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Inside Ooligan Press: DEI’s Involvement with a Book

Each department at Ooligan oversees a particular area of a book’s production; Design works on the book’s cover and interior, Digital handles the ebook version, Audiobooks scripts the book and works with the narrator or narrators to produce an audiobook version, and so on and so forth. In a previous blog post, I introduced myself as the DEI Publisher’s Assistant for Ooligan Press and gave a brief overview of my position; here, I’m back to walk you through my involvement with each book as it makes its way through the publishing process.

When Ooligan is in its acquiring phase for a book, the Acquisitions managers reach out to me if any aspect of the book will require special attention and consideration from a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion standpoint. If the press as a whole votes to acquire the manuscript, I join the developmental edit team and provide insight into issues of sensitivity and authenticity. Following the developmental edit, I join the copyediting team(s) and provide additional insight into issues of inclusive language and any other aspects of the written manuscript that need to be treated with care. I also work with the book project team and copyediting team(s) to create the manuscript’s style sheet, and I answer any questions, assist in querying the author on certain issues, and provide resources that will assist the team in making the book as equitable and inclusive as possible.

After editorial comes cover design. I work with the book project team and the Design manager to build the book’s cover design brief and provide feedback to the cover designers to make sure a cover does not portray any stereotypes or offensive images (e.g., making sure a book about immigrant stories doesn’t have barbed wire or weeds on the cover).

I then assist in creating and maintaining social media and marketing strategies to ensure no part of the book, the author’s identity, or the audience is being commodified or tokenized in the promotion of the book.

When a book is being considered for an audiobook component, I work with the Audiobooks manager in instances of underrepresented or marginalized people potentially being narrated by someone outside of that group so that DEI efforts are considered in both choosing a narrator and narrating that character’s lines.

Throughout the processes outlined above, I work closely with anyone within the press who has questions or concerns about any aspect of the manuscript, and I jump in and out of book teams when needed. Overall, our goal as a press is to publish each book with care to be as diverse, equitable, and inclusive as possible, and my position has a very heavy hand in that process. Consulting with book project teams and the different departments within Ooligan is one of my favorite aspects of this position, and I am very proud of our press’s mission to publish diverse, authentic books and the initiatives we take to make our mission a reality.

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 Books That are Relephant

Happy Book Birthday to Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper’s Life Among the Herd! Today, we are learning about, celebrating, and loving elephants. There are several ways you can celebrate elephants—going to the zoo, donating, and reading a book featuring elephants are some examples. Below are a few books that feature elephants in a way that acknowledges how thoughtful, sweet, and loyal elephants are.

In 2020, Ooligan Press published Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper’s Life Among the Herd by Melissa Crandall. The reader follows Roger Henneous through his career as an elephant keeper at the Oregon Zoo. Roger befriends the elephants—Belle, Packy, Me-Tu, Rosy, and the others—by learning their language and speaking up for them when his coworkers would not. This biography highlights the friendships that can be formed between humans and elephants, as well as the intelligence and loyalty of elephants.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen was published in 2006 by Algonquin Books. This novel follows Jacob Jankowski, a veterinary student in the Great Depression, and his career as a circus menagerie veterinarian. While working for the circus, Jacob meets Marlena, the equestrian star, and her husband August, the brutal animal trainer. Jacob also meets Rosie, the untrainable elephant that was meant to save the circus. During his time with the circus Jacob befriends Rosie, but he also finds the circus to be a treacherous place. Jacob and Rosie’s friendship is built on his kindness toward her and his understanding that she is an intelligent and kind animal that is being mistreated. While Rosie is not the main character in this novel, the story would not be the same without her.

