A Season of Change at Ooligan Press

For many Portlanders, the arrival of summer brings with it warmer temperatures, sunshine, and days without rain. At Ooligan, the arrival of summer ushers in a season of change and growth for the press as a whole.

One of the things that makes Ooligan truly unique is that it not only operates as a full-fledged literary press, but it is a press that is run entirely by students who are enrolled in the Book Publishing program. We are responsible for nearly every aspect of the press—from acquisition to production—under the watchful and supportive eyes of our publisher. Students in the second year of the program are even selected to be managers to help lead project teams and departments.

Because we are first and foremost students, the arrival of summer means that our second-year students, including managers, are graduating and moving on from the program, while our new incoming managers are wrapping up their training and preparing to take over their departments for the summer term of classes.

In a traditional press, losing fifteen employees and training nineteen new ones would seem like the stuff of nightmares, but at Ooligan, this kind of changing-of-the-guard is normal—it’s simply how things are done.

The incoming managers also face a unique challenge: remote learning. Most of the graduating managers had the opportunity to attend in-person classes for almost a year before the pandemic closed campus, and as a result they were able to form these amazing connections with each other and this great camaraderie that resonates throughout the press. First-year students have had the reverse experience: they began the program with every aspect of their experience being remote, including training, and are finally preparing to attend in-person classes in September.

If there is one thing that I have learned while trying to navigate life as a student during a pandemic, it is that this pandemic has made us more resilient and adaptable than ever. When we were submitting our applications to the program, we had no idea that this would be our future or our reality. Regardless of our status as a first- or second-year student, we have adapted to every obstacle and challenge put in front of us. We have made it this far into a global pandemic, so we can handle pretty much anything. It is this kind of grit and determination that will have a profound impact on both the press and the program in the future.

Needless to say it will be interesting to see how these different experiences, learning environments, and mentalities will influence the press in the future.

Here is a list of current roles/departments that help run Ooligan Press:

  • Four project teams, one for each book we are currently working on
  • One project team for our Library Writer’s Project manuscript
  • Website Manager
  • Two Acquisitions Managers
  • Managing Editor
  • Copy Chief
  • Design Manager
  • Digital Manager
  • Audiobooks Manager
  • Marketing Manager
  • Publicity Manager
  • Social Media Manager
  • Three Publisher’s Assistants; two who focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and one who focuses on Metadata and Sales

Which Ooligan Book Matches Your Zodiac Sign?

Aries: Leader, Brave, Prepared

Faultland tells the story of the three Sparrow siblings who must come together in the wake of a life-shattering earthquake. This book is all about being prepared for the unthinkable, and there is no better sign more equipped for the task than Aries. Like the characters in Faultland, Aries are bold, ambitious, and determined to survive.
Taurus: Stable, Devoted, Patient
Elephant Speak

Much like an elephant, Tauruses have incredible memories and aren’t likely to forget the small details. As you will read in Elephant Speak, trust is the key to winning over a herd of elephants in the Oregon Zoo. Their keeper, Roger Henneous, exhibited the core traits of any Taurus: ambition, honesty, and reliability.
Gemini: Adaptable, Adventurous, Curious
The Step Back

Ed handles whatever life throws his way, even making a 3-pointer every now and then. Like a true Gemini, he is impulsive and changes the direction of his life at the drop of a basketball, but he never gives up. Gemini’s are all about change, transformation, and opportunity, just like Ed finds in The Step Back.
Cancer: Sensitive, Intuitive, Protective
Laurel Everywhere

Like any true Cancer, family means everything to Laurel Summers. When her mother and siblings die in a car crash, Laurel must rebuild her home with her father. While coping with her incredible loss, Laurel is often haunted by ever-changing moods and grief, but at the heart of it all, she finds comfort and healing in her family and friends.
Leo: Warm, Passionate, Dynamic
Iditarod Nights

There is no better sign to warm you up on a cold Iditarod night than a Leo. Leos are fiercely brave and set out to dominate whatever task is at hand, making them the perfect sign to face the harsh and bitter Iditarod. Claire and Dillion won’t stop until they reach Nome, but they’ll find comfort in each other’s arms wherever they go.
Virgo: Logical, Intelligent, Observant
Finding the Vein

