Behind the Scenes with Ooligan Press at the Portland Book Festival

The Portland Book Festival, formerly known as Wordstock, is Oregon’s biggest literary event of the year, featuring panels, vendors, speakers, and lots and lots of books. Every November, the day-long event attracts authors and publishers from near and far, and last fall, Ooligan Press was proud to be included yet again. The festival drew its biggest crowd yet, with authors such as Elizabeth Acevedo, Lauren Groff, Tommy Orange, and Emily Suvada, and featured celebs-turned-authors Tom Hanks (who held a baby on stage at the Schnitz!) and Abbi Jacobson of Broad Cityfame.

In preparation for Ooligan’s role at the festival, the publisher’s assistants (myself and co-assistant, Stephanie Anderson) are responsible for finding and training volunteers from our press to oversee our vendor booth. We then work closely with our publisher to make sure all the books and supplies we’ll need are packed and ready. The day before the event, we set up in the Mark Building at the Portland Art Museum, where the vendors are located. Each vendor is given a specific time slot for setting up to streamline the process and keep things from getting hectic. It’s strange to see how empty the second floor ballroom is before the event. It’s a far cry from what it’ll look like the next day, when the room fills up with vendors and festival-goers. This year, we had a prime spot—a corner end cap right across from Powell’s Books massive set-up.

No other literary event in Portland draws as many readers, writers, and publishing professionals as the Portland Book Festival, which is why it’s one of the most important promotional and networking opportunities for Ooligan. It’s a chance to discuss our frontlist and backlist with potential readers while both are on display, and it’s also a great time for selling books. This year, two of our YA authors joined us at the booth to sign books—Meagan Macvie, who wrote the Kirkus-approved The Ocean in My Ears, and Connie King Leonard, whose Sleeping in My Jeans recently pubbed to great acclaim.

Sometimes people who approach our table aren’t always looking to buy a book. Instead, they want to create one, and we’re always happy to provide them information for how to do so. But one of my favorite parts of tabling at the festival is when I get to talk to prospective students interested in the book publishing program and working for Ooligan Press, which, of course, I highly recommend. And it’s always fun to visit with fellow local indie publishers like Overcup Press and Pomegranate.

After a long day of cementing Ooligan’s place within the Portland literary scene, inventory is taken of the remaining books, the cash box is counted, and the books are packed up and loaded onto the pushcart with the help of some amazing volunteers. Unlike setting up, all of the vendors pack up to leave at the same time, so getting out of there isn’t quite as smooth as getting in, and waiting for the elevator can take awhile, but it’s all worth it to be a part of the fascinating and fun celebration of books that is the Portland Book Festival.

Manager Monday: Passing the Torch to Next Year’s Managers

Publisher’s assistants are responsible for handling a wide variety of tasks. We’ve already written about our efforts to impliment Ooligan Press’s the Green Press Initiative, how we manage mailing so very many books, and what it’s like to represent our publishing house at a trade show. But as managers, it’s easy to forget about one of our most important responsibilities: training our replacements. One of the biggest challenges we face at Ooligan is our high turnover rate—the natural result of sending so many successful graduate students out into the world is that our teaching press must constantly adapt to new leadership. So how do we build better institutional memory, train new talent, and smooth the transition as new managers rotate in each year?
One of the ways operations is paving the way for next year’s new publisher’s assistants is by creating a new and improved Operations Manual as a resource guide for all things related to keeping the press running smoothly. We’ll teach our PA protégés how to file for copyright, how to update CoreSource, how to track our inventory, and how to show off our books at trade shows and conferences—among many other responsibilities. But what about the other managers? We asked around, and this is what fellow outgoing and incoming managers had to say about their experience:

A Who’s Who of Manager Wisdom

What has been the most memorable aspect (good or bad) of being a manager this past year?

“The most memorable aspect of being a manager for me is seeing a project completed from start to finish. Seeing Write to Publish 2016 transform from ideas (and many, many spreadsheets) on the computer screen to a full-fledged writing conference was lovely!”

“One of the hardest parts of being a manager for me was toning down my own helicopter parenting over the project. I think there was something very isolating at first, with a team that was almost entirely new and a project that was very unpredictable, and I was very conservative in my delegation of work. I had to work really hard to be less of a busybody and share the weight of the project—and it was such a great feeling to watch my team take that weight and run with it. Watching them grow in confidence and skill, coming up with such cool ideas and then making them happen—while always supporting and encouraging one another—that was the best. We could be in the middle of a giant messy catastrophe, and my team would be over here publishing books like it’s no big deal.”

“I’ve loved the buy-in of being a manager—that there isn’t anything to be gained except for exactly what you put into it. That means you put your heart and soul into the projects that matter to you, and you get to really see them play out in real time.”

What is one thing that you wish the previous manager of your department/project had trained you to do?

