Three Sides Water Book Launch

What goes into launching a book?

I have been a graduate student at Ooligan for two quarters, but until recently, I had yet to experience a book launch for a book I helped with. I was first introduced to Three Sides Water on my first day of graduate school. At the time, it was still in manuscript form and had only been read by a few members of our press. Seeing the book grow from something completely digital and abstract to being printed and sold has been very exciting to say the least.

The launch event took place on April 28 in southeast Portland. It was an aggressively rainy day, but the mood in the wine bar was cozy. The bar was decorated in an old-timey speakeasy fashion. Warm vintage lights of every shape and size were scattered throughout the small bar. The wall lining the entrance to the bar was covered floor to ceiling in various wine bottles and black and white vintage photos. The Three Sides Water team had been planning this event on and off since September. Months of planning, phone calls, and emails boiled down to two hours. A book launch event varies based on the themes of the book being presented. Three Sides Water takes place over three different time periods on the Olympic Peninsula, so the vintage wine bar was the perfect location to match the first short novel in the book. We compiled raffle prizes that related to our book, and physical copies of the novel that dozens of people had put their blood, sweat, and tears into to sell to the public for the first time. Most of the attendees were members and friends of Ooligan Press, and friends and family of the author, Peter Donahue. The first half hour was spent mingling and enjoying wine. Talk of the new book could be heard throughout the bar, but the conversation often carried on to to other novels as well. There is something truly heartwarming about discussing literature in a casual environment, beyond the constraints of a classroom. Knowing that you are willingly among people who love books as much as you do is something I wish every book lover could experience at least once (but hopefully much more).

As the conversations winded down, the project manager (and cover designer), Michele Kimbriel-Cope, took to the makeshift stage to introduce Peter and the book. You could feel her passion for the text in her voice. Peter spoke next, and after a moving speech about Ooligan Press, he read an excerpt from each of the short novels in the book. This is what all the stressing, planning, and hard work had been for—seeing Peter read his book out loud. Seeing a manuscript become an actual physical book. After the readings, there was brief period for more mingling and for purchasing raffle tickets and the book. We had generously received six prizes for our raffle: three bigger, experience-based prizes, and three bundles of smaller items loosely related to the themes of the novels.

I had never attended a book launch before, but I can only imagine the possible variations for an event like this. If you ever have the opportunity to go to a launch event, for Ooligan or any press, I would definitely encourage you to attend. In the case of the launch event for Three Sides Water, we had the chance to sit around with friends, drinking delicious wine and discussing books. And really, isn’t that why we all want to be a part of the publishing industry? Not to drink wine, of course, but to discuss our passion for great books.

Farewell, Three Sides Water: Wrapping Up a Book’s Production Cycle

A book’s pub date is always a bittersweet time for us at Ooligan. On one hand, it’s a happy time: we organize a launch party, we hold the fully designed book in our hands, and we pester friends and family to buy this book we worked on! But a release date also means we have to scale back our involvement with the book and its author, even if we’d rather continue working on it.

We celebrated the release of Three Sides Water at our launch party on April 28. On May 1, just a few days later, the book was officially for sale at Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon, as well as independent bookstores in Oregon and Washington. The brunt of our work for Three Sides Water may be done, but we have a few more tasks to complete before we can say goodbye to this project.

We will continue to use social media to increase awareness of the Three Sides Water; we already have posts scheduled over the next two months. On the marketing side, we’ll submit the book for awards and track reviews, blurbs, and other publicity for the title. Additionally, we’ll remain in regular contact with the author during his book tour and correspond about potential conference appearances afterward. And if Peter schedules more interviews or bookstore readings, we’ll promote them across our social media channels and newsletter.

Another thing we do for a book leading up to and after its release date is contact nontraditional outlets, or special sales, to stock the book. This includes stores that sell items related to the book, or stores based in locations similar to the setting of the book. In the case of Three Sides Water, this means contacting a lot of coastal towns in Washington and Oregon like Rialto Beach and Port Townsend, as well as small logging towns like Shelton. People don’t just buy books in bookstores, and it’s easy to forget that not everyone is as obsessed with local book vendors as we Oolies are. We hope that by stocking the book in these smaller stores, Three Sides Water can reach readers beyond those who shop at bookstores.