Virgos can’t resist a problem that needs fixing or a mystery to solve, making them the clear detective of the bunch. While investigating a murder at a summer camp for adoptees, Sergeant Mikie and fellow camper Isaac must sort through rumors and facts, channeling the attention to detail and perfection of a Virgo. Beneath the haze of suspicion, Finding the Vein is a story about acceptance and identity, with a passion for the truth.
Libra: Empathetic, Charming, Social
The Gifts We Keep

Five different people find themselves part of the same entrancing story that you won’t be able to forget in The Gifts We Keep. Much like a Libra, this story is balanced by love and loss, escape and home, and the sadness and happiness of being part of a family. Empathy and strong hearts are favored here.
Scorpio: Loyal, Determined, Bold
The Names We Take

A true Scorpio would never leave someone behind, and neither will Pip, even when faced with unspeakable trials and tribulations in The Names We Take. In a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by plague, she has no choice but to keep her and her friends alive. There is no doubt that out of all the signs, Scorpios would rule an apocalypse with style and ease, even finding a family along the way.
Sagittarius: Optimistic, Honest, Free
The Ocean in My Ears

Meri Miller lives in Soldotna, a decidedly small and boring fishing town in Alaska. Like any Sagittarius, she dreams of escaping to a far, distant, and way more exciting city. The destination doesn’t matter, as long as it’s new and the ride is great Even when the going gets tough and the days are dark, Meri is tougher and brighter, always looking for the silver lining amongst the clouds.
Capricorn: Ambitious, Serious, Helpful
Breaking Cadence

Standing up for justice and embracing her morals, Rose del Duca is not only a soldier in the National Guard, but also a conscious objector. Pragmatic and morally driven Capricorns are reflected in del Duca’s powerful vocalization of her beliefs. She is torn between duty and conscience, and is constantly testing her strength to its limits and breaking cadence.
Aquarius: Unique, Resilient, Surprising

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being the odd one out in a room full of people. As an Aquarius, you are used to being you; some may describe you as being witty, original, and eccentric, but these are also words used to describe Odsburg. Take a journey with the self-proclaimed “socio-anthropo-lingui-loreologist” as he ventures into a fictional land, collecting ephemera and outlandish stories from its inhabitants. Perfect for the curious and creative Aquarius, this one is sure to redefine your reality.
Pisces: Generous, Emotional, Creative
At the Waterline

Forever the romantic, the one with the grand gestures, and the one with the dreamy eyes, a Pisces is often miles away or underwater, reminiscing in memories and submerged in thought. Divorced and haunted by tragedy, Chad once had romantic notions of a sailing life, but he now lives along the river just north of Portland. Meeting the colorful locals and learning about their lives, Chad learns once again to love, trust, and heal at the waterline.

A young woman reads comics on the floor of a bookstore.

