Inside Ooligan: The Art of Wearing Many Hats

I have several friends in various stages of graduate school, and they all hate me. Why? Because I love grad school. For them, grad school means picking a narrow focus (especially in the sciences, where a graduate degree is spent essentially creating and testing your thesis), hopefully something they are already passionate about, and then researching it to death until all the passion is gone and they want to do something completely different. I have a friend who got a masters degree in physics and ended up working in banking. No joke. I, on the other hand, am having a blast in grad school. Sure, it’s a lot of work and the deadlines are stressful, but I’m not losing passion for my subject—I’m gaining it.

Here’s why: getting a graduate degree in book publishing at PSU means learning the art of wearing many different hats. Sure, multitasking is hard, but you also never get bored—especially on the quarter system, where classes are fast-paced, projects are always running, and there are always challenges and surprises. Rather than spending all my time researching just one topic or choosing a narrow focus to begin with (mine was editing coming in), I’ve taken classes and learned from real, hands-on working experience at the press about marketing, editing, social media, and best of all, design. That’s right, I came into this program wanting to be an editor—and I still do—but I’ve also fallen in love with design. This past week I got to make a tip sheet for an actual book. My other grad school friends don’t get how exciting that is, but that’s ok.

While my friends are complaining about their research groups or wanting to strangle their thesis advisor for the twentieth time, I’m working with new professors and new groups of people almost every quarter. At the same time, it is still a small program, so I get plenty of opportunities to get hands-on, real-world experience in the publishing industry. Last quarter, I participated in the heavy copyedit of the book my project team is working to publish as well as doing lots of research on related, socially-minded organizations, possible blurbers, podcasts we might like to reach out to, and more. I edited emails, helped write back cover copy, and witnessed the cover design process. I even got a say in the cover design decision. This quarter, we’re working on sales kits and marketing materials, like the tip sheet I just finished.

In addition to all the classes I’m taking on different areas of the industry (editing, marketing, design, acquisitions, etc.), I’m actually doing things in almost all of these areas through Ooligan Press. For example, I just read a book proposal for acquisitions that I absolutely loved, and I can’t wait to see what happens and if it becomes one of our next projects. I’ll still be writing and defending a thesis in the end, but in today’s world of independent publishers and freelance publishing services, knowing how to do everything with confidence is key. I’ve learned the art of wearing many hats, and I’m just getting better at it the more I work at Ooligan. And you know what? I look good in hats.

Kobo Dives Headfirst into Audiobook Market

On September 6, 2017, the ebook company Kobo officially launched themselves into the audiobook market. In recent years, audiobooks have been one of the few publishing sectors that have had substantial growth. This trend appears set to continue this year, with Publishers Weekly reporting that audiobook sales in the first four months of 2017 were 24.5% higher than in the same period of 2016. It’s no wonder that Kobo decided to expand their business into this sector; audiobooks have proven that they are here to stay.

Amazon’s Audible has long been the dominant force in the audiobook world; for the price of fifteen dollars per month, subscribers receive one free audiobook monthly, plus 30% off of any additional audiobooks that they purchase. However, Kobo appears poised to undercut Audible’s business by pricing their plan at ten dollars per month and a free audiobook. While their plan does not provide any discount on subsequent audiobooks that users purchase, lower title prices in addition to a lower subscription cost will make Kobo’s new service appealing to many casual audiobook listeners. According to The Daily Beast, the average audiobook listener consumed fifteen books in 2016. If those users have a subscription so that twelve of those are no additional cost, Kobo’s plan will offer them substantial savings over the course of a year. Kobo’s plan shows their confidence in their expansion into the audiobook market and should demonstrate that audiobooks will be an important sector for publishers to reach moving forward.

The appeal of audiobooks lies in their ability to give someone the experience of a novel within the always-on-the-go lifestyle that our culture has embraced. Prior to the wide availability of audiobooks, for many there simply wasn’t enough time in the day to sit down and read a book. A book’s greatest strength—its ability to allow one to escape from reality—was also its greatest weakness, as it meant that time couldn’t be spent doing other things. Audiobooks on the other hand, allow for multitasking. People can take them wherever they go: to the gym while they exercise, in their car during their daily commute, or home while they do various chores. For the first time, books don’t have to prevent someone from completing their to-do list for the day.

What publishers need to take away from all of this is that audiobooks may well be worth investing in. While they present an extra cost up-front to record them, audiobooks also reach a new market of people—those who are hesitant to buy books in print. While print books appeal primarily to those who are dedicated to reading, audiobooks can also pull on demographics of people too busy to sit down and consume a print copy. Publishers Weekly noted that backlist titles have also proven to have strong sales in the audiobook market, holding many of the slots of bestseller lists in places like iBooks. Republishing backlist titles as audiobooks would allow publishers to give their older titles new legs again, even introducing older books to a new generation. As more and more people choose to listen rather than read, publishers need to take that important step in publishing books in an audio format to remain competitive in today’s world.

Please, Ma’am, We Want Some More! Seriously. We’re Great Publishing Multitaskers

In just a few weeks, Memories Flow in Our Veins has gone from a raw Word document-manuscript to a very real, very happening book-in-progress. In the last few weeks, the team has balanced a number of projects: we’ve pored over the manuscript in editing; helped to develop evocative, on-point titles for the sections of the book; researched the contributing authors to write bios and perform an author social media audit; designed some incredible collateral and compiled sales kits; undertaken revisions to our marketing plan; and commenced the XML tagging process. With the interior design already under way and only a few final pieces of the manuscript still outstanding, the Memories team is racing our way to the end of the term and the year.

One of the greatest challenges of this term has been the rapid turnaround required from manuscript to, well, everything else. As we’ve learned, there are some things that you just can’t do without a manuscript in hand (hello, editing!) and some that you do so much better with that manuscript at your fingertips in all its glory. Figuring out how to mobilize our resources to work through the most time-sensitive projects, while also making time for bigger-picture projects that require lots of long-term thinking and planning, has been essential to keeping Memories moving.

As we discovered, reading the manuscript for the first time brought out all kinds of fresh inspiration and ideas for collateral, marketing, and promotion (about which our current team and yours truly are pretty excited). We felt that there were enough brand new nuggets of inspiration brought about by the revelation of our contributing authors, by our direct access to their content, and in the experience of the book’s particular organization to necessitate a revision to our marketing plan, helping us to think more deeply about how Memories figures into current publishing trends and what makes it a truly unique book. Though marketing and promotion still seem like part of a remote to-do list at this point, cultivating plans for these long-term projects offered us some creative cushion and perspective as we worked through the intensity of copyediting and the rote mechanics of XML tagging.

It’s been a lot to do all at once, but I’ll dare to say it: we’re ready for more! Next up: delivering a tagged and complete manuscript to our designer, jumping into proofreading, and launching our blurb requests out into the world before it’s time to print those January galleys.