Bringing More than Marriage from idea to reality

Last spring, the pitch for the anthology More than Marriage was delivered to the Ooligan staff and voted into development. Since then, the team has been working on submission collection and getting the nuts and bolts of prepublication completed. Kate, the project manager for the anthology, has been keeping a record of the weekly goings-on for the book on the Start to Finish page. But what exactly goes into creating an anthology?

I come from a literary magazine background, where we create a theme for each issue out of the best submissions of the current reading period. As a student, my experience with anthologies is also made up of various classes that require these collections of articles for reading and assignments, but the process by which the item itself is created is never addressed.

Anthologies are not like novels. They do not start with a fully developed manuscript or a completely thought out table of contents. And, unlike their literary magazine cousin, they do not create a theme after the submissions are rolling in. Instead, an anthology starts with an idea, a tiny thought that gets shaped and developed through discussion and time. More than Marriage was thought up by the current project manager, Kate, and over the course of a term and a half, fleshed out into a full pitch that was presented and accepted by the Ooligan staff.

The pitch included the working title, the marketing plan, the desired editor—Carter Sickels—who would be responsible for the final acceptance of any submissions, and some background information of the current market. After the pitch was delivered and accepted, it was time to start building the manuscript. To do this, the call for submissions had to go out, but it’s more difficult that just posting a Facebook status saying, “Send us your stories!” We needed to target a specific type of story and a specific type of writer that would gain us the submissions we wanted. There were several drafts of the call in which the language was fine tuned again and again until it was posted on the Ooligan site.

And then the waiting began. We waited and waited while the submissions trickled in, and as we scanned them we began to see that the original pitch for the project had to change. That is one of the more difficult things about creating an anthology comprised of several voices. You can never guarantee that you are going to get exactly what you want. You can cross your fingers and hope, but in the end you have to be flexible with your plan.

The other issue that you have to be constantly aware of is the tone you are creating. Having many voices contributing to one unified sound, like a choir singing Mozart, means that some excellent submissions will, unfortunately, have to be placed in the rejection pile. As the deadline for submissions drew closer, it became obvious that we needed more time and the date was pushed back. In the end, we received about 30 essays from about 27 authors. Currently, we are still in the process of developing our full manuscript.

Once we have the full manuscript in place, we will begin to develop a more targeted marketing plan. In a similar way that the call for submissions had to be specific enough to get the types of stories we wanted, the way we promote the finished anthology has to be able to reach the desired audience. This subject is still relatively new to Ooligan and we want More than Marriage to be more than a textbook assigned by a professor. We want everyone to pick up the anthology and see a complete story—much like you would get from a novel—just told from several voices.

Keep following the More than Marriage Start to Finish page to see where we are in the process.

Ooligan Press at the PNBA Tradeshow

This Monday Ooligan Press was lucky enough to snag a table at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA) Fall Tradeshow. And while the tradeshow closely followed Wordstock, the two events were entirely different. For one thing, the conference was only open to book industry professionals. For another, the goal was to promote books, not sell them. Publishers, distribution services, and writers’ groups all had tables handing out leaflets, collateral, and advance review copies of their newest publications. As I walked around looking at the booths, the first thing I learned was that although the organization is called the Pacific Northwest Book Association, the publishers present spanned the entire country. Ooligan’s table was directly in front of Random House, for example, and mere feet away from Penguin’s. It was exciting to see Ooligan Press’s representatives talking to booksellers alongside the heaviest hitters in the publishing game.
The Ooligan Table at PNBA 2013
For our part, we used the opportunity to tell the bookselling public about Ruth Tenzer Feldman’s The Ninth Day, our newest title. This soon-to-be-released companion novel to the OBA-winning Blue Thread (2012) was front and center on our table, and the first thing we told visitors about.  We received a fair amount of interest, and gave away a few copies to reviewers, booksellers, and librarians in the know. It didn’t hurt, of course, that Ruth would be signing books at the tradeshow the next day.
Not just publishers had tables. Ooligan’s table was next to Seattle7Writers, an organization of Pacific Northwest authors supporting each other and the written word. In between pitches to booksellers, our close proximity allowed us to discuss ways we can support each other. For example, they were happy to hear and spread the word about our call for submissions for our anthology More than Marriage. It’s these sorts of connections that help bolster Ooligan Press’s reach in the publishing world.
Along with making connections with other publishing professionals, the PNBA trade show was also a great place to eavesdrop. As I surveyed the different booths and books, I overheard one publisher tell another, “This year, it’s all about cookbooks.” Judging from the amount of glossy pictures of fennel salads adorning the shelves, I couldn’t help but agree. However, the trade show wasn’t just about cookbooks—it was also about chocolate. Just about all of the booths had at least one bowl of sweets peppering their table, a great tactic to lure in potential business. I asked Ingram Publisher Services’s representative, Gary Lothian, about the approach, and he assured me it was par for the course. “Yeah, it’s all about chocolate in the publishing world,” he told me. “Chocolate and caffeine.” That was all the affirmation I needed to know I was in the right business.