Crying:

Tears have a purpose. They are what we carry of the ocean, and perhaps we must become the sea, give ourselves to it, if we are to be transformed.” ―Linda Hogan, Solar Storms

On Seizing the Moment:

“This is your life. You are responsible for it. You will not live forever. Don’t wait.” ―Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life

On Self-Care:

“Take your vitamins. Exercise. Just work to love yourself as much as you can—not more than the people around you but not so much less.” ––Sharon Olds, “Advice to Young Poets: Sharon Olds in Conversation,” interview by Michael Laskey

On Control:

“Life is not orderly. No matter how we try to make it so, right in the middle of it we die, lose a leg, fall in love, or drop a jar of applesauce.” ―Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life

On Reading:

“Even the worst book can give us something to think about.” ––Wislawa Szymborska

On Writing:

“Allow yourself to release the emotions you have struggled all your life to contain.” ––Ellen Bass

“I have learned over the years that all I can do is reach for something difficult—try to get the colors right and the negative space, the angle of the light. And if a few people can see it, that has to be enough.” ––Molly Gloss, Falling from Horses

“Words aren’t simply words. They represent something. As I would say, take the ordinary and make it extraordinary.” ––Colleen J. McElroy, “‘Make the Ordinary Extraordinary:’ Interview with Colleen J. McElroy,” interview by Sampsonia Way

And, Most Importantly:

“Do NOT copy John Grisham.” ––Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “In the Footsteps of Achebe: Enter Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigeria’s Newest Literary Voice,” interview by Ikechuku Anya

Putting Memories on the Radar

A funny thing happens in the period of time between the actual printing and delivery of a book and the book’s true publication date, two events that occur so close together that they could hold hands. You, the publisher, find yourself firmly planted between them with both hands full. Ostensibly, the book is finished: the work on the book itself is done, you’ve got real copies in hand, and it’s even more stately in person than you imagined it would be. It’s definitely a finished book—and yet, a critical phase of marketing and promotion lies ahead that could make or break your upcoming title.

The question you must answer during this phase is a familiar one that guides and informs many other decisions throughout the publishing process: How do we make sure this book reaches all of the readers who will love it best?

Since the arrival of our galleys last month, the Ooligan Press project team working to publish Memories Flow in Our Veins: Forty Years of Women’s Writing from CALYX has taken a headlong dive into answering this question for our book in real time. As a team, we’ve been very intentional about how we use our resources and where we send our limited supply of galleys. We’ve researched deep, seeking out the magazines, newspapers, and digital media that our feminist bookworm audience looks to for reading recommendations. We continue to brainstorm ways to connect Memories Flow in Our Veins with organizations and individuals who support diverse, woman-powered creativity and who can help us boost the visibility of the book before and after its launch.

With just one month to go before the 2016 AWP Conference and our April 1 pub date, we’ve still got a lot left to do—more research, more pitching, more outreach. Between now and then, you can expect to see more of Memories on social media as we launch our awareness and pre-order campaigns (coming soon!), and continue to find innovative ways to put Memories Flow in Our Veins on the radar.

Galleys: The Harbinger of a Book Launch to Come

By the time this post undergoes editing, makes the posting calendar, and arrives on the Ooligan Press blog, Memories Flow in Our Veins will have reached a particularly tangible benchmark in the publishing lifecycle: our galleys will have arrived!

For many of the folks on the team this term, the arrival of these galleys will be the first time they experience the thrill of holding a book-shaped physical manifestation of the work they’ve put into an Ooligan title. There’s a special satisfaction that comes from being able to flip through the fresh-cut pages of a galley for a manuscript that you’re so intimately acquainted with, one that you’ve read dozens of times before as a PDF proof, as a first draft document, and (in the case of Memories) as a collection of scans of the various CALYX Press titles and copies of CALYX Journal from which this remarkable anthology draws material.

Moreover, galleys are the harbinger of a book launch to come. Their arrival marks the beginning of a book marketing campaign that the Memories team has been avidly preparing for—one that has continued to evolve as the book has taken shape. At each step, we have paused to marvel at the unique opportunity we have to promote such an unflinchingly authentic, deeply feminist collection of writing by some of our own personal author-heroes. The challenge ahead of us now is to employ our cleverest marketing schemes to do justice to Memories Flow in Our Veins by spreading it as far as we can and finding all of the virtual and real-life bookshelves it belongs on. At a time when readers and publishers alike have begun to take take up the call for more diverse stories and a wider breadth of representation in our culture of books, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

Next up for Memories: mailing galleys, selecting a printer, beginning our ebook design, and reaching out to our favorite feminist bookworms.

Short Stories and Small Presses

Short stories have long been considered something of a necessary evil in the world of publishing. It is a truism that “short stories don’t sell,” and the major publishing houses are usually reluctant to take on any anthology that doesn’t feature at least one superstar author. A small-scale press, on the other hand, can be an ideal fit for short-and-sweet literature—indie publishers tend to value quality over mere profitability, and they are more likely to take a chance on new writers and unconventional forms of storytelling.

One of the best ways to get a short story published is to submit it to a literary journal or magazine, most of which operate out of their own dedicated presses. In fact, it’s common for aspiring writers to break into the literary world and start building their reputations by submitting their work to such journals. Many famous authors—such as Mark Twain, John Updike, George Saunders, Joyce Carol Oates, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Raymond Carver—began their illustrious careers this way. Even several of the writers published by Ooligan Press have contributed short pieces to various literary publications, including The Bushwick Review in New York City, San Francisco’s ZYZZYVA, famed feminist journal CALYX, and the cutting-edge online magazine Guernica.

Ooligan Press itself has developed discerning taste in anthologies, which has proved to be one of the most flexible mediums for showcasing the diverse voices of the Pacific Northwest. Ooligan’s most recently published example is Untangling the Knot, a provocative collection that explores the often mixed opinions about same-sex marriage within the LGBTQ community. Ooligan’s next anthology coming down the pipeline is Memories Flow in Our Veins, a joint project with CALYX, Inc., celebrating forty years of writing from the best women authors in the country. The tradition continues with Ooligan’s most recently acquired manuscript—a family-themed short-story collection by emerging writer and Ooligan alumna Kait Heacock. A complete list of the press’s anthologies can be found on its website.

Graywolf Press is another small publisher that has made a name for itself in the short-story market. Originally a press dedicated exclusively to poetry, Graywolf has since diversified into the full range of genres and acquired a reputation for producing high-quality literature. Short-story collections from Graywolf Press consistently win the Bakeless Prize for Fiction and garner rave reviews from big-name publications like Publishers Weekly, The New York Times Book Review, Library Journal, and The Huffington Post.

If there is such a thing as a perfect union between the small-scale publisher business model and the short-story genre, then Pushcart Press has surely achieved it. Pushcart Press is the publisher of the Pushcart Prize series, which annually collects the year’s best short stories, essays, and poems produced by small presses all over the world into a single volume. With this one book, readers gain access to some of the highest-quality literature available from the most innovative indie publishers. In recognition of this legacy, Publishers Weekly has dubbed the Pushcart Prize one of the most influential players in the history of publishing.

The big houses in the publishing industry often regard anthologies as throwaway extras, but small presses dedicate just as much time, labor, and love to their short-story collections as they do to full-length works. In fact, the little publishers seem to be the biggest supporters of the short-story genre—journals printed out of their own presses are the primary medium for shorter works and emerging authors, and the foremost short-story prize not only accepts submissions exclusively from small presses but is itself run by an indie publisher. It seems fitting that smaller-scale presses and short stories would work so well together.