Dynamic Strategies for Editing Comics

The Pacific Northwest is becoming known for producing high-quality comics, and the Portland area alone is home to big-name publishers like Dark Horse Comics, Oni Press, and Image Comics. With its growing popularity, the field of comics offers a significant number of unique challenges to editors both as freelancers or as part of one of these esteemed houses. Some publishers that don’t typically focus on comics sometimes include one or two in their catalog, so even if you’re not looking to specialize in comics editing, it can be useful to know how to handle a comic if it comes across your desk. Here are some strategies to help you feel confident in applying your editing skills to a comic.
Image and Text, Not Image or Text
One of the most crucial things to keep in mind when approaching a comics editing project is that there are two mediums telling the story: the image and the text. Whether you’re looking at a script, a formal comic proposal, or a completed draft, it’s imperative to keep in mind that the words and images are working together to tell the story. That being said, it’s important that you feel comfortable critiquing the imagery as well as the words on the page. If an image isn’t serving the scene in the way it should be, it might need to be redrawn or reimagined. Ask yourself some of these questions for solving this problem: Does this picture work here? How can it be better shown? Can it be compensated for with the addition of a caption or by modifying dialogue? By paying close attention to this kind of interplay between image and text, you will make sure the project is more effective overall.
Dialogue is Crucial
While there are some notable examples of comics that don’t use dialogue at all, for most it is an integral part of comics storytelling. More than almost any other medium, the dialogue in a comic must work to further the story, doing much of the textual heavy lifting to advance plot and characterization. On top of this, the dialogue is usually the only way to offer a glimpse of a character’s interiority in most comics, even in the cases where a narrator is present in captions or other framing devices. Because of the limited options for narrative intervention, it’s important to try to balance how the characters are expressing themselves. This can be difficult, as you want to make sure the characters are giving enough information to keep the story going, but you also want to make sure they aren’t overrunning the page with text. When confronting dialogue in a comic, the question you should keep in mind is this: Is this helpful? If the dialogue isn’t helping advance the plot or develop a character, cut it. The trickiest part of all of this is making the dialogue still sound natural while you’re making sure it conveys what it needs to. Here, you need to trust your gut as an editor, but don’t be afraid to ask yourself: Is this how a person would really say that?
Showing versus Telling
The old writing advice to “show, not tell” couldn’t be more true than in comics writing. Because of the often limited expository space, it’s even more critical to make sure the images are compensating for what might otherwise slog down the story. Whenever possible, try to suggest to your client that the image should be doing the bulk of the work showing the action. A comic that describes a person “putting a glass on the counter” in a caption or a piece of dialogue is simply not as effective as one that simply shows the character performing the action in a piece of art.
Pay Attention to Page Layout
It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not necessarily just the pictures that are doing this job of showing, but the page layout as well. The composition of a page carries weight because the way the story is shown can impact the way the story is perceived. The layout of a comic page can build tension, assert the flow of time, or otherwise give visual impact to the story. For a comic to be effective, it has to make a visual impact. Using a “splash” page (a page that is entirely composed of a single image), for example, can not only add visual drama to the comic, but can also be used to contrast with more regular, multi-panel pages so that the scene stands out from the rest.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, it should help you feel more confident about applying your editing skills to comics. Whether you’re a freelancer or looking to work in comics full time, keep these strategies in mind when you take on your next comics project to gain a leg up in the industry.

FAULTLAND's red book cover featuring a map of Portland in the shape of a piano.

FAULTLAND Shakes Up Social Media

Ooligan Press is in a flurry of excitement over all the new projects coming out in the next few months, and the Faultland team is busy at the frontlines of it all. Ooligan’s newest speculative fiction novel is the next book on our release schedule and is due to hit shelves on March 30, 2021! Behind the scenes, the team is working hard developing new ways to promote the novel online and coming up with original ideas for how to get more readers to engage with the book through the Ooligan social media channels.

Faultland is set in a near-future Portland that is rocked by a major earthquake. While not Ooligan’s first foray into speculative fiction, Faultland is unlike anything we’ve published before. Author Suzy Vitello masterfully combines future-tech and family drama to bring her “what if” landscape of a not-so-distant Portland to life before razing it to the ground. When the city is hit by the Portland Hills Fault earthquake, siblings Morgan, Olivia, and Sherman are faced with keeping their family alive following one of the worst natural disasters in living memory. Once separated by secrets and resentment, the Sparrow family realize they are now united by survival.

Right now, the Sparrow family’s survival is at the forefront of the book’s online presence as Faultland moves into the all-important social media phase of our production cycle. While each step of a title’s development helps Oolies hone their publishing skills, there are few moments in a book’s lifecycle that allow us to be as creative as social media, so our team is using this moment to put all of our creativity to good use. We knew early on that Faultland was the kind of book that could carry a strong and unconventional social media presence, and our Oolies are busily working away to demonstrate just how accurate that prediction was. The whole team is committing their efforts to creating engaging copy and images to generate interest in the book, and all the while they’re sprinkling in their favorite quotes and excerpts from our fantastic early reviewers to make their posts really pop.

While there are few specific parameters around what topics the team members are able to talk about in their posts, most have been focusing on the landscapes that the author, Portland local Vitello, creates in the book. We see the city both before and after the earthquake shatters it, filtered through the eyes of the narrators in quotes and in images created by the team. Another focus has been on the subject of emergency preparedness, with many early readers of the book internalizing the warning at the heart of the novel—that being ready for this kind of emergency can lessen the physical, emotional, and mental toll that just such an event takes on all of us. Several posts link to preparedness guidelines through the CDC, Red Cross, and other emergency agencies in order to guide readers to resources that the Sparrow siblings don’t have access to in the novel.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this social media initiative is our advanced planning for an upcoming scavenger hunt to get readers even more excited when the book launches. That’s right, the Faultland team is busy working on an emergency preparedness–themed scavenger hunt that will allow fans in the Portland area to follow along with Olivia’s journey after the book officially hits shelves. While the specific details for this initiative will remain a secret until we get closer to the book launch, the Faultland team will be centralizing Ooligan social media channels to get it off the ground and get readers engaged.