Square Fish published An Elephant in the Garden: Inspired by a True Story by Michael Morpurgo in 2010. This novel is about Lizzie and her family’s experience in World War II. Lizzie’s mother worked at a zoo and formed an attachment with Marlene, an orphaned elephant that she brought home in an effort to protect from the bombings. Lizzie, Karl (her little brother), their mother, and Marlene must flee for safety after their home is destroyed. They have to make their own path to safety due to Marlene’s presence, but it quickly becomes evident that without Marlene they would not have survived. Morpurgo manages to show the bond between an elephant and humans, as well as the love and respect that develops between them.

The books listed above are only a few of many, many books that explore the relationships between humans and elephants. Elephants appear across genres from children’s books to nonfiction to historical fiction. There is an elephant book for everyone to read and enjoy!.

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Book Printing 101

If you’ve ever picked up a book from your local library, bookstore, or online retailer and thought to yourself, “how was this printed,” “why is the cover bound like this,” or “what are these fancy ripped edges called?” buckle up, because this post is for you. Book printing is one of the last parts of a book’s journey before it gets shipped out to your local bookstore, and there are different types of printing used throughout the industry.

Offset Printing

Offset printing is typically used for large scale commercial print runs by larger publishers, like Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Pan Macmillan, since this type of printing can be costly for smaller print runs. This is because this type of printing uses metal plates specifically created for each page. Rubber is melted onto each plate to form the interior of the book. Depending on the dimension of the pages, the plates can have anywhere from eight to thirty-two pages per plate, which means that there are often dozens of plates per book. After the plates are made, paper, often in reels, is loaded into the printer and the plates are used to transfer ink to the paper. Then the pages are sectioned, bundled, trimmed to size, and readied to be bound with the cover. The cover is printed on a separate type of paper and uses a different process than the interior because it may require specialty printing like embossing, foil, or other detailing. Once each component is complete, the whole is assembled and glued together.

Digital Printing

Digital printing is very similar to your at-home printer only on a larger, much higher quality scale. This type of printing is often used by smaller or indie publishers as it is more cost effective for smaller print runs. Once the digital file is received by the printer, they set to work trimming paper, in stacks rather than reels, to fit the printer. The pages are loaded into the machine and sent through the printer. Instead of printing with ink, digital printing uses toner and completes one book interior in order, where offset is completed in sets of pages called signatures then compiled in the right order post printing. Once again, the cover jacket is printed using a different machine and then the interior and cover are joined together using glue.

You can watch a quick video about PNW-local printer Gorham Printing’s process here: How Are Books Made?

Embossing & Debossing

Covers are their own unique print process for both offset and digital printing. Often they contain details that are not in the interior like embossing or debossing. Embossing is when the cover is pressed between two plates to create a raised design in the paper. Debossing is the exact opposite where the design is indented rather than raised. Usually debossing is combined with details like foils or metallic ink, but not always.

Deckled Edges

Those books with the ripped pages are created intentionally in modern publishing, but actually used to be considered a defect of the papermaking process. They are called deckled edges or simply rough cut pages. These edges give some books a more antique look and are simply a design choice.

Gilded Edges

Another fancy way to spice up a book’s pages are gilded edges. Foil or metallic ink is painted onto the edges of a bound book to create a more refined edge. This is often used in special editions. A really common example is the gold or silver edges found on bibles.

There are many more terms, techniques, and processes that can be found in book printing. But the basics have been covered above. The size of the print run, the details on the cover, and the overall appearance of the book depends on the ever evolving printing process.

stone road leading to medieval castle in mist

Books to Get You Hyped for THE KEEPERS OF ARIS!

It’s been well established by now that diversity is extremely important in reading and publishing. Having diverse voices represented in all aspects of the industry is necessary to reflect the world we live in. One genre that has historically lacked diversity but has recently been improving is YA fantasy. As we at Ooligan prepare to publish our own YA fantasy novel, The Keepers of Aris, here’s a list of Black YA fantasy novels that I recommend in no particular order.

