Tips for Making a Successful Event

Ooligan Press hosted its tenth Write to Publish conference in April, which is an Ooligan-run, one day conference with a mission to demystify the publishing process. This year’s conference was held in Hoffman Hall on the Portland State University campus, and I had the opportunity to work behind-the-scenes. It was my first term in the program, and I was placed on the Outreach and Development team because of my experience with event planning with Willamette Writers. It was the perfect challenge: the conference was in three weeks, I was a new student, and my role was to help as much as I could. There’s a lot that goes into making an event, whether you’re hosting a one-day event like a conference, a simple one-hour event, or an entire week’s worth of activities. What makes an event successful? These are three simple tips that will help.

Be flexible.

Right before the conference started, we needed to pick up bagels from one of the local shops that kindly donated to us. When we arrived, we found the shop closed and no sign of any bagels. The first rule of events: go with the flow and always have a backup plan. This means that when you’re scheduling a keynote speaker, have someone in mind in case the speaker falls ill or can’t make the event. In the case of the bagels, my colleague and I did a quick check of our email and figured out that we hadn’t been told the right location for pick-up. We just jumped in the car and went to pick up our bagels. No problem.

Communication is key.

Communicate with everyone. Eventbrite’s post by author Melanie Woodward discusses communication and how crucial it is. This means lots of emails and phone calls before the event to touch base with all of the participants (panelists, speakers, volunteers, etc.), and confirming everything you can to ensure there aren’t any major surprises. For example, is there a dress code? What time should participants arrive? Who should they check in with, and where? Will there be a volunteer training session? (There should be—it increases the success of events when volunteers know what they’re doing) Even better, ask the participants if they need anything or have any questions. Nothing is worse than having a disgruntled participant because you failed to tell them something important.

Market early.

It’s usually better to market more than a month before an event that will last one hour. For Willamette Writers’ large conference every year in August, we market as early as eight to nine months before the event. Start a marketing campaign. When will you post to social media outlets, and what will you say? How many newsletters will you send? At Ooligan, we’re aiming to send three or even four newsletters next year. What about marketing to alumni if you’re a college or organization? Can your panelists and participants market the event? Often, the most successful marketing comes from the professionals who participate, rather than the organization hosting the event. For example, an author will have fans who may see that they will be at an event, and attendees may go just for that author.

Events are only as strong as your plans and your organization—but remember that plans can change, so be willing to shift things quickly if need be.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more tips!

The Business of Bookstagram

Search for books on Instagram, and your screen will be flooded with pictures of books in various settings, from sitting next to hot cups of coffee, to being surrounded by objects that represent the contents of said book. Often referred to as bookstagram, the bibliophile’s side of Instagram is filled with aesthetic pictures of books and hashtags like #bookstagram and #shelfie, and is used by many a book blogger and average bibliophile to show off their favorite books and current reads. The custom has become so popular that publishing professionals have taken note and use their own Instagrams to show off pictures of their books. But are publishers’ Instagram accounts as artistic and effective as those of bookstagrammers, or are they doing something different?

Two big publishers, HarperCollins and PenguinTeen, both have Instagrams featuring pictures of books they have published. And yet, this is the only similar thing about them. A quick glance through HarperCollin’s account (@harpercollinsus) and it’s evident that they do not have an overarching aesthetic. The colors are all over the place, and posts range from books to authors to drawings. However, the individual bookstagram posts do well to represent the colors of the books’ covers, such as in a post celebrating Beverly Cleary’s 102nd birthday. The spines on her books are striped in a rainbow of colors and have been stacked upon one another, and stand out against a pale yellow and white striped background. PenguinTeen (@penguinteen), on the other hand, has a love of bright colors evident in all of their posts, and the vast majority of them feature books and little else. Their book posts range from simplistic books by themselves to elaborately arranged books and objects. One particularly effective post for Undead Girl Gang features the book wrapped in a jean jacket and surrounded by pins, which mimics the cover image. Interestingly, HarperCollins hardly ever uses hashtags to promote their posts, and when they do, never use #bookstagram or #shelfie. PeguinTeen, on the other hand, frequently uses both of these hashtags and many others, resulting in more interactions with their posts.

