The Excitement and Stress of Launching Odsburg

I joined Ooligan Press as part of the Odsburg team right as the marketing plan was being implemented. The promotion of this strange, gorgeous novel has been my focus throughout my time at the press, so getting to finally send it out to readers is beyond exciting. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work from many, many other Oolies as well as Odsburg‘s author, Matt. (Just designing the credits page for this book was a challenge because of how many people in the press had a hand in creating, promoting, and polishing it.)

With Odsburg launching early in the fall term, the team had to hit the ground running as we got back into the swing of school. As we prepped for launch, my team of new Ooligan students got a crash course in social media collateral creation and reading-tour research. Making collateral for Odsburg has always been a fun part of the process, as this book allows for us to be more creative than usual in our designs and copy. And of course, that amazingly detailed cover is fantastic to work with.

We continuously pulled elements from the cover to make new objects for marketing. Digging through that InDesign file has come to feel like making my way through a familiar forest. It’s dense, and while I know it well, it’s just as delightful as the first time I saw it. After you read the book, I highly encourage you to take some time to study the cover closely. Discovering all of the little secrets hidden between its leaves is a fun way to remember some of the strange characters you meet throughout Odsburg.

Once Odsburg launches, my team will continue to work on promoting it and finding reading opportunities for Matt (and we’ll be waiting for award season with bated breath and fingers crossed!). Even when we shift our focus to the next book coming to us from the acquisitions department, we’re not letting Odsburg go. This entrancing story has fascinated me since I joined Ooligan, and it will still be on my mind long after I graduate.

The excitement of a book launch is a motivator for a lot of us in the publishing industry. Often years of work go into a book, and the high of finally seeing it out in the world is tough to match in one’s professional life. Yes, there’s a lot of stress that comes with such an occasion, but it’s so very worth it. I can’t wait to hear what readers think of the little town we’ve been living in all this time.

What-stock? Ooligan Press and the Portland Book Festival

November 9, 2019: authors, publishers, and content creators across the broad spectrum of publishing will be gathering for the Portland Book Festival (PBF), a one-day extravaganza featuring celebrity authors, raffle giveaways, panels, and writing workshops.

Ooligan Press is proud to exhibit at the festival this year and promote the recently launched Odsburg by Matt Tompkins, along with the upcoming Elephant Speak by Melissa Crandall (in stores March 3, 2020) and our current frontlist. PBF remains a great opportunity for Ooligan to inform local (and not-so-local) publishing professionals about our unique teaching press and how it provides valuable experience to its students.

The more we spread the word about Ooligan, the bigger and better we can grow as a press! As publisher’s assistants, one of our main goals—aside from all the copyright registration and metadata shenanigans—is to promote our program! Ooligan represents a unique opportunity for graduate students to gain real-world experience in the publishing industry as part of their core curriculum, rather than as an internship layered on top of demanding coursework.

Prior to 2018, Portlanders may have heard of the festival under another name—Wordstock. In a 2018 blog post, Amanda Bullock, Director of Public Programs at Literary Arts (the curators of PBF), outlined three major reasons why the festival underwent a name change:

  1. “Portland Book Festival” as a title is more inclusive of the wide array of events, panels, and workshops that the festival has to offer. It’s more immediately clear that PBF is a festival—of what?—of books and all things associated with them.
  2. Major book festivals often include the location of the festival in the title, as in the case of the Edinburgh Book Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Including Portland in PBF’s title also increases clarity: Where is this book festival? In Portland!
  3. Literary Arts hosts a wide variety of other programs with an Oregonian or Portland-centric focus, such as Portland Arts & Lectures, the Oregon Book Awards, and Oregon Literary Fellowships. PBF aligns with Literary Arts’ programs and provides a more cohesive overall brand.

Prior to the actual festivities getting underway at PBF, Lit Crawl® Portland will take place on November 8, 2019, offering engaging games not unlike those you’d play in a brewpub—except these games are all related to words and publishing. The Telephone Game for Writers and Illustrators, How to Build Your Own Industrial-Strength Crap Detector, Poetry Karaoke, and Choose Your Own Adventure Bingo are just a few of the offerings.

Come support Ooligan at the festival on November 9, 2019!

