The Unglamorous Truth of Being a Publisher’s Assistant

Working at Ooligan Press is an amazing experience: the people are wonderful, the work is challenging, and the books we’re publishing are exciting. But sometimes (just sometimes) during the happy frolic through book land, there is frustration, boredom, and papercuts. Our work may not be the flashiest—mailing books, filing copyright, wrangling volunteers, and digging through old files—but we find solace in knowing that it’s the little things that allow Ooligan to keep publishing great books.

One of our main responsibilities is the archives project, which happens to be the great bane of our existences. Ooligan students have done so much good work over the years, and while we have the physical result, the book, all those design files and marketing pitches and edited documents are hidden away somewhere in the dusty corner of the computer server. With the help of the project managers, we are working to ensure that no important work is lost going forward. And like Nancy Drew, we will investigate the whereabouts of those old missing files. Our goal is to solve this mystery by the end of this term.

In truth, archiving the history of the press is a fascinating process. Ooligan Press is constantly moving and adapting, and it is inspiring to see all the hard work that Ooligan alums have put into our books. It’s also fun to observe how the publishing world has changed, especially in the marketing methods that are used. For example, book trailers used to be a part of YA marketing campaigns, but now publishers no longer use them.

Here is the unglamorous truth of being a publisher’s assistant: it’s pretty glamorous—you just have to work hard. Every job requires hard work and dedication. If you decide not to do a task because you don’t think it is glamorous enough, that just means more work for somebody else. We are all participants in this process, and we all need to do our part. That includes working on the archives or helping with conferences. As the publisher’s assistants, we help with conferences such as PubWest (which begins on February 9) and WordStock (November 11), where we help set up the Ooligan table and wrangle volunteers.

Some of the PA projects, such as the archives, can seem like responsibilities that are easy to slack on. But they’re not. By slacking on a project or putting half the effort forward, we would be adding work for ourselves later on, or even the next PAs further down the line. Our projects are not about the short term, they are big-picture projects that require quality work. Ooligan is about group work, emphasis on group. We all have to put our best effort forward and not rely on a few individuals to pick up the slack. Be glamorous and work.

Why Is the Mystery Genre So Appealing?

The mystery genre is extremely popular around the world. Readers have enjoyed sinking their teeth into a classic “whodunit” for centuries, and some of today’s most popular detective stories stem from the tales of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In perusing the mystery section of your local bookstore, you are sure to have your pick of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot mysteries. The dynamic duo that is Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson is still devoured not only through literature, but also in the cinema with Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Sherlock set the late nineteenth century, as well as on television with CBS’s Elementary and BBC’s Sherlock. Both shows are adaptations of Doyle’s original characters, set in present-day London and New York City.

But what is it that makes this genre so attractive?

Plot

Starting a new mystery novel is more than cracking open a new book (or easing open a new book, for those bibliophiles out there who abhor breaking the spine). Starting a new mystery novel is the beginning of a new puzzle. Mystery readers of all ages—from the young children reading Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys to the full-grown adults reading Dan Brown, Stieg Larsson, Gillian Flynn, and J. D. Robb—get to step into the detective’s shoes and navigate the text. All are great plotlines that allow them to vicariously find clues, solve riddles, and if all goes well, deliver justice.

Characters

As in any successful genre, a likeable character is a must. Whether the main character in a mystery novel is a police detective, a private investigator, or simply a concerned citizen, readers must be able to connect with them in some way. Looking again at classic detective stories like Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, it is easy to see how the love of a particular character can drive the success of a book or series.

Suspense

Forget everything I said before. That breathless moment when you know something is going to throw the protagonist’s carefully outlined plans into disarray. The spike in your anxiety level when you know something that is going to happen before the detective does. That heartstopping instant when something tragic befalls your beloved hero (or heroine). The realization that your trustworthy narrator has figured out the mystery before you have. These are the reasons the mystery genre is so appealing. The intrigue that gently ensnares you in the first few chapters morphs into the kind of suspense that leaves you clutching the book while you lean over its pages, as if the closer you get to the words, the quicker you can move the story along. It seems like it’s taken eons to get to the end of the book; the stress has taken years off your life. You may never solve it at this rate. And then, all of a sudden, the answers are there and the book has ended. You glance around, dazed, surprised the outside world is still the same, what with the huge plot twist you now know. You realize you’ve been holding your breath. Your mind has been blown. Who could resist coming back for more?