Acquisitions Outreach in the World of COVID

As one of the acquisitions managers for Ooligan Press, one of my main responsibilities is to look through the queries that come through our Submittable account. When it comes to acquiring novels, a lot of people imagine a never-ending slush pile that is a revolving door of unsolicited manuscripts. While that’s certainly true for larger presses, for smaller players like Ooligan, our pool tends to be much smaller. One area of acquisitions that people often don’t consider is the outreach that is involved with seeking out these submissions. With that being said, COVID has understandably decreased the number of submissions that we have received.

As a learning press, we also have a responsibility to ensure that the press has the opportunity to vet manuscripts for a potential pitch. If we don’t have anything in our slush pile to share with the press, then our team misses out on the chance to review a raw manuscript. So what has the acquisitions process looked like for Ooligan during the pandemic? Without a steady stream of queries flowing through our Submittable, the acquisitions team has had to make an even greater effort to scout authors who have the material we’re looking for. Like every other department, we have our own deadlines and schedules to adhere to, and like many other industries, we’ve had to shift things around and adjust on the fly in order to accommodate the new changes.

A lot of our recent work has revolved around searching for material. Over the past year and a half, our team has scoured the internet for various avenues where we can post our calls for submissions. This process involves searching for writing groups (both local and otherwise) and exhausting our contact lists to find viable sources. Even when we have received submissions, we found that many of them either didn’t read our submission guidelines correctly or that the ideas hadn’t been fully fleshed out.

We’ve also worked with our social media team to brainstorm new ideas for getting those calls for submissions into the world. My co-manager participated in PitMad, the Twitter event for publishers and agents to find material. While that didn’t result in any queries, it helped us better understand the process and some of its limitations for us as a small press based in the Pacific Northwest.

Now that we’re transitioning back to a more in-person environment—or at least one that is comfortably hybrid—I’m excited to see what will come next for us as a press. At this point, anything is possible! As always, if you have any thrilling ideas, we’d love to hear them! Our Submittable is always open.

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