In addition to those last marketing efforts, there are some other internal processes we have to conduct once a book’s pub date occurs. After that, however, we have to reluctantly step back from the book and look to our next adventure. Another title must be welcomed into the Ooligan family.

Best of luck, Three Sides Water! It was truly a pleasure to guide you into this crazy, wonderful world.

Marketing One Book with Multiple Stories

Ooligan’s staff are excitedly preparing all the marketing details for the upcoming release of the literary fiction novel Three Sides Water by Peter Donahue in May. In this vein, I’ve decided to discuss the marketing process for books. Since every book is unique, all the books at Ooligan Press have their own marketing strategy and target audience carefully planned from the very beginning of the publishing process. This makes discussing the marketing of books in general rather difficult, because each book will have different strengths and challenges to consider when planning a marketing campaign, and, thus, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing a book. However, Three Sides Water is unique from most fiction novels, because it contains not just one narrative, but three separate short stories. Novels that contain multiple short stories have a slightly more challenging marketing process overall, because succinctly describing the book and its message to the potential reader is more difficult.

This isn’t to deride short story collections in any way. Short story author Michael Knight says, “A good [short story] takes a novel’s worth of emotional complexity, strips away all the fat, and compresses what’s left into a much more confined space, which can make for a reading experience that’s hard to match in terms of its intensity.” Short stories are a literary art form that can show off an author’s raw talent, and there is a host of amazing collections of short stories by famous authors, such as the Brothers Grimm, Roald Dahl, Alice Munro, and Agatha Christie. Short story collections can be wonderful ways to get quick, scintillating reads; I am personally quite fond of reading short stories by Edgar Allan Poe during the month of October. But that gets us back to marketing these books.

I read Edgar Allan Poe in October. Why? For his scary stories. I know what I’m getting from any of Poe’s stories before I read them. Book publishers signal this to me in many ways: a black cover covered with creepy ravens, a sinister-looking font in red, the word “macabre” in the description on the back, the book’s location in the horror section, creepy excerpts from the book used in promotional materials, reviews and blurbs by other famous horror aficionados and authors, and publicity and advertising around October in preparation for Halloween. While each story by Poe is different, they are unified by one theme––horror. Elements like those listed above can all be part of a marketing strategy, but the common thread is what helps guide the marketing process.

The Huffington Post notes that authors without the established reputation and brand to sell their writing on their name alone should craft their collection of short stories to contain the same central characters, setting, or theme. With this cohesive thread, a literary agent—or a publisher, such as Ooligan—will have an idea of how to market your collection and get copies of it into the hands of interested readers. For the reader who is not attracted to short stories as a form, but to a genre, setting, or character-type, these themes can market the book as containing many examples of the kind of stories they like as opposed to just a collection of stories. A unifying thread can also comfort the reader in their choice to buy a whole collection of works rather than seeking out individual pieces, because the collection may offer greater insight and nuance into the message the author wishes to convey.

A challenge for authors writing a collection of short stories (and their publishers) is to find the thread that will resonate with their audience and make it known to them. That way, more people will be willing to dive into a collection of separate stories.

What to Do About Reviews

Every traditionally published book needs reviews. At Ooligan Press, we submit each of our titles to anywhere from fifty to one hundred different media outlets, bloggers, and authors for book reviews. There are a few media organizations that we approach for every book—Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and other juggernauts of book reviewers—but the review request list for each book varies depending on the genre, author, and content of the book.

For Three Sides Water, we focused on a few different elements of the book and sought reviewers who were familiar with those elements:

  • We doubled-down on regional reviewers. Author Peter Donahue lives in Washington and is an active member of the literary community there, so we reached out to reviewers and media outlets based in Seattle and other Washington locales.
  • As a Portland-based press, Ooligan requests reviews from Portland-based news outlets. We did the same for Three Sides Water, but we stretched further and requested news coverage from Oregon coastal towns, such as Astoria.
  • Three Sides Water is set on the Olympic Peninsula, so naturally we reached out to publications and reviewers who lived there. In particular, we contacted local newspapers in towns such as Port Angeles and Forks.
  • We also contacted book reviewers and bloggers who review historical fiction. Two out of three stories in Three Sides Water could be considered period pieces; moreover, Donahue’s previous books, Clara and Merritt and Madison House, are firmly in the historical fiction genre.
  • Due to the striking nature of the cover, we reached out to bloggers who post reviews on YouTube, often referred to as BookTubers.