Stay tuned into Ooligan’s social media at @ooliganpress on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for the latest news about what’s on the horizon for Faultland and to see some of the incredible work the team has put together there.

Batman comics on shop shelves

Assembling the Comics Creators Panel from Write to Publish 2020

I have to admit that working for the Events & Outreach department at Ooligan to help plan the Write to Publish conference was not my first choice coming into the PSU Book Publishing Program. While I had wanted to work on a project team for an in-progress title, I was quickly swayed by the idea of reaching out to people and creating a discussion panel for the event, and then working on questions to guide and propel that conversation.

I spent the Fall term of 2019 pitching a slew of local creators, ranging from big names to small cartoonists to publicists of comic companies and anyone else inside the industry. Some had worked at PSU and others were total longshots. In trying to create the panel, one of the more important aspects was creating a balance—trying to find a blend of authors, illustrators, professionals, etc. As the theme was “The Many Faces of Publishing,” we locked down four comics creators to form our panel: Erika Schnatz, a production designer at Image Comics; MK Reed, a local comics creator; Terry Blas, a local comics creator known for his “You Say Latino” comic on Vox; and David Chelsea, an illustrator and comics educator.

The conversation, guided by Anastacia Ferry’s questions, focused on Portland’s comics scene and the future of comics, especially in the digital realm. Erika Schnatz noted that “the scary and cool thing about webcomics is the immediate feedback you get,” as your audience is always present and just one screen away. On the other hand, Terry Blas stated, “[w]ebcomics represented the ability to put my own work out there and prove to an editor or company that I can meet a deadline,” according to Denise Morales Soto’s live tweets, showing how the internet can be a ruthless proving ground for comics.

When the conversation moved over to Portland and its unique comics scene, MK Reed said, “Portland is so book-y that it spills over and so there’s a lot of comics here as a result of that.” The others agreed that Portland was a great place to be, with David having started his career here, Erika working at Image, and Terry attending PNCA for his degree here.

To conclude, the panelists discussed the future of comics. David noted the death of the inker in the computer age where anyone can do inks with a digital stroke, and Terry ruminated on how crowdfunding allows marginalized groups to be seen and represented and ultimately funded and published via platforms like Kickstarter. Probably the most fulfilling aspect of the event for me was being able to meet all the wonderful and articulate individuals who came through for this panel. While they were very knowledgeable, they were also kind and networked within themselves. Forming it may have been stressful, but the payoff was creating an environment to discuss something we all care about.

Planning the Write to Publish 2020 conference was not something I had seen myself enjoying as much as I did, and while I’m moving on to other facets of the press now, I will definitely be attending the conference the next time it’s held.

Targeting YA Readers via YouTube

Every launch for a new novel needs an exciting and buzzworthy marketing campaign. A targeted social media push is a must to reach your audience and, hopefully, spur sales; but reaching a young adult audience can be tricky. You can target parents, educators, and librarians who are perhaps the primary buyers. However, to create demand from the bottom up, you must reach young readers where they live which is, ironically, on YouTube.

When it comes to social media use, young adults are the largest subset of users. According to the Pew Research Center from their 2019 survey, some 88 percent of eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds use any form of social media, and of those young adults 94 percent use YouTube. To reach this audience and boost demand for your author and new novel, YouTube must be a part of your marketing plan. To start your campaign, focus on BookTube, a growing community on YouTube that features creative videos of people reviewing and discussing literature, particularly in the YA genre. One such BookTuber, Christine Riccio, has become a major influencer with more than 410,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, PolandBananasBooks. Her videos display a goofy and contagious love of reading presented in a funny and engaging way. Of interest to publishers are Riccio’s “Book Talks,” “Stories I Ate This Month,” and “Binge Book Buying” videos where she talks about how and why she chooses books and gives quick reviews. A positive review from an influencer like Riccio can help drive demand directly from the target audience.

