Production Workflow at Ooligan Press: A Project Manager’s Early Perspective

“Each book we publish has an epic story of success behind it that exists totally separately from how well it reads or how well it sells. It’s the story of the book’s publishing and all of the unexpected trials students pass while learning how to make that happen.”—Jonathan Stark, Ooligan Alum and creator of Start to Finish.

Oolies (that’s what we call the graduate students who help run Ooligan Press) are simultaneously publishing professionals—meeting deadlines and industry standards to produce successful books—and actively learning new skills, collaborating innovatively, and pursuing academic success. At Ooligan Press, the books we publish follow a production workflow, which is the backbone of the entire process.

Getting Started

After a book is pitched and acquired by the press, budgets and contracts are finalized. The author(s) or editor(s) provide background information about their project and themselves, and Ooligan’s editorial team conducts several rounds of developmental and copyediting. These edits are compiled for the author(s) or editor(s), who then revise and return the manuscript. The manuscript then spends time with our digital department to be XML typecoded in preparation for the interior design. If a new title for the book is needed, the team and managers discuss options and vote during an executive meeting. Members of the press are invited to submit designs for the book’s cover, and some eventually apply to create the interior design.

While the editing and early design stages are being conducted, the project team begins the pre-sales period—the time between when we announce the book to distributors such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble and when it is time to print and ship to sellers and readers. This sets the stage for the marketing success of the book and begins months prior to the book’s publishing date.

During this time, the project team will be busy writing official copy to help garner attention for the title, including the hook, short description, summary, author and/or editor bios, information about the target audiences, key selling points, and other marketing highlights. All of this information is then compiled into a one-pager called the tipsheet. Managers must ensure consistency between documents before the information is entered into the digital databases that control the metadata for the book. Everything needs to be accurate and consistent from a logistical standpoint, otherwise our sales will suffer.

Next, the pre-sales call—a virtual meeting with the publisher, project manager, and the sales reps who will be representing our book—takes place. The project manager pitches the book to the sales reps. The pitch describes the genre, audience, cover design, author information, plot, and major selling points. Specific feedback is given by the reps who make suggestions and comments regarding the marketing strategy.

Book Production, Strategies, and Plans

Developing a marketing plan demands collaboration and organization between the project team and the marketing manager. We make decisions about how to market our new title in the most effective ways. The team builds a spreadsheet of contacts to reach out to and drafts personalized letters asking them to write a blurb or review for the book, to announce the publication on their podcast or blog, or even host or promote our launch and publicity events.

As production continues, the project team prepares promotional materials—a press kit that includes an advanced galley, the tipsheet, a press release, early reviews and blurbs, discussion questions, a playlist, and an information page about the press. The team proceeds with efforts to get the book reviewed. The interior design is finalized, and proofreading takes place before sending the book to the printer. The ebook version is designed, and digital copies of the book are available to send out for blurbs and reviews. Proofreading continues as needed, and our marketing and social media strategies are carried out. At Ooligan, we have a new audiobook department, so at the end of production, a book may be assigned to a narrator and be recorded. Along the way, the project team plans a launch party to celebrate the publication date.

Finishing Strong

Once the book is published, promotional work continues. The publicity manager applies for qualifying awards, and the social media campaign enters the sustaining phase.

Read my future posts to hear more about my experiences and our upcoming flash fiction release that is pubbing on February 1, 2021!

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