  • A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
    • The first in a fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore, this book follows a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee who find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction.
  • Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart
    • This Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy has the twisted cat-and-mouse of Killing Eve with the richly imagined fantasy world of FurybornandAn Ember in the Ashes.
  • Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
    • This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.
  • Legacy of Orïsha series by Tomi Adeyemi
    • Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic before a ruthless king ordered all maji killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Now Zélie fights to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy while struggling to control her powers—and her growing feelings for an enemy.
  • Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen
    • Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata—a mermaid—collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home. But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi goes against an ancient decree and does the unthinkable—she saves his life. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy the gods.
  • Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray
    • In this much-anticipated series opener, fate binds two Black teenagers together as they strike a dangerous alliance to hunt down the ancient creature menacing their home—and discover much more than they bargained for.
  • The Legendborn Cycle series by Tracy Deonn
    • After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.
  • The Return of the Earth Mother series by Reni K. Amayo
    • A gruesome war results in the old gods’ departure from Earth. The only remnants of their existence lie in two girls. Twins, separated at birth. Goddesses who grow up believing that they are human. Daughters Of Nri explores their epic journey of self-discovery as they embark on a path back to one another.
  • The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
    • Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs. But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity—and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

And don’t forget to check out The Keepers of Aris by Autumn Green this May 9, 2023!

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Inside Ooligan Press: The Beginning Stages of a Manuscript with Ooligan

The dust has settled. The Where We Call Home launch party went off without a hitch (unless you consider a random man offering Ramon, the illustrator, some homemade chocolate drink in the middle of the book talk a “hitch”). Josephine and Ramon continue to participate in book events and sell the book. I am a proud project manager.

Now we get to do the whole book production process all over again!

My project team is sticking to the nonfiction category, but we’re moving away from the natural sciences; our next manuscript, A Family, Maybe, is a memoir by Lane Igoudin about his and his husband’s struggle to form a family in the mid-2000s. It’s got drama. It’s got humor. It’s got love. My team and I are having a great time working on it.

Much has been happening this term for A Family, Maybe. The acquisitions team wrapped up the developmental edit, we’re working on the copyedit now, and we are about to start on the cover design. For my team specifically, the main focus this term has been on generating the inward-facing documents that will help us market the book. The two main documents that we’ve had our hands on so far are the persona exercise and the marketing plan. The persona exercise is an activity that my team and I did together to make up characters who we think would be interested in the book. We make up a primary audience member and secondary audience member from the ground up, identifying everything from their demographics to their family lives to their favorite foods. Being familiar with these characters’ lives helps us figure out how they would find A Family, Maybe. Would they see posts about it on social media? Would people in their lives recommend it? Would they purposely, directly seek it out?

The marketing plan is similar in the sense that we are creating the backbone of the manuscript. We include the “demographics” of the book (title, ISBN, BISAC codes, etc.) along with comparative titles, hook, back cover copy, and much more. This document serves as the foundation from which all subsequent documents stem. Soon it will be finalized, and then we’ll be moving onto generating a contact sheet. Once we reach that stage, I’ll have come full circle as a member of Ooligan; when I joined the press back in January 2022, the team I was on was in the contact stage.

It’s bittersweet, the thought that I’ve almost arrived at the same place that I started. Professionally, I’ve come so far in the past year. I have so many invaluable skills and experiences that I will take with me into my career. Yet my time at Ooligan is approaching its end. I’ll be training up a new manager in spring who will take over my role when I graduate in June. Although I am looking forward to imparting my knowledge to my successor, I’m finally starting to feel like I’ve really got the hang of this whole Ooligan thing.

But so it goes. I’m going to give my last few months, and the A Family, Maybe manuscript, my all, and I can’t wait to help it be the best it can be. There are some strong contenders for project manager after me, and I know that the next cohort is going to do a fantastic job!

