In my time working at Ooligan Press, I have quickly learned that publishing is, first and foremost, a business. For all of the high-minded idealism that so many folks bring to books (whether reading, writing, or publishing them), it’s still a reality that you have to sell books to keep publishing them. There’s something else that my work at Ooligan Press has taught me, though: just because publishing is a business doesn’t mean we have to treat our authors strictly as business associates. We can be highly professional while making our author relationships personal. In fact, we pride ourselves on forging personal relationships, and even friendships, with our authors as we help them realize their vision and offer it to their readers.
Being a student-run press, our authors work with a team of graduate publishing students assigned solely to their manuscript who see the project through from acquisition to publication. This means that each step of the entire process becomes a learning experience for both the author and the students. They have the opportunity to grow together.
In working with with Karelia Stetz-Waters on her forthcoming young adult novel, Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before, editing department manager Sarah Currin says, “Meeting with Karelia in person really helped strengthen our relationship. We were both able to put faces to names, histories to stories, intentions to products after meeting in real life … Our in-person meetings have also really opened us up to an organic, natural back-and-forth in the editing process. We can bounce ideas off of each other and come up with brand-new solutions together that we wouldn’t have been able to think of on our own.”
Ooligan Press’s focus on the Pacific Northwest and its regional values means we often get to work with writers who are close to our home and who share our values; in this way, we can build the literary community and tradition in Portland, then share it with the world.
Sharing the book means marketing, and we do our best to market every book we publish with both the book’s success and the author’s unique personality and sensibilities in mind. Sarah Soards, the project manager for Karelia’s manuscript, met face-to-face with Karelia multiple times with her over the past few months, and she will continue to do so as often as possible in the lead-up to its publication.
Karelia’s outgoing personality and strong social media presence meant a digital route for us where she can be found across all sorts of different platforms via her
Facebook page, her brilliant Tumblr page, her Twitter feed, and her personal website. With her help, Ooligan can use these sites to build a personal relationship between author and reader, as well as between author and publisher.
Reading and helping to develop Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before has meant getting to know its author on a more personal level for all of the team members involved, especially since it deals with emotional issues closely connected to Karelia’s own upbringing in Oregon. The manuscript deals directly with Oregon’s historic battle over Measure 9 and equal rights in the state as the main character, Triinu, figures out who she is and where her politics lie. Working on the book has not only been an education for author and students about the publishing process, but also an education for our publishing team about an important piece of our region’s history.
I think this book, just like all the others from Ooligan Press, will be another good example of what can come from a publishing process that is educational and highly personal.