Love, Dance & Egg Rolls cover

The Art of Asking Authors to Say Nice Things About Your Book

We finally made it out of blurb season. Over the course of two months, we asked around thirty authors to write a blurb for Love, Dance & Egg Rolls. We received around ten responses, and out of those ten, five said yes. If this process taught our project team anything, it is that asking authors to say nice things about your book truly is an art.

First and foremost, we asked very nicely, and we stroked the ego because praise goes a long way in getting responses. Doing this meant that our research needed to be spot-on so that we picked authors who would be passionate about our book. Data from our comp titles helped us in this regard. We looked at many Asian-American and Filipino authors who were writing similar themes and situations, but our book is also an Own Voices YA, so we needed to reach out to authors writing in the same genre and, preferably, writing Filipino diaspora stories. When deciding which authors to request a blurb from, we also looked at their social media following, the number of books they had published, and how much coverage the author received. The key was to find that sweet spot where the person we were trying to contact was either on the same level as our author or slightly higher.

Finding authors was just the beginning, and we discovered that contacting them was an entirely different beast. We were most concerned about our emails triggering spam filters—a blurb request utterly fails if it’s impossible to establish initial contact. This was the case with a few requests, and on more than one occasion our author had to nudge his contacts to look in their spam folders. But through this experience we learned a lot about the art of email; for example, not to use all caps in any subject lines ever and to avoid special characters entirely. We also learned to never attach things on first contact because spam filters tend to flag attachments. Here’s another neat trick: if you want a cover in an email, the best way to show off a cover is to embed it in your signature line. Also, there are many words that trigger spam filters. These words can be easily Googled, and while I think not all of them are a problem, you should definitely think twice about putting words like “request” or “press” in subject lines. That is why it is always best to use contact forms, as they will ensure requests are seen 100 percent of the time.

Out of all the responses we received, most were rejections—albeit really nice rejections. Agents apologized by letting us know that their authors were either too busy or on deadlines, and they almost always wished us luck on our launch. Agents are sometimes the best people to contact simply because they are always looking out for their authors. Authors themselves tend to listen to what their agents have to say, and agents tend to be more responsive to emails. But we also had issues finding accurate contact information. Authors don’t always list their agent’s email, and sometimes they note specific reasons for when to contact their agent and/or publicist. In really extreme cases when there was no contact form or author/agent/publicist email, we resorted to DMing them on social media.

Then came our biggest hurdle: Edelweiss Plus, our preferred digital review copy (DRC) request platform. Authors didn’t respond well to being asked to create a free account on this platform, and this extra step was just another reason for them to say no. Review request programs like NetGalley, GalleyTracker, and Edelweiss are useful for industry professionals to request a review copy, but they are often a hassle for authors. We received more positive responses when we attached PDFs to our emails. But of course, there are always copyright risks when doing it this way.

We learned a lot from the blurb request process, most notably that earlier is better. The more time we give the author to make a decision, read the manuscript, and write the blurb, the more they are willing to do it. Blurb requests need to be ready to send out as soon as the digital review copy is ready. Deadlines and pressures are almost always a factor in getting yeses, and it’s best to eliminate all the reasons why they might say no.

Three Stories, One Cover

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 19:00:55 +0000

Ooligan’s summer term is almost over, and for the Three Sides Water team, that means wrapping up the cover design and starting work on the book’s interior. We began work on the cover way back at the beginning of spring term, nearly five months ago, and it’s a joy to see our efforts come to fruition. Three Sides Water posed several design challenges the team members hadn’t encountered before.

The first challenge was how to design one cover for three different stories that are essentially novel-length. The team wanted to avoid prioritizing one story over the others; each story spoke to us in different ways, and we knew each story would pull in different audiences. We also wanted to avoid a collage-like cover, as our recent YA novel Seven Stitches had a collage cover. We decided to request covers that didn’t depict any one setting from the stories, favoring a more general “Olympic Peninsula” feel.

We researched current cover trends in literary fiction and identified elements that would work for Three Sides Water, keeping the book’s themes of place, longing, and independence in mind. We also called attention to overdone cover themes and design elements: one of the first things the group decided was to avoid any depiction of water, as well as the color blue. (Have you seen how many blue books Ooligan has published? It’s almost embarrassing.)

Once the design brief was complete, a call for designers went out to the whole press. Ooligan differs from traditional publishing houses in many ways, but the cover design process is perhaps the most obvious divergence. While larger presses might have a few designated cover artists or a design firm they contract, Ooligan’s covers (and books) are designed 100% by students. Many enthused designers heeded the call. Round one of our cover process saw twenty-six designs. Some potential covers were improved upon; some were eliminated. Eight unique designs (and many variants of the designs) participated in the semifinals, after which only three remained.

The three finalists were all unique and highlighted different aspects of the book the designers loved, but the design that won over the staff paid homage to the Olympic Peninsula in general and managed to incorporate elements of each story without relying on a collage aesthetic. It was a difficult and drawn-out process, but we have high hopes for this cover and can’t wait to show it to the world.

Meet Ooligan’s Newest Title, Three Sides Water

Fri, 26 May 2017 16:00:29 +0000

As winter term wound down, Ooligan Press voted to acquire Peter Donahue’s manuscript Three Sides Water. Donahue, whose novel Madison House won the 2005 Langum Prize for Historical Fiction, brings the Olympic Peninsula to life in this exciting trilogy of three short novels.

