Interview with Eliot Treichel by Miranda Rabuck

Ooligan’s innovative Start to Finish pages, which document a book’s progress from its acquisition to its launch, are valuable to our authors because they give them a behind-the-scenes look at the development of their books. Since many authors think of their books as their babies, the blogging that project managers do on the Start to Finish pages offers authors an opportunity to check in as their babies grow into published books. But what happens to books after they go out into the real world and can no longer be traced by Start to Finish? I talked with Eliot Treichel, whose book Close Is Fine was published in November, about a book’s life after its launch and the post-launch work done by both the author and the publisher.

Miranda Rabuck: Close Is Fine was your first published book. As an author, what did you expect your role to be during the publishing process? How did your experience differ from your expectations?

Eliot Treichel: In as much as I had any real clear expectations at all, those expectations matched my experience. I knew that there’d be editing work, and that maybe I’d get to provide some input into other areas of design, and that finally there’d be some collaboration in terms of marketing and sales. And that’s really how it played out. Occasionally, I felt a little unsure of how big or vocal my role should be. It’s really fun to turn your book over to someone else and see what they’ll do with it, but it’s also a little terrifying. At times, I worried that I was over-expressing the terrified part.

MR: Your book passed through many departments before its launch. Which stage during the process of publishing your book were you the most heavily involved in? Which Ooligan departments did you work closely with?

ET: I worked most closely with the book’s project managers: Rachel Haag, Irene Costello, Marc Lindsay, Katie Allen, and Rachel Pass. All of them deserve huge props. One of the toughest parts about the process with Ooligan is that students graduate, and that there’s some turnover between departments. It was particularly tough when Rachel Haag and Irene graduated, not because there was any drop off in competence, or in the all-around awesomeness of the project managers, but because Rachel and Irene were my first contacts with Ooligan, and they really understood the book and championed it forward.

Beyond that, I worked closely with editing and marketing. I learned a lot during the editing process, not only about how to work together with an editing team, but also about some of my own writing tics and miscues, and about what’s really important to me in a sentence or a story.

MR: What kind of work have you seen go into Close Is Fine after its launch?

ET: The Start to Finish project began while Close Is Fine was going through the publication process. It was very exciting-slash-comforting to be able to see the book move through its different stages. But then Close Is Fine had its launch and was released into the world, and the progress bar on the Start to Finish page reached 100%, and the last entry was posted—and I remember how I immediately had this sinking thought of, “Oh, but wait. It’s not over. It’s just starting.” On Close Is Fine’s Start to Finish page, there’s a picture of the cover that has a yellow banner reading FINISHED across it. I understand how that makes sense in terms of the project, but there is also something kind of unnerving to see the word FINISHED, with its connotations of death and termination and all that, sprawled across the cover of your book. You do not want your publisher telling you that your book is finished, however subconsciously, right after it’s been released.

It’d be great to see the Start to Finish pages expanded—something like you’ve suggested with Beyond Start to Finish. Much of the work I’ve seen go into Close Is Fine since the launch has been with entering it into contests. There have been some other things—like setting up the reading with Daniel Kine at Sam Bond’s in Eugene—but much of the work I’m not exactly sure about. One of the cool things about Start to Finish is how open it is, and that openness and authenticity seems to fit in with Ooligan’s educational mission. Not all the posts from the Start to Finish pages are about how swimmingly everything is going. The public gets to see the struggles, the hiccups, the learning moments—all of which, ultimately, provide a much more realistic picture and understanding of the publishing process. It’d be great to carry that understanding past a book’s release date. The progress bar on each book’s Start to Finish page should go to 101% or something.

MR: Was there anything in the marketing plan for Close Is Fine that wasn’t accomplished? Was there anything not in the marketing plan that you’d still like to do?

ET: To answer the first question: I’ve been surprised at how hard it’s been to set up readings, or to even get bookstores to call or email me back concerning readings. Even places like the Midwest Bookseller’s Association—nada. In general, I would’ve liked to have done more events and to have given away more cheese in support of the launch. I’d also wanted to do a series of readings at people’s houses, much like Stephen Elliot has done in the past, but I chickened out. Would any of those things have given the book more traction? I’m not sure.

To answer the second question: Do you know how to get in touch with Nick Offerman? I want to get a copy of the book to him, and then I want him to totally fall in love with it, especially “Stargazer,” and then I’d like to have him decide to turn “Stargazer” into a movie, one where he also plays Walters. This sounds jokey, but I sincerely mean it. If someone who knows Nick Offerman is reading this, please put a copy of Close Is Fine in his hands. If you are Nick Offerman and you are reading this, please contact me.

MR: Has your experience with the publishing industry in any way changed what you’re currently writing?

ET: My first impulse was to say “no,” but the answer is clearly “yes.” I’m a much better writer having undergone this experience. And I now have new ideas about what you can do with your writing after it’s been written. There are lots of different ways for books to be born into this world, and that’s quite liberating. As always, though, the having been written part seems to remain the most crucial factor in the equation.

Although a book might be finished according to its Start to Finish page, our work, and the author’s, is never over. Arranging readings, entering contests, and hand selling books are just a few of the things we do with authors after their books launch. Speaking of book readings—Eliot will be reading with fellow Ooligan author Daniel Kine, whose bookis currently 83% finished, at Sam Bond’s Garage in Eugene on Tuesday, April 30. The reading begins at 6 p.m. Come by to support Ooligan

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