I am currently taking a class about knowledge and power, and I’m learning about how different systems in our society are put in place to establish knowledge as power while simultaneously keeping certain groups away from that same knowledge, making them powerless. As a graduate student in the Book Publishing program, I can’t help but see myself and my Ooligan peers at the center of this issue about the disparity of knowledge and power between the privileged and the marginalized.
Books are the tools of knowledge. That makes Ooligan Press—and other publishers—the gatekeepers, craftsmen, and distributors of knowledge to our society. That is a big responsibility! Unfortunately, the publishing industry has a history of only distributing the knowledge of the cis-gendered, white, able-bodied predominant, therefore only empowering them. As the first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Publishing Assistant (PA) for Ooligan Press, I am creating a blueprint that future PA’s will follow and planting the seeds for Ooligan’s future diversity and equity efforts. With all of this in mind, I have been working on a way that Ooligan can serve the local community by using our knowledge to give power to those who have been systematically without.
Publishing companies started calling for submissions from marginalized authors during the summer protests in 2020 but have done little to actually address the inequities that marginalized authors face. As a teaching press, Ooligan understands how inaccessible even the most basic publishing information is. After conversations with other department leads and students, I realized that most of us didn’t learn what query letters, pitches, metadata, or proposals were until we started our post-graduate studies. How can publishers expect marginalized groups to meet industry standards when submitting their books if all the knowledge about our industry is held under lock and key behind the tall walls of higher education? The answer is that they don’t. They either don’t know people from marginalized groups are less likely to get a post-graduate degree, or they simply don’t care. These diversity submission calls often come with limited windows and no support and are just another example of how our industry continues its performative allyship. Ooligan wants to be different!
Together with the Acquisitions team and the Graduate Assistants, I have been preparing a workshop for aspiring authors and writers who self-identify as marginalized. This workshop will teach authors the information they need to know to prepare their own industry-standard proposals, queries, and pitches for publishers and literary agents. Partnering with local community and literary organizations like the YWCA of Greater Portland, Willamette Writers, and the Independent Publishing Resource Center, Ooligan Press is reaching out to the community and paying it forward! As graduate students, we are privileged to have access to this knowledge, and we want to empower local, marginalized communities that wouldn’t traditionally have access to this information by sharing it in a less academic, more approachable way.
I am so excited to help Ooligan establish these connections with the community and do its part in bringing real change to the publishing industry. By starting and continuing this workshop, Ooligan Press isn’t just saying that we want more diverse authors, we are addressing the inequities in our industry that create the clear disparity between the privileged and the marginalized.