Not everyone we contacted will be able to review the book or mention it in their newspapers. But we go into this process expecting that. Not every media outlet we contact about Three Sides Water will review it—but every person we contact is someone who then knows about the book. We’re spreading awareness of Three Sides Water no matter the response to our review request.

If you’re seeking reviews for a book, consider outlets that have reviewed your author before, where your author lives, people who reviewed your comp titles, and reviewers who would truly enjoy the book. Even if they don’t review your book, they might become potential buyers or fans.

Look for Three Sides Water in your local bookstore on May 1, 2018.

Sales Kits: Introducing a Book to Bookstores

Fall was a long, blustery term for the Three Sides Water team. It’s a traditionally busy time for publishers, as it’s one of the big acquisition seasons—but for us, it was the season of sales kits, final copyeditng, and interior design. But mostly sales kits.

You may have heard of sales kits in the past; several Ooligan blog posts mention them, and a few, such as this post about our title The Ninth Day, discuss sales kits in-depth. Nearly five years have passed since that blog post, however, and the sales kit process has changed a bit, too. The general idea behind them remains the same: a sales kit is a package of information about a book that is sent to your sales representatives, or the people who convince bookstores to stock your book. Every Ooligan sales kit contains an info sheet about the press, a two-page tip sheet about the book in question, a press release for the book, an excerpt or chapbook, and some fun collateral to brighten your sales reps’ days. That said, assembling a sales kit from start to finish is a bit more complicated than it sounds.

Where the Ninth Day team finished their sales kits in eight hours or so, we took longer. Much longer. These days, our sales kit materials are fully designed with Adobe Creative Suite. The chapbook alone easily took four hours to design, proof, print, and assemble. On top of that, we designed the press release, a postcard, and a double-sided bookmark (mostly to show off our lovely yet still unfinished cover design, above). One of the biggest challenges with so many designed pieces was sticking to a unified style that could be used across all our artifacts. We stuck to the same color palette, but some of the fonts had to be swapped out on occasion.

Including writing, proofing, designing, researching, and printing our collateral, we spent anywhere from eighteen to twenty hours working on the sales kits. In the end, we have 114 tidy packages ready to be opened by our sales reps. The representatives will use the included materials to talk about Three Sides Water and convince booksellers to stock it in their stores. We can’t wait to see where Three Sides Water ends up. Perhaps it’ll be in your hometown? Look for it in stores on May 1, 2018!

Three Stories, One Cover

Ooligan’s summer term is almost over, and for the Three Sides Water team, that means wrapping up the cover design and starting work on the book’s interior. We began work on the cover way back at the beginning of spring term, nearly five months ago, and it’s a joy to see our efforts come to fruition. Three Sides Water posed several design challenges the team members hadn’t encountered before.

The first challenge was how to design one cover for three different stories that are essentially novel-length. The team wanted to avoid prioritizing one story over the others; each story spoke to us in different ways, and we knew each story would pull in different audiences. We also wanted to avoid a collage-like cover, as our recent YA novel Seven Stitches had a collage cover. We decided to request covers that didn’t depict any one setting from the stories, favoring a more general “Olympic Peninsula” feel.

We researched current cover trends in literary fiction and identified elements that would work for Three Sides Water, keeping the book’s themes of place, longing, and independence in mind. We also called attention to overdone cover themes and design elements: one of the first things the group decided was to avoid any depiction of water, as well as the color blue. (Have you seen how many blue books Ooligan has published? It’s almost embarrassing.)

Once the design brief was complete, a call for designers went out to the whole press. Ooligan differs from traditional publishing houses in many ways, but the cover design process is perhaps the most obvious divergence. While larger presses might have a few designated cover artists or a design firm they contract, Ooligan’s covers (and books) are designed 100% by students. Many enthused designers heeded the call. Round one of our cover process saw twenty-six designs. Some potential covers were improved upon; some were eliminated. Eight unique designs (and many variants of the designs) participated in the semifinals, after which only three remained.

