An Interview with Meagan Lobnitz: Project Manager of Untangling the Knot

It was a gray and colder-than-normal day as we gathered for the last Ooligan Press executive meeting of Winter 2014. We were selecting a new title for an in-house originated project, which, up until that point, had been called More than Marriage. One title in particular was almost unanimously picked, and Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships & Identity released at the end of February. Recently, I had a chance to interview the current team leader for the project, Meagan Lobnitz.

I remember back at the end of Winter Term 2014 when we voted on your book’s title. There was quite a bit of enthusiasm in the room that seems to have been building for quite some time. How did having all this vocal and open support from the Ooligan community impact you, your team, and the production of the book?

The project was originally pitched to the Ooligan team in Spring 2013, under the name More Than Marriage. The first title describes the original concept well; the acquisitions team, primarily Kate Marshall, wanted to build a collection about social justice issues that are faced by the LGBTQ community that extend beyond the discussion of marriage equality. The press seemed to recognize the value and timeliness of the project from the beginning. Not only is the topic relevant (a fact that has become more and more true in the time since the pitch), but a decision was made early in the progress of the project to extend the submissions to a national scale, which makes the title unique for Ooligan. The support of the press members and the publisher has allowed our team to push some boundaries and try new marketing ideas. We hope to reach a wide audience and to facilitate far-reaching exposure for the book, a task that requires ongoing support of the project from the entire Ooligan Press team, so we are of course grateful for that support.

As you know, it can take nearly a year, or more, for a book to go from concept to finished product. What sort of activities did you and your team have so that everyone could stay focused, stay on deadline, and not get burned out?

Untangling the Knot has had a long production schedule. During the fall of 2013, the project team focused on generating submissions and collecting preliminary data for marketing and publicity. The next quarter, there was plenty to do as project manager Kate Marshall worked with the book’s editor, Carter Sickels, to select essays and begin the process of compiling a manuscript. In spring of 2014, the team built a marketing plan and began to conceptualize what the final collection would look like, and worked on early copyediting as well. The cover was also designed by Ooligan member Stephanie Podmore during that spring. The team was very busy over the summer term in 2014: final developmental and copyedits took place. Carter assigned a final order for the book, and we created sales kits to send to our sales representatives at Ingram who would be pitching the title to book buyers. Fall of 2014 involved the interior design process, which was completed by Erika Schnatz. The team worked on early publicity efforts, including sending galleys to possible reviewers, and the process of acquiring blurbs for the book. That, of course, brings us to the current term. The team is busier than ever as we launch a full publicity campaign, plan launch events and other readings, contact local and national media outlets that might have interest in the title, and generally direct our efforts toward the upcoming publication date, which is February 28, 2015. I don’t think that the Untangling the Knot team has ever had time to lose focus or experience burnout. We are all pretty high energy, and we are focused on the best possible outcome for the title.

What were some of the most challenging moments in the process of bringing Untangling the Knot to print, and how did you overcome them? What did you and your team learn from these challenges?

The largest challenge during the process of bringing Untangling the Knot to print was the compilation of the essays. Working with twenty-five individual pieces meant extra legwork and a lot of communication with the authors. What we learned is that the more moving pieces there are in a project, the more it will benefit from advance planning and working to get and stay ahead of deadlines.

Many book projects have this moment when something amazing and/or unexpected happens; a famous author writes a blurb for your book, or your printer has managed to find that special paper you were looking for and isn’t going to charge you extra for it. Did anything like that happen with Untangling the Knot?

There have been a lot of special moments during the production of Untangling the Knot, beginning with the attachment of Carter Sickels as the editor for the collection, the amazing range of authors that have contributed to the anthology . . . all of our blurbs are special and exciting, and we have received early feedback from book buyers that many are excited about the title. Every production milestone has been exhilarating, up to and including the actual printing of the books.

Once the launch is completed, what’s next for you and your team?

The sell-through for Untangling the Knot will be a big focus for the team for the rest of this term and next. Beyond that, we look forward to the new rotation, during which we will start the production process of a new title if the press acquires one.

What are your biggest takeaways from this experience of producing Untangling the Knot? Insights? Epiphanies?

Maybe the most important lesson that our team has learned is that there are specific strategies that need to be employed when working on an anthology. These include extra measures for organization, maintaining open communication with all of the authors, and the specific challenges involved with describing the project in a way that best expresses the overall collection. These unique considerations mean that the team needs to be very close to the project.

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