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Inside Ooligan Press: Your Book’s Project Manager

After working closely with Ooligan’s Acquisitions department, you’ll build a relationship with your book’s Project Manager. The Project Manager is like a tour guide, chaperoning your manuscript through the publishing process. As various departments work with and around the manuscript, the Project Manager ensures things stay on schedule—or at least as close to on schedule as possible. The Project Manager doesn’t do it alone though; the book project team plays a critical role in getting your book into the hands of readers.

The team is responsible for crafting many essential documents. For example, with guidance from the Marketing department, the team creates the book’s marketing plan, which is the foundation of how the book will be promoted up to publication, during its launch, and for the approximate year after publication. This document also includes critical pieces of copy such as the back cover description, the author bio, and the book’s overall hook. The Project Manager is responsible for communicating the marketing plan to the author and guiding the team in readjusting as needed based on the author’s feedback.

As the marketing plan is implemented, the team is also responsible for creating the promotional materials themselves. Team members create social media posts, including copy and images, which Ooligan’s Social Media department posts across the press’s social media accounts. The team’s familiarity with the book—its subject matter, themes, characters, etc.—enables them to create meaningful and relevant social media posts. The team is like the book’s best friend; they’ve gotten to know the book well and want to see it be successful. The farther along we go into the book creation process, the more deadlines and tasks need to be juggled, so the Project Manager stays on top of communicating expectations about what deliverables are needed and when.

As the big day approaches, the team hones in on getting ready for the book launch. Think of your favorite book launch event. Maybe you loved it because of the free swag or the yummy snacks. Maybe the interview with the author was memorable, the questions diving deep into the who, what, and why of the book and its creator. Everything that goes into a book launch has to be planned ahead of time, and this is where the team and the Project Manager really have a chance to shine. Flyers and posters for the event, engaging questions for the Q & A, free goodies for the audience, and a space to actually hold the event—all of these things and more are the focus of the team and Project Manager in the months, week, days, and even hours leading up to the book launch. It’s normal to have a lot of questions as publication day approaches, and the Project Manager is still your go-to person to help you as the author before and on the day of your book launch.

After your book is finally out in the world, the hard work of the team and Project Manager continues to pay off as Ooligan posts about the book on social media and applies to book awards applicable to your book. Because Ooligan is a student-run press, the team and Project Manager will soon continue on their way, joining other book teams, participating in different classes, and graduating. Ooligan’s graduate program is only two years long, but in that time, each of us puts our heart and soul into making the books we work on the best they can be and helping our authors have the best publishing experience possible.

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Inside Ooligan Press: What Does an Editor Do?

Note: This is part of the blog series “Inside Ooligan Press,” about how we take a manuscript from an idea to a professionally published book.

There are many levels of editing that help shape a manuscript into what readers ultimately pull off the shelves of their favorite bookstore or library, but how does each level of editing work to transform a manuscript from the first draft to the final, polished result?

As editors, we create and manage all editorial timelines and guide an author through the publishing process as their manuscript undergoes multiple levels of editing. In addition, an editor’s goal is to help an author strengthen their writing while also maintaining their voice and overall tone of their story. To do this, editors follow guidelines set by the client they are working with, the publishing house they work within, and style guides used across particular industries. Here at Ooligan Press, we utilize our house-made style guide and a style guide created specifically for each manuscript we publish, as well as the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) that is broadly used across the publishing industry. These guides encompass standard rules for the treatment of numbers, the use of commas, and the use of other punctuation, as well as citations and endnotes when applicable.

CMOS is the standard style guide used in trade book publishing, but each publishing house may also utilize an internal style guide for specific editorial decisions. For example, at Ooligan, our style guide has a specific section for inclusivity that we reference to ensure our publications are accessible to readers and use inclusive language. We also create style guides for each manuscript to address book-specific editing choices such as the spelling of unique names and phrases, often seen in fantasy or non-fiction books.