Prior to being pitched to the press, the manuscript went through a developmental edit, where several members of the Ooligan team worked over summer break to prepare an editorial note for the author. Alison Cantrell, the former Write to Publish conference manager, worked on the project and is now part of the team. Having someone like Alison—who knows the book inside and out, who is familiar with the changes the author made to get to our current manuscript—has helped the team immeasurably.

After the initial developmental edit, the manuscript was pitched to the entire press. We voted to acquire it for several reasons, the first being Donahue himself. Ooligan works primarily with breakout authors, and while we truly love working with them, the press was excited at the prospect of working with an award-winning author with several titles under his belt. Moreover, Three Sides Water has been in the works for over five years—and it shows. The press fell in love with Donahue’s lyrical prose and complex, utterly realistic characters. And rather than viewing the task of marketing short novels as a burden, the press saw it as a healthy challenge to student creativity.

After the contract was signed, the project team began a second developmental edit. I see those wheels turning in your head, reader! You might be asking yourself, if the manuscript was so good, why does it need another edit? Even a manuscript by an award-winning author undergoes some changes before it reaches bookshelves. Ooligan includes a second developmental edit for all its titles, so this part of the process was in no way unusual.

Our production timeline for this term included a full copyedit after receiving the manuscript back from the author, but production schedules shifted to better accommodate the needs of our several manuscripts. Luckily, we were able to start the marketing plan and the design process without any issues—stages that typically start after copyediting. Because this manuscript encompasses three stories centered in the Olympic Peninsula at three different times in recent history, we are embracing some experimental marketing ideas.

In addition to a new manuscript, the team has welcomed a new project manager who will take over this summer. Michele Ford, who previously worked on the Write to Publish team, brings a keen eye for editing and marketing. Since three team members are graduating and three are taking over management positions for the 2017-2018 year, Michele will get a brand-new group this summer.

Speaking of summer, we’re planning a weekend trip to Forks to explore the Olympic Peninsula setting of Three Sides Water. Having been there twice—compelled by another book (shh, Twilight, shh)—I’m excited to see the area from another perspective with other characters in mind. We have plans to visit Shelton, Rialto Beach, and Mora Campground. Have you been to the Olympic Peninsula? Drop me a comment for places we should visit.

For more information about Peter Donahue, visit his website.

Start to Finish: Write to Publish 2017

Thu, 02 Mar 2017 17:00:55 +0000

Write to Publish 2017 happened February 4, 2017, another rainy Saturday in a month filled with rain. The inside of the conference, however, was bright and filled with eager-to-learn aspiring authors and local publishing professionals who generously spent the day sharing their collective expertise and experience.

Our wonderful attendees were engaged and enthusiastic, making the panels and workshops an invaluable, enlightening experience for everyone involved. Our always-popular “Pitch to a Professional” workshop during the lunch hour gave several attendees the chance to sit in the hot seat, so to speak, and present their ideas to active literary agents and publishers. This opportunity is first-come, first-served to our early registrants, so it’s very important for next year’s attendees to sign up early to take advantage of this program!

The Write to Publish team is very grateful to all of our speakers, donors, and vendors who helped make this conference so enjoyable for everyone. And a special thanks to Willamette Writers, our presenting sponsor; the Timberline Review, our poetry contest sponsor; and the Masters Review, our flash-fiction contest sponsor.

With the conference officially over, we’re now busy wrapping up behind the scenes, finalizing attendance numbers, and doing everything we can to prepare the next Write to Publish team (for what will surely be another successful year) as we begin to transition out of the press. Keep an eye on the Ooligan Press social media accounts and the Write to Publish website as we approach Write to Publish 2018!

W2P 2017 Panels & Workshops Update

Fri, 23 Dec 2016 17:00:40 +0000

Write to Publish (W2P) 2017 is getting closer, and we are thrilled to reveal the rest of the publishing professionals and experts who will be leading our panels and workshops! (Click here to view the first half of the list.)

Our “Self-Publishing: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly” panel will feature the following people:

  • Lieve Maas – the owner and designer behind Bright Light Graphics, which focuses on providing book design and brand identity design.
  • Jason Gurley – the author of Greatfall and other novels. His bestselling self-published novel Eleanor was acquired by Crown Publishing Group and reissued in 2016.
  • Brian Parker – a graphic designer, illustrator, and author of the forthcoming fantasy novel The Wonderous Science. He is also appearing on our “State of Diversity in Publishing” panel.
  • Vinnie Kinsella – an experienced writer, editor, designer, and publisher who works to assist and educate self-published authors.
  • Jessica Glenn – the owner of MindBuck Media Book Publicity, which offers public relations and book publicity services to authors.

The “Doing the Research: Preparing to Approach Publishers and Literary Agents” panel has the following participants:

  • Lisa Ohlen Harris – an author, editor, and instructor for essay and memoir writing who also offers nonfiction critique services to fellow writers.
  • DongWon Song – an agent at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency who represents works of science fiction, fantasy, young adult, science, food, and pop culture. He was previously an editor for Orbit Books and worked as a digital bookseller for Zola Books.
  • Clark Chamberlain – a writer, teacher, and editor who has a passion for helping others break free of the negative stories that are holding them back.
  • Brian Tibbetts – a writer, editor, and literary agent with a wide range of experience in the literary world. He graduated from PSU’s book publishing program in 2013.

The “Writing Outside Yourself” workshop will be led by writer, filmmaker, and educator David F. Walker whose expertise in African American culture has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, and BBC. He is also appearing on our “State of Diversity in