While I was searching through other publishers on Instagram, I also came across literary agent Carly Watters (@carlywatters) and her #bookstagram posts. Her posts have a clear aesthetic of soft greys, blues, and light browns. Her book posts feature books in various settings; held up against a textured backdrop, nestled on a bed or armchair, next to many, many cups of coffee, and more. Each bookstagram is appropriately tagged as such along with various other book-related hashtags. In an interview with Huffington Post, Watters said that she used her bookstagram as a way to connect with potential clients and promote current ones, and to announce exciting book deals. What a clever way to make use of Instagram for a literary agent!

So it’s not just bibliophiles who are making the most of the bookstagram side of Instagram. Publishers and other publishing professions have seen the potential of a great book pictures and are now using them to promote their own brands. It would also appear that the power of hashtags has a great effect on the visibility of said posts, and publishing professionals would do well to make the most of #bookstagram.

The Compilation Edit

I’ve had the pleasure of serving a one-year tenure as the managing editor of Ooligan Press, and now that I’ve reached the end of my time in this position, I’ve had an opportunity to reflect on how singular this experience has been. Ooligan is a general trade publisher with a national distribution, but we also operate as a teaching press. We’re staffed by students pursuing master’s degrees, and leadership positions are entrusted each year to a new team of second-year students. With yearly transitions in the management team, the people interacting with our authors is almost certain to change at some juncture.

In addition to the yearly management turnover, Ooligan’s status as a teaching press is at the center of everything we do, meaning that we involve as many students as possible in each project. Our system has its advantages; students obtain valuable experience before graduating and entering the workforce, and the press enjoys a constant introduction of new ideas. It does, however, present some challenges in terms of maintaining consistency—especially for the editorial department.

Students enter Ooligan with a variety of different skill sets and backgrounds, and part of the job of the managing editor is to ensure that editors are assigned to projects within their abilities that still allow them to grow. Giving new editors a chance to hone their skills while maintaining a high-quality editorial process is the main goal of the Ooligan editorial department, and it’s made possible by using an approach we call the compilation edit.

A compilation edit is the best method we’ve found to make manuscript editing a collaborative process. For every editing round, a team of editors is assembled and briefed on the project. The approach varies depending on the book project and type of editing needed, but team sizes usually range from three to eight editors. Editors are then assigned individual tasks that often include focusing on a specific section. After each team member submits their work, an editorial department manager implements the team’s notes and cleans up comments to send to the author that will maintain a consistent voice and line of communication. Having a manager review and adjust a team’s edits is the most important part of a successful compilation edit. By establishing a dependable tone and methodology across the board, communication with our authors is much smoother and more efficient for all involved.

I’ve spent the last year looking over and compiling work from more than twenty-five editors, and I’ve gained some insights that can be applied to almost any editing task. Here are a few things that combining editorial comments from a team of editors into cohesive documents has taught me about editing:

  • Establish consistency: I can’t stress enough how important it is to establish consistency in manuscript editing, and this includes creating a style sheet specific to each book project as early as possible. An Ooligan style sheet is a living, collaborative document that evolves with a manuscript. Even if an editing team changes from one editing round to the next, the style sheet remains a fixture that helps guide future editing decisions.
  • Be flexible: Editorial suggestions are often subjective in nature. For example, I’d sometimes assign two editors to the same section and receive two entirely different edits that I’d need to vet and then harmonize together. This helped me understand that—as with writers—all editors have unique backgrounds and styles that influence their work.
  • Serve the text: A successfully edited manuscript usually comes down to making judgment calls that keep the author’s intentions at the forefront. Often I’d understand why an editor made a choice, but as the managing editor, I was usually familiar enough with the author’s intentions to understand when a change wouldn’t serve the text in the best possible way.

The compilation edit is unique to the operations of our teaching press, but coordinating this type of edit has been an invaluable learning experience for me as an editing professional. Editorial work is often more of a flexible art than a task that follows a standard procedure, as there are many ways to work with an author to bring out the best in their work. Although I will likely edit most projects on my own after I leave Ooligan, I will continue to carry with me the voices of all the talented editors I’ve collaborated with this year.