These style guides are utilized throughout the four main editing stages: developmental editing, copyediting, line editing, and proofreading. The first round of editing that a manuscript goes through is developmental editing, also called a DE. This round is undertaken by our Acquisitions Department, who work with authors to complete big picture editing. Rather than correcting spelling errors or comma splices at this stage, a DE looks at the manuscript from the top down, addressing plot holes, character development, and plot points that move the story forward.

After Acquisitions receives these big picture edits back from the author, the manuscript is handed off to our Managing Editor to guide the manuscript through more specific edits. Manuscripts we acquire generally go through two rounds of copyediting, one heavy copyedit and one light-to-medium copyedit, depending on what each manuscript needs. These rounds of edits look for spelling mistakes, errors in punctuation, and smaller, more specific story edits as needed. Story edits are marked in comments as queries to the author to point them in the right direction if there is any confusion within the manuscript. For these types of queries, our editors explain why they are bringing something to the author’s attention and provide at least two suggestions that would provide more clarity. Like during a DE, these suggestions are up to the discretion of the author and aim to maintain their voice. Alongside these suggestions and correcting punctuation and spelling, we also strive to correct grammatical errors and sentence structure, a process called line editing. Here we look at each sentence and its role within the manuscript. Awkward wording is flagged and suggestions are provided to help the author rework unclear sentences.

Following these copyedits, the manuscript is sent to the Design Department to transform the Word Document into a designed PDF that will ultimately turn into the final published book. But before this designed interior can be sent to the printers, it must undergo one last round of editing to ensure all errors are corrected. We call this round a print proofread, in which editors compare the designed interior to the most recently edited Word Document. Here we make sure that there are no missing paragraphs or sections, all punctuation and italics are correct, and no stray code made its way into the manuscript during the design process. Once the proofread is complete, the book is sent to the printers and the final book is produced. In a similar fashion to print proofreads, we also perform ebook proofreads to ensure a digital copy of the manuscript is formatted correctly and no errors were introduced during coding.

While these are the editorial steps we undertake at Ooligan, each publishing house may differ from these steps depending on their department structure. No editing schedule is the end-all be-all for editing, but a good editor will work directly with an author to maintain their vision for their manuscript. The most important job an editor undertakes is helping an author create the best version of their manuscript and strengthen their writing while maintaining their unique voice.

a computer screen with code

Free Resources for Every Step in the Ebook Creation Process

If you have ever written a book, you might have considered self-publishing, and probably creating an ebook version of your manuscript as well. But you might have run into questions such as: Can I create the ebook for my own manuscript? How do I even start?

While creating an ebook might seem a daunting and scary task, there are plenty of free tools and tutorials online that will make your task easier and more affordable. In this blog post, I am going to walk you through the basic steps of creating an ebook and the free resources that are available for every step.

Your first step in creating an ebook will be to convert your document into an EPUB file. There are many options and paths for the conversion, but it will all depend on where you have written your manuscript. The most common paths are the following:

  • If you have written your book in a Word document, you can use the tool Calibre to convert your file into an EPUB.
  • If you have written and designed your book in InDesign, you will be able to export it directly into an EPUB without any other tools.

There are obviously a lot more options to write and format your ebook, and I have only mentioned the most common ones, which are also standards of the industry. For an exhaustive explanation of how to format your ebook and which tools you can use, you can read the following article:

Once you have your EPUB file, you can move on to perfecting the aesthetic, format, and functionality of your ebook. To start, it is advised to open your ebook and browse through it. You can use any electronic reading software that you have available, such as Apple Books, Google Books, or even Calibre, and you should try to view it on different devices (phones, tablets, laptops, and ereaders).

At this point of the process, you might run into mistakes or elements that you want to correct and perfect, and you can do so by going directly into the code. These are some of the free resources available for opening your ebook and exploring the code:

  • Sigil. This is an excellent tool with which you can open your entire ebook and navigate all the files at once. It also has a second screen where you can see what your ebook looks like and how the different changes you make affect the layout. Moreover, all the changes you make and save will apply directly to the EPUB file you have stored.
  • Text editors. You can also use any text editor to play around with the code of individual files. These tools usually have color-coded tags and autocomplete features that will create closing tags for you. Some of the most popular text editors are Brackets, Sublime, Atom, and Visual Studio Code. If you choose to go this route, you will have to zip and unzip your EPUB file every time you want to work with it.

