Lessons from Wordstock 2013

For more than a decade Wordstock has supported the local literary community by hosting workshops, author readings, and the ever-dazzling book fair, where publishers large and small (such as yours truly) can interact with readers and aspiring authors alike. As vendors at this year’s festival, we particularly enjoyed speaking with everyone who came by our table, and it was illuminating to see which of our books grabbed the most attention and which ones could use a bit more marketing support. There’s more to Wordstock than the book fair, though. We got to see our own authors Ruth Tenzer Feldman and Eliot Treichel rock the stage with their readings. Cheryl Strayed, T.C. Boyle, Francesca Lia Block, and A.M. Homes were just a few of the other authors to grace the ten stages at the festival. In addition to the readings, there were workshops and panel sessions aplenty. Of all the panel sessions I saw, one particularly stood out: “Introducing Four Unique Debuts from Independent Publishers,” moderated by Chloe Eudaly of Reading Frenzy, in which four authors (Michael Heald, Cari Luna, Eliot Treichel, and Lucie Wilk) discussed their experiences publishing with smaller presses. Small Publisher Panel Wordstock 2013 It was interesting to hear Luna talk about her experience trying to sell her first novel to the big publishers through an agent for two years, only to have them ultimately reject it as unmarketable. She ultimately found a smaller publisher, Tin House, without the help of an agent for her second novel (her first to be published); she chose them because the entire organization was willing to stand behind her work and throw all of their resources behind it. Since Tin House only publishes twelve books a year, this also gives them the time to support Luna’s book; by comparison, even if one of the Big Five publishers had picked up her book, they likely would have only supported it for a few weeks, if at all. The authors all agreed that working with a smaller publisher gave them a more hands-on experience: they had more input in the editing and design processes than they would have had at a larger house. This can be one of the benefits or one of the banes of working with a small house, as it requires the author to be more proactive and involved in the publishing process—which is not something that all authors want to do. This is especially important to keep in mind when marketing a book: the smaller houses don’t have the same kind of resources to offer a book that the larger houses can. It often falls on authors to arrange their own readings, book tours, and other marketing appearances, which often comes as a surprise to them, especially as travel to these venues is usually at their own expense. This is something we at Ooligan need to keep in mind for the future, so that we can do a better job of supporting our authors in getting their books to their readers. At the Ooligan Press Table at Wordstock This past weekend Wordstock took over the Oregon Convention center for the last time. The next time it comes around, in the spring of 2015, Wordstock will take place on the Portland State University campus. We here at Ooligan couldn’t be more excited about the change of venue!

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