“My hardest lesson this year has been about project delegation. I assumed that members of my team would speak up about which kinds of tasks they wanted to take on, but I realized most people in their first few terms don’t know where their strengths are yet. I had to learn on my own how to get to know more about the personalities and work styles of my group members and how to assign tasks that gave each person enough hours of work in a diversity of departments—while still making 70 percent of the work fall within or around their comfort zones.”

“Staying organized with all of the google docs and spreadsheets and files was really hard. Once I started to realize that things were getting disorganized, it was basically too late to go back. Seriously, the amount of spreadsheets and various files W2P managers need to keep track of is absolute insanity. So I wish the previous managers had shown us what worked or didn’t work for them in their own file management.”

And finally, what is the one thing you hope your replacement(s) will take away from your training?

“I hope our replacements take away the long view to our department’s place in the press that we’ve tried to cultivate. We really think about Ooligan’s list and market potential when we develop pitches, and our weekly lessons are designed to get students more familiarity with publishing early in the program before they’ve taken a lot of classes.”

“It’s easy to be hard on ourselves, but forgiveness and compassion toward our own mistakes is a challenge worth striving toward. (Is this just an editor thing? We tend to beat ourselves up over the tiniest details—a typo or two is a fraction of a percent of an entire book, but it’s enough to ruin an editor’s entire month.)”

“I hope that my replacement ends spring term with a solid set of actionable goals for the summer and a good idea of what she wants to accomplish in that time. I think summer term is a really useful period for testing the water and growing into the production schedule, and I hope that I can leave her with enough direction, tools, and strategy to support the team through the summer while they all figure out their new team dynamic and assess where to go from there.”

“I hope, more than anything else, that Sophie will understand that the tools needed to be a great leader and a great project manager are already skills she has. There is no catching up to do and no people she needs to convince of her competence. If there are questions along the way, we know she will creatively and effectively use her resources to find solutions. That’s why she got hired!”

Can you match our managers with their answer? We want to thank all our outgoing managers for their dedicated service and wish everyone the best of luck as we launch a new generation of leaders at Ooligan!

Manager Monday: Publishing Just Got a Little Bit Greener (Operations)

Book publishing is a notoriously resource-intensive industry, so as publishers we have a responsibility to consider not only how our books impact our readers but also our environment. As the next generation of publishing professionals, we at Ooligan Press literally wrote the book on Rethinking Paper & Ink because we believe in striving for sustainability at every stage of the publishing process.

If you’re a student at Ooligan, you’ve probably heard the publisher’s assistants preach about the Green Press Initiative because raising awareness of publishing’s environmental impacts is a vital part of our mission. Before we can get greener, we’ve got to get educated—so what is the Green Press Initiative? Why does certification matter? And what can you do to help make publishing more sustainable?

According to the Green Press Initiative, together the US book and newspaper industries consume over 120 million trees and emit over 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year—that adds up to the yearly carbon dioxide emissions of 7.3 million cars! To help reduce this sasquatch-sized footprint, the Green Press Initiative aims “to work with book and newspaper industry stakeholders to conserve natural resources, preserve endangered forests, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and minimize impacts on indigenous communities.” Their mission is to help publishers adopt more environmentally responsible practices through a stringent set of certification standards, including:

  • using recycled or sustianably sourced paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council
  • reducing the paper weight of every page we print
  • using responsible paper-bleaching practices
  • using paper made with renewable energy or alternative fibers
  • using ink low in volatile organic compounds
  • lowering gas emissions when shipping our books
  • striving to achieve lower return rates to keep books out of landfills.

Ooligan Press strives to meet or exceed the Green Press Initiative’s benchmarks for sustainability because our press is rooted in the Pacific Northwest, which demands that we use our natural resouces responsibly for generations of readers to come. That’s why Ooligan’s OpenBook titles undergo environmental audits, which we publisher’s assistants make possible by keeping careful records of every publishing decision our press makes. Our dedication to sustainability allows us to operate with a clear conscience, and every department has a part to play in making greener publishing decisions:

  • Our acquisitions department can help by choosing books that will be read again and again, reducing shipping emissions from returns and keeping books out of landfills.
  • Our editorial department can help by reducing page counts, which can lower our use of paper and ink.
  • Our design department can help out by reducing page counts, considering cover designs that use less ink, and including certification seals and copy in our book designs.
  • The marketing, social media, and digital departments can help by incorporating our certification and sustainability initiatives into Ooligan Press’s brand message. Promoting the Green Press Initiative helps foster a culture of sustainability at the press and raise environmental awareness among our partners and readers.

As publisher’s assistants, we couldn’t be more excited to renew Ooligan’s certification. With everyone working together, Ooligan Press can help publishing get a little bit greener with the Green Press Initiative.