Real Documents from a Fictional Town

Darc Majik Chocolate

Darc Majik Chocolate

Epistolary novels gain an air of reality through their use of letters, diaries, and other documents. Shifting voices and jumps in time put the reader in the position of an investigator or a voyeur. Of course, a novel doesn’t have to be entirely made up of documents to achieve a similar sense of reality. At Ooligan, we recently worked with an author to pepper the pages of his book with some physical traces of the world he had created. This process helped bring the book’s fictional town to life.

Greetings from Odsburg

Greetings from Odsburg

Odsburg (which launched October 29) shares the flyers, letters, menus, and other ephemera of a colorful community (all of which was allegedly gathered by illicit means). As a reader and fan of the book, I find that these “found documents” make it easy for me to forget that the town of Odsburg is a fictional place. The Ooligan team supplemented the endearing, believable, and varied voices of Matt Tompkins’s characters with documents that are mentioned in the text. Many of these documents were physical objects before we digitized them. Here are some notes on our process, which might be helpful to anyone who’s publishing or authoring a work of fiction that would benefit from found documents.

First, we stuck to the text. Creating a wealth of documents is fun, but only for those already familiar with the content of the book. As with any aspect of designing a book, it’s important to take on the perspective of a new (or potential) reader. Each document’s connection to the text should be clear. Maybe the connection comes later in the text, which can add some mystery; but the document will be a troubling distraction if readers are left scratching their heads for too long. For Odsburg, we only created objects that were explicitly mentioned in the text, and we placed them in the book near the places where they were mentioned. This ensured that there would be little to no gap between the reader’s encounter with the document and the point where they learned its place in the story.

Housesitting Instructions

Housesitting Instructions

We made a list of all the objects mentioned in the text, and then we narrowed the list down to a size that would ensure readers could engage with every document. We didn’t want to overload the text or keep the reader’s attention away from the writing for too long. When choosing which documents to create, we sought visual variety. We didn’t want to end up with too many letters, as this would have made the non-letters seem out of place. We chose objects that would be immediately recognizable if one read about them first and that would still be memorable if one read about them later.

We also had a different person create each document. This gave each piece its own identity and meant that none of the handwriting was the same. This process is easier to pull off if you’re working with a large, multitalented team like the one at Ooligan, but it’s still replicable if you’re doing most of the work alone. Stretching your design skills by pretending each piece is a commission with different goals, asking friends to contribute their handwriting, or crafting documents in different mediums can keep the collection from feeling repetitive and artificial.

Actualize!

Actualize!

Because Odsburg is presented as one man’s collection of documents and thoughts, we treated all the physical objects the same way after they were created. Some crumpling suggested they were kept in haphazard folders before publication, despite how delicately we handled them in reality. All documents that were originally digital were printed so they could go through the same scanning process as the objects that were originally physical. The result is a variety of objects that still feel united by a common journey.

Elite Male Modeling

Elite Male Modeling

This part of publishing Odsburg has proven to me how much design can contribute to the content of a text. The process of creating these documents can lend another dimension to a piece of fiction. If your goal is to make your fictional world feel real, consider creating “found documents” and ephemera to bring it to life.

Odsburg: A Community Collaboration

Managing a project that involves a lot of creative collaboration can be difficult. You have to make sure your author’s voice is protected and their opinions listened to; you’re charged with juggling hard production deadlines while managing a team; and you also have to coordinate with other departments and people whose ideas about the book may not always align with yours. But despite the myriad visions for one project, all the people working on it have something in common: they want the book to succeed.

From the beginning, the goal for Odsburg was to make this book unique, successful, and as beautifully odd as the story it contained. We all had similar ideas about where this book should end up; getting there, however, was an entirely different matter. The first step: distilling the plan for Odsburg from a cloud of ideas into a series of actionable items. This meant placing it directly into the hands of the project team, who would start fleshing out the details of how exactly we would make this book happen. For many months, my team and I worked to produce items for design, sales reps, and social media that we thought would best encapsulate the unique and surreal voices found within this book.