In today’s crowded social media spaces, YouTube has emerged as a reliable, easy-to-access platform for publishers and their authors to grow revenue and traffic. The YouTube channel Epic Reads, produced by HarperCollins Publishers, is a great example. It has more than 163,000 subscribers and funny, youthful videos like “Book Nerd Problems” and “Book Hauls.” HarperCollins has also struck a deal with another BookTube influencer, Jesse George, whose channel jessethereader is immensely popular. On Epic Reads he leads a series called Epic Adaptations in which he reports on all the YA book-to-movie and book-to-television adaptations that are in the works. This popular series helps stimulate demand for books that have been on the market for some time. And of course, publishers can use YouTube to connect authors directly to their audience by posting book trailers, events, and live readings of excerpts.

YouTube is also fertile ground for publishers looking to cash in on the popularity of young influencers. One of the most recent success stories is The Try Guys. Originally part of BuzzFeed but now independent, The Try Guys includes four filmmakers: Keith Habersberger, Ned Fulmer, Zach Kornfeld, and Eugene Lee Yang. With an audience of 7.29 million subscribers, they create original comedy videos that appeal to a young audience, like “Keith Eats Everything at Taco Bell” and “The Try Guys Switch Pets for a Day.” Publisher Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, capitalized on the The Try Guys’ popularity by publishing their book The Hidden Power of F*cking Up. Part self-help book, part memoir, it reached number one on the New York Times Best Seller list the week after it was released in June 2019.

No one has been more successful at harnessing the power and reach of YouTube, however, than YA author John Green. His extraordinary success as an author is boosted by his extremely popular YouTube channel, the vlogbrothers, which he co-hosts with his brother Hank Green. Their videos run the gamut from jokes to history lessons to science experiments, but they also use the platform to promote their creative fiction. And with 3.3 million subscribers on YouTube, they have far greater reach than even the largest US publishers like Penguin Random House. Other authors can learn from his example by connecting directly with YA readers on YouTube. For publishers and authors alike, YouTube is a key component of any social media strategy targeting a young adult audience.

The How and Why of Mission Statements

With thousands upon thousands of publishing companies to choose from in the United States, it can be daunting for an author to know where to start. Who will provide them with the best experience? Who can devote the resources needed to create their product? Who has the expertise to make the book the best it can be? Who can most effectively reach the book’s target audience?

Now flip this situation around. With millions upon millions of people in the United States who think they have the next New York Times best seller, how can a publishing company find the diamond in the rough? What can a publishing house do to ensure they are receiving submissions for books they actually can and want to publish?

The most effective way a publishing house can convey this information to an author is through the company’s mission statement. Mission statements are not by any means specific to publishing houses. Any organization, from a multibillion-dollar corporate conglomerate to your kid’s sidewalk lemonade stand, needs to have a compass guiding its decision-making process.

Within a publishing house, a mission statement typically addresses a few key topics. For example, Ooligan Press’s current mission statement falls under the title “Our Interests,” dictating that our press looks for books that are regionally significant works of literary, historical, and social value to the Pacific Northwest. In addition, Ooligan Press is concerned with comprehensive representation and with sustainability.

In three simple paragraphs, authors can now see what Ooligan Press is interested in publishing. Does your book talk about sustainable practices? We’re interested. Does it take place in the Pacific Northwest? We’re into it. Is the author from the PNW? We’ll check it out. Is your book actually a cookbook or children’s book? Sorry, we can’t help you.

By having a mission statement, a publishing house narrows its focus to become an expert in the field. If we tried to publish the several dozen different types of books out there in the world, we would be mediocre at all of them. But by focusing on what we can accomplish within our financial and staffing limitations as a teaching, trade publisher, we can ensure that each book we acquire will provide adequate learning opportunities for our students.

But our jobs aren’t done when the last period is added to that final draft of our mission statement. We must work as a press to uphold and apply those values, and we must make a conscious effort to revisit our values as the nature of the world—and of publishing—changes.

Publishing companies have an amazing power to facilitate change and to shed light into the dark corners of the human experience. And because of this, we all have a responsibility to do what we can to help make the world a more enlightened place, one page at a time.

Marketing a Sensitive Book: Is It Ever Okay?

In my previous blog post, “Book Marketing for Good: The Importance of Reaching a Young Adult Readership,” I explain how different it is to market a book versus a more mundane product like a bottle of soap. What I mean by that is that it is unlikely for someone to feel offended, targeted, or triggered by looking at a marketing plan for hand soap—not impossible, but unlikely.

Our team here at Ooligan is working tirelessly to launch our upcoming fall title by debut author Erin Monyihan. In large part, this means working on our marketing strategy. We’ve come across quite a few obstacles regarding our intentions and how we wish to be understood while presenting Laurel Everywhere.

To help you understand what I mean, here is a short description of Laurel Everywhere:

Severe loss. For Laurel Summers, those two words don’t cut it. They don’t even come close. After a car wreck kills her mother and siblings, the ghosts of her family surround her as she wrestles with grief, anger, and the fear that she won’t be enough to keep her dad alive either.

We as a press believe in this novel; we think it will have the power to open young adults’ minds and help them become more empathetic and understanding when it comes to loss and grief. That said, we know this book may not be for everyone. We understand that it covers trauma and loss, and we understand that it will not represent everyone’s experiences of loss and grief, as everyone’s experiences are different. As we create our marketing plan, the big question we keep asking ourselves is this: How can we market this book without making anyone who is grieving or experiencing a similar trauma feel like we are targeting them for our gain, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic?

In the article “Profiteering and Loss: Should you market your brand during coronavirus?,” Daisy Atkinson lays out three acceptable circumstances in which to market sensitive or triggering products:

  1. There’s currently a strong need for what you’re offering.
  2. You have a valuable message for consumers.
  3. You’re not hurting anyone.

As Atkinson notes, “you can market yourself successfully in the eyes of the consumer even in crisis: As long as it’s considered. As long as the product or message is beneficial. And as long as you play fair.”

As part of our market research, we looked at all types of media (like podcasts and blogs) that talked about grief, and we also looked at groups on Facebook. What was disappointing to see was that these Facebook groups often had messages that warned against trying to sell medications or items that would supposedly “help people grieve.” This would be in direct violation of the rules laid out by Atkinson above.

As long you practice mindful marketing by maintaining pure intentions, you do not blatantly disregard warnings, you take into consideration how you may come across to a variety of people, and you try your best to avoid triggering or offending any of your potential audiences, it is acceptable to market something you believe in—even if it does contain sensitive material. That doesn’t mean it will be accepted by every person, but you still need to do everything in your power to make your mission clear and to spare those who could be harmed in the process.

A Lucky and Successful Launch for ELEPHANT SPEAK

This is the third and final blog post for Elephant Speak in Ooligan’s Start to Finish series. Read the first and second posts for a full picture of this book’s journey to being published!

The month of March 2020 will likely be remembered by Americans as the month when everything we accepted as normal got turned on its head. How strange it is to reflect on events that only transpired two weeks previous to my writing of this post. I speak not only for myself as project manager but also for the book’s author, Melissa Crandall, and for Roger Henneous’s family when I say we are extraordinarily lucky to have enjoyed a four-stop book tour for Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper’s Life Among the Herd in the first week of March. With gratitude, I’d like to share some of the joys of Melissa’s book tour in Oregon, which made for a successful launch week that we will all remember for a long time.

The publicity phase for Elephant Speak ramped up during the week before the launch, with features on the book and on Melissa’s upcoming tour. This included an informative feature by Amy Wang in The Oregonian and an article in The Bulletin by Brian McElhiney that highlighted bookstore events scheduled in the newspaper’s own town of Bend (also the hometown of the one and only Roger Henneous). On Tuesday, March 3, the day of the book’s release, Melissa arrived in Portland prepped for a busy week. On Wednesday, she appeared on both AM Northwest and Afternoon Live, where she was interviewed about the book. Her interviews are archived by each show and discoverable on KATU’s website.

Later that evening, our Elephant Speak launch event was hosted by the iconic Powell’s City of Books on Burnside. Melissa presented the book with warmth and perfect poise, sharing photos of Roger and the elephants as she spoke and answering a variety of questions with intelligence and humor. She thanked Ooligan Press, her traveling cohort, Roger’s family, and the rest of the crowd (an estimated 130 people in all), then signed every one of the fifty available copies of Elephant Speak, leaving me to get up and invite anyone who wanted books that night to Rogue Hall, where we would be able to sell a few more books from Ooligan’s own stash! The lesson of the tour was this: don’t underestimate the number of books you may have the opportunity to sell, especially at author events. We carried an extra box of books to each event after that, and we were glad we did.