The three finalists were all unique and highlighted different aspects of the book the designers loved, but the design that won over the staff paid homage to the Olympic Peninsula in general and managed to incorporate elements of each story without relying on a collage aesthetic. It was a difficult and drawn-out process, but we have high hopes for this cover and can’t wait to show it to the world.

New Acquisition: Three Sides Water

Ooligan Press is pleased to announce the acquisition of Three Sides Water from award-winning author Peter Donahue. Three Sides Water is a trilogy of short novels all set on the Olympic Peninsula in three different time periods. We are excited to work with Donahue on these stories, which have been five years in the making.

Peter Donahue is the author of the novels Clara and Merritt (Wordcraft of Oregon, 2010) and Madison House (Hawthorne Books, 2005) as well as the short story collection The Cornelius Arms (Missing Spoke Press, 2000). Madison House won the 2005 Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction.

He has also coedited two literary anthologies with John Trombold, Reading Seattle and Reading Portland, both published by the University of Washington Press. In Fall 2015, he published an abridged and annotated version of Seven Years on the Pacific Slope (Shafer Historical Museum) with coeditor Sheela McLean, a memoir by Mrs. Hugh Fraser about life in the Methow Valley between 1905 and 1912.

Since 2005, he has written the “Retrospective Review” column for Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History, published by the Washington State Historical Society. His many short stories and critical articles have appeared in such literary and scholarly journals as Connecticut Review, The South Carolina Review, Interim, Washington Square, Chiron Review, The Southern Quarterly, The Midwest Quarterly, and Writing on the Edge.

Michele Ford and her team will be working on this project, so look for their updates in the future!

Meet Ooligan’s Newest Title, Three Sides Water

As winter term wound down, Ooligan Press voted to acquire Peter Donahue’s manuscript Three Sides Water. Donahue, whose novel Madison House won the 2005 Langum Prize for Historical Fiction, brings the Olympic Peninsula to life in this exciting trilogy of three short novels.

Prior to being pitched to the press, the manuscript went through a developmental edit, where several members of the Ooligan team worked over summer break to prepare an editorial note for the author. Alison Cantrell, the former Write to Publish conference manager, worked on the project and is now part of the team. Having someone like Alison—who knows the book inside and out, who is familiar with the changes the author made to get to our current manuscript—has helped the team immeasurably.

After the initial developmental edit, the manuscript was pitched to the entire press. We voted to acquire it for several reasons, the first being Donahue himself. Ooligan works primarily with breakout authors, and while we truly love working with them, the press was excited at the prospect of working with an award-winning author with several titles under his belt. Moreover, Three Sides Water has been in the works for over five years—and it shows. The press fell in love with Donahue’s lyrical prose and complex, utterly realistic characters. And rather than viewing the task of marketing short novels as a burden, the press saw it as a healthy challenge to student creativity.

After the contract was signed, the project team began a second developmental edit. I see those wheels turning in your head, reader! You might be asking yourself, if the manuscript was so good, why does it need another edit? Even a manuscript by an award-winning author undergoes some changes before it reaches bookshelves. Ooligan includes a second developmental edit for all its titles, so this part of the process was in no way unusual.

Our production timeline for this term included a full copyedit after receiving the manuscript back from the author, but production schedules shifted to better accommodate the needs of our several manuscripts. Luckily, we were able to start the marketing plan and the design process without any issues—stages that typically start after copyediting. Because this manuscript encompasses three stories centered in the Olympic Peninsula at three different times in recent history, we are embracing some experimental marketing ideas.

In addition to a new manuscript, the team has welcomed a new project manager who will take over this summer. Michele Ford, who previously worked on the Write to Publish team, brings a keen eye for editing and marketing. Since three team members are graduating and three are taking over management positions for the 2017-2018 year, Michele will get a brand-new group this summer.

Speaking of summer, we’re planning a weekend trip to Forks to explore the Olympic Peninsula setting of Three Sides Water. Having been there twice—compelled by another book (shh, Twilight, shh)—I’m excited to see the area from another perspective with other characters in mind. We have plans to visit Shelton, Rialto Beach, and Mora Campground. Have you been to the Olympic Peninsula? Drop me a comment for places we should visit.

For more information about Peter Donahue, visit his website.