Here at Ooligan, even when items are assigned to one person, it doesn’t end there. Collaboration extends to all departments, then contracts back to the project team in waves. We learn publishing skills first and foremost, but collaboration is a close second, as all projects feed into all departments. Odsburg has been a challenge for Ooligan because it’s such an intricate story, and we wanted to reflect that uniqueness not only in its narrative, but also in its interior design and its promotional materials. Because of this, we had a lot of juggling to do as we created plans and made decisions for the book, then collaborated with department managers to ensure we were all on the same page. Luckily, my peers are a talented, good group of folks who are as invested in Odsburg as I am, making the communication and email chains a little easier to handle.

Most people I’ve talked to about group projects profess to absolutely hate them—and for just cause, as it’s incredibly difficult to work with strong and diverse minds. Yet sometimes the best thing for a project is collaboration. Other perspectives, thoughts, and critical eyes can bring innovation, security, and momentum to current projects. Ooligan managers and our project team have worked hard to keep communication lines open around Odsburg, and the results of that collaboration are evident in how rich and sophisticated the book is turning out to be. Now that I’ve graduated from this program, Odsburg is in the very capable hands of its new manager, Ivy. She already knows that Odsburg‘s foundation is rooted in community, and she knows how to keep that seed growing as the book moves out of her hands and into the hands of readers who will love it.

Introducing Odsburg: Finding the Surreal amongst the Everyday

You know how everyone from a small town has a deeply ingrained sense of being watched by neighbors, family, and their friend’s abuelita? In a small community, no personal business is ever truly personal. The baristas at the only coffee shop in town have your order memorized; meanwhile, the dating pool somehow intertwines parents with their kids’ teachers, and then spills into the local bar, where a memorial service is being held. How about those old folks down the street whose lifelong feud is imbued with power by a peculiar last will? If you’ve never before lived in a place like this, then allow me to welcome you to the small, fictional town of Odsburg, Washington.

Ooligan Press is proud to announce our upcoming title: the thought-provoking, skin-crawl-inducing, non-cannibalism-condoning novel Odsburg by Matt Tompkins, to be released October 29th.

First, a bit about the book. Odsburg is a novel compiled by the town’s local socio-anthropo-lingui-loreologist, Wallace Jenkins-Ross, yet he isn’t the main character. He’s the guide to this quirky locale, but the main character is the town itself, composed of its citizens, its pet parades, the local pharmaceutical company, and a variety of Washington wildlife. The voices of Odsburg’s residents are collected in the form of transcriptions and found documents, which has presented a unique challenge for Ooligan, pushing us to consider more complicated design and editing techniques to best convey the story.

As the manager for Odsburg, I have the responsibility of making sure each aspect of this book’s production is on track and working to benefit the book and the author. We acquired this book right when I started as a project manager, and now, one year in, I still feel it’s been a difficult book to grasp. In the simplest terms, it offers readers so much lovely and strange content—depictions of loss, aging, hunger, and the questionable place of pharmaceuticals in the world—that it isn’t a story that lends itself to a one-line description; yet that’s exactly what my team and I have attempted to capture during the marketing phase of the book’s production. Distilling the essence of a book into copy that will be enticing to reviewers and readers alike is never an easy task, and it’s even more difficult with a book whose mission is to both confound and familiarize readers with the surreal and the strange in an otherwise mundane small town.

At this point, Odsburg has undergone a line edit, two rounds of copyediting, and a proofread. During this time, we’ve also worked to create and integrate found documents and miscellaneous design elements to mirror the texture and voices this book contains. It’s been an intricate collaboration between editing and design as we’ve tried to figure out what we can bring to life from this town while maintaining logical and textual consistency within the book. Developing this book for publication couldn’t have worked without the immense talent our press has captured recently (for example, the gorgeous cover is a testament to the skills of our amazing designers Hanna and Jenny), and this process is sure to provide both a test of our publishing skills and a wonderful opportunity for creativity as we move forward.

We’re wrapping up a busy spring term as we continue working on marketing, design, reviews, and social media, all while trying to find out just how many people we can get to believe in the town of Odsburg. It’s rare to work on a novel that you genuinely enjoy and want to read, give as a gift, and possibly buy extra copies of, but so far, Odsburg is hitting all these marks. Keep your eye out for Odsburg (as Odsburg will definitely be keeping an eye out for you)!