Thursday saw a small group of us accompany Melissa to the Oregon Zoo, where she joined the regular Asian-elephant keeper’s talk by introducing the book about Roger Henneous’s life and career as a keeper and discussing his familiarity with current residents Rose-Tu and Shine. A past colleague of Roger’s and a few zoo staff who remembered him showed up in support and conversed with Melissa in the gift store while getting their copies signed. They passed on their good wishes for us to take to Roger in Bend.

Bookstore events on Friday and Saturday were held at Roundabout Books in Bend and Sunriver Books in Sunriver, respectively. Roger Henneous and his wife RoseMerrie, together with their daughters and other family, came out for both events. The Henneouses have all but adopted Melissa into their family, which is apparent as soon as you see them all together. Roger humored us by signing books at these events, making for a very special finale.

This project has taught me what the greatest powers of small presses are: focused attention on a few projects (instead of hundreds each year), strong author relationships, and intimate knowledge of a book’s story and content. These factors made all the difference in Ooligan’s ability to support Melissa, market the book to reflect its true focus, and get the book out to the right audiences via publicity and events. My last tip to all (which is especially applicable to nonfiction) is to define a book’s mission before release and then make it news. If you can’t say why your book is special, no one’s going to fill in that blank for you.

Thank you to all my fellow Ooligan managers and project-team members who helped Melissa bring this book to life. The message from Roger was this: “Crackin’ job, kids.”

The Library Writers Project and Ooligan Press: Meet-Cute!

Although there is still some controversy over whether listening to an audiobook is a comparable experience to reading a book, the furor that arose when ebooks launched has mainly subsided. Many American readers are comfortable switching between electronic text and hard copies to read their books, depending on the context and the purpose of the material. Ebooks have not replaced print books, despite dire predictions—ebook market share has stayed under 30 percent, depending on the genre. For most publishers, print copies (including those produced through the print-on-demand model) are released around the same time as ebooks. Many self-publishers, however, only release ebooks.

So what’s the big deal about bringing an ebook to print?

Ooligan Press has been working on learning the answer to that through its partnership with Multnomah County Library (MCL). Every year, MCL’s Library Writers Project (LWP) is open to local Oregon authors for submission of their self-published works, and the top entries are chosen by librarians and acquired for the MCL collection as ebooks.

In 2018, Ooligan Press began coordinating with the LWP to annually choose the best book to take through the traditional publishing process and bring to print. There are many qualifications we at Ooligan look for: circulation numbers, stand-alone status, and subject matter. The first book we selected in 2018 was the literary fiction title The Gifts We Keep by Katie Grindeland, which Ooligan then published in April 2019. The next selection was Iditarod Nights by Cindy Hiday, which will be published on April 14, 2020.

Each of these books went through another editing process with the Ooligan team, during which language was refined and character arcs were tightened. The editors and authors put time and consideration into developing the stories and communicating with each other. Ooligan staff then had to design the cover and the interior layout, proofread the interior, research and design a marketing campaign, negotiate with printers, distribute review copies, update all the data in catalogs, and promote the launch event. Along the way, we considered the following questions:

  • How does this benefit MCL? It makes available for loan quality print versions of titles that have already proven popular as ebooks. The copies of The Gifts We Keep flew off the library’s display shelves within a week of launch in April 2019. Staff and readers were excited to see a title they enjoyed being validated and made more accessible through print publication. Many library patrons who didn’t read ebooks were now able to read a popular title. (Addressing accessibility issues is a core value of most public libraries, and not everyone can read ebooks, for various reasons.)

  • How does this benefit the author? Renewed attention to a previously published book means more readership for less time invested, and the boost in sales for an established title means it is more likely to eventually earn royalties, along with possible interest from agents and publishers if the author writes more books in the future. If the author has other published titles, there is often an increase in circulation of those titles too.

  • How does this help Ooligan? The students at Ooligan Press generally move through the program in two years, while the average title at Ooligan takes around a year and a half to publish. Because the LWP titles require less time for development, they can be turned around in closer to a year, making it easier for students to follow the whole project. MCL also provides a guaranteed market for these titles, and the sales benefit the program because an audience is already established. This is also better for the environment, as there is less chance of wasting paper by printing too many copies. Ooligan also sees an increase in circulation of other backlist titles as a result of this partnership. Data is still being gathered on whether there is a circulation change specific to the library’s other LWP titles.

It’s a win for everyone—the best kind of happily-ever-after. Here’s to smarter printing and partnerships with libraries! Want to know more? See what the Library Journal said when the partnership began.