After you are done editing the code, you will have your complete ebook. But before uploading it to any platform, you need to validate it to make sure everything works and ebook standards are followed. And, of course, there are free tools for this step as well:

  • Pagina’s EPUB-Checker. This tool scans your EPUB file for any errors. If errors are found, they will appear in red and be listed with details of the type of error and the file where this is. If everything is correct, the items listed will appear in green.
  • Kindle Previewer. If you want to make your ebook available on Amazon, this tool is particularly useful because Kindle has its own specific guidelines. This tool allows you to execute a quality control and identify those elements that you need to change in order for your ebook to be accepted into Kindle.

Once your ebook is validated, it is ready to be uploaded. But do not forget to create a cover. Note that before uploading your ebook, you will need a separate file with your cover. If you still have not created one, a free and easy-to-use tool is Canva.

And now it is finally ready to become available to the public. Happy publishing!

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Inside Ooligan Press: Your Manuscript is Accepted! Now What?

Note: This is part of the blog series “Inside Ooligan Press”, about how we take a manuscript from an idea to a professionally published book.

So, you wrote a killer query letter and submitted a proper proposal. You won over Acquisitions and we pitched your project to the press successfully, then we offered to publish your book: now what? For the sake of transparency and in an effort to demystify this crazy little thing called publishing, I humbly offer you an inside look at what you can expect when working with Ooligan Press.

Once you get notified that our pitch was successful, we enter into the contract negotiation phase of the process. We are a small, not-for-profit press that generally cannot offer author advances. However, authors are compensated for their work, receiving industry standard royalty rates for trade paperbacks based on cover price and units sold, paid out biannually after publication. The Publisher and author negotiate terms of the contract including dates and deadlines for revisions, the final manuscript and any additional materials, and publication, among other things. This process generally takes about two weeks, give or take, during which time it is encouraged that the author has a trustworthy individual review the contract with them.

Once the contract is signed, we will typically go straight to work with a light or heavy developmental edit, determined by the Acquisitions Editors when we evaluate your manuscript. As a teaching press, we accept manuscripts that are strong and show immense promise, but that offer learning opportunities for the members of the press. This includes the need for editorial work. Expect to do revisions! The Acquisitions Editors lead a team of editors in reading and analyzing your manuscript to determine what is working and what needs work based on our knowledge and experience. We craft an editorial letter full of our critiques, compliments, and suggestions for revision and deliver it to the author for review. We follow up with a phone call or video chat to discuss the letter if the author feels it would be beneficial to do so. The DE process takes about a month, sometimes more. Then the author gets to work on revisions, for which they also get about a month to complete, though timelines may vary based on the project.

During development, your title may change. Sometimes it is necessary to tweak the title, or change it altogether, but not always. Acquisitions Editors must consider best practices for title generation and consider whether yours is appropriate for the genre and market, the literal and connotative meaning of the words or phrases used, and whether it encapsulates or represents the content found within the book. If we feel a change is necessary, we provide the author some alternative titles to consider and deliver them with the editorial letter. While the author’s input is taken into account, the final title is decided upon by the editors.

While we are hard at work developmentally editing your manuscript, you will be completing Ooligan’s Author Questionnaire: a document that will be used by all departments to produce and promote your book. While this questionnaire is lengthy and can feel slightly invasive, the author can of course choose which questions they will and will not answer depending on their comfort level.

Upon delivery of the revised manuscript and questionnaire, the author is then introduced to their Project Manager: the person who will see the project through the rest of the way. They are responsible for keeping the production of your book on track and are your primary point of contact for questions and concerns after acquisition and development.

