Divide and Conquer: Management at Ooligan Press

The entirely student-run Ooligan Press is divided into several tiers of management, including team members, project managers, and department leads, all of whom are overseen by Portland State University faculty.

When students take publishing studio or lab, they always start as team members assigned to a current book project overseen by a project manager. Book projects change throughout the academic year as our books get published, and before each quarter begins, the students fill out a survey to indicate which projects they’re most interested in working on.

One special exception is the outreach and events team, which doesn’t work on a book project. Instead, this team manages our annual Write to Publish conference, which aims to demystify the publishing experience for local authors and other community members.

Team members perform a wide variety of tasks specific to their current project, including creating social media content, contacting potential reviewers, and giving feedback throughout the book’s development. They collaborate with one another and complete tasks assigned by their project manager.

Through this process, project managers develop valuable supervisory and multitasking skills. They communicate expectations for a book’s design, social media content, and other collateral. Project managers also keep in contact with the book’s author, providing editorial feedback and requesting information about book launches, readings, and other events related to the promotion of the book.

Working alongside project managers are the department leads. Ooligan consists of five traditional departments that oversee different facets of the publishing process: acquisitions, editorial, design, digital, and social media. All editing, design, digital, and social media content created for Ooligan receives two or even three stamps of approval—from the project manager, the department lead, and sometimes the publisher—before being published. The editorial, design, digital, and social media departments all ensure that content created for Ooligan meets our quality standards. Additionally, each department holds weekly meetings attended by members of the project teams. Attending different department meetings fosters a deeper understanding of the publishing industry as a whole.

Acquisitions functions a little differently in that it doesn’t oversee the current projects Ooligan is working to publish but instead looks toward the future of Ooligan, evaluating and accepting manuscripts from authors who submit proposals to us. Interested authors can submit a query letter to Ooligan Press here. Ooligan exclusively accepts digital queries.

The outlier department is operations, where two publisher’s assistants manage distribution of Ooligan’s titles, update backlist information, and do miscellaneous odd jobs around the press. They do not hold weekly department meetings. To use a theater analogy, the publisher’s assistants can be thought of as the “lighting crew” of Ooligan: they work behind the scenes, but their work is important to making sure the show (in this case, the publication of books) is successful.

Ooligan is a complex working master’s program that seeks to teach by doing—what better way to learn how publishing works than by publishing a book? Hopefully this has been an informative crash course on Ooligan’s managerial system.

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