Your manuscript will undergo copyediting by a team of editors, led by Ooligan’s Managing Editor. Depending on the needs of your manuscript, this may be a light, medium, or heavy copyedit. We use The Chicago Manual of Style as our primary style guide. This process may take one to two months depending on the time of year and the current stages our other titles are in. The author then receives the edited manuscript and reviews and implements the editorial suggestions, for which they typically get a month to complete.

While these editorial processes take place, your book’s dedicated project team, led by your Project Manager, has already begun their work crafting the sales hook, back cover copy, and so much more. They work with the managers of each department, Acquisitions, Editing, DEI, Digital, Design, Marketing, Publicity, and Social Media, to create a master plan to produce a quality book and launch it into the world. But wait, there’s more.

Be sure to check out future installments of this blog for a look at more stages of the production and promotion process at Ooligan Press!

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What’s in a Proper (Book) Proposal?

Note: This is part of the blog series “Inside Ooligan Press”, about how we take a manuscript from an idea to a professionally published book.

So, you wrote a killer query letter and we requested a proposal package, but what does that mean? Before you go and resubmit the same query letter and call it your proposal (as MANY have done) think again!

The proposal package consists of two crucial items, submitted together on our Submittable page. They are your cover letter and your full manuscript, but let’s break it down even further. If you followed our directions with your query, you only sent us the first ten pages of your manuscript. When we request a proposal package, this is your invitation to submit the full manuscript—you got a full read request. Go you! Submit the most up-to-date, most polished version of your manuscript, preferably in a Word document.

The how and why of the cover letter are a little more complex. With your query, you provided just enough to get us interested in reading your full manuscript. With your cover letter, you are trying to convince us that you and your book are the right fit for our press, for our mission, and for our reach. You’ll want to help us envision the future for your book and provide pertinent details about how to best present it to the world—and how you plan to participate in that presentation if we publish it.

Your proposal cover letter can be a beautifully designed document organized into sections and contain striking headings, images, and mock-ups of the cover, or it can be a bunch of words on a page. While a stylized document certainly helps us envision your book and its potential future more readily, it is not required, and words alone will suffice. Just be sure to include the words we’re looking for.

First up is the content warning. This means letting us know if there is anything in your manuscript that may be triggering to a reader. Triggers vary, but the most common ones include self-harm, suicide, sexual assault, graphic violence, substance abuse, and disordered eating. If you are unsure whether something you’ve written may be a trigger, err on the side of caution and warn us. Do note that this warning will not prevent your manuscript from being read and considered: it simply ensures that the right person will be reading and evaluating it (the right person being an editor to whom the content will not cause mental or emotional harm).

The rest of your letter should include a synopsis of your book, the projected page count, a table of contents if appropriate, the genre and intended audience, comp titles, marketing ideas, and any connections or platforms you have that may be utilized for marketing and promotion purposes. If your query letter did not contain an author bio written in the third-person detailing your pertinent background information, include that here as well. Yes, this requires a little effort, but there is a reason for it, I promise.

Once the Managing Acquisitions Editors decide yours is The One, we still have to pitch your manuscript to the entire press before voting to accept or reject the project. We must convince them to see what we see, that there is potential for a successful collaboration with you and your book. We do this with a pitch presentation, which contains the information from your cover letter, along with our own in-depth market research guided by our expertise in the publishing industry. We set it to music and a little light choreography. That last bit is not true. But we do have to make a strong case for why we should publish this book and be convincing in its presentation: a solid informational foundation and an author who understands their book, has realistic expectations, and is willing to work alongside us to get the job done can make or break our case—and it is your cover letter that reveals all of this to us.

Every manuscript for which we request a proposal package gets thorough, careful consideration. But even with an excellent manuscript, the author’s work is not done. You’ve got to convince us that you and your book are the right fit for us, that you are willing to do what is asked of you and more—and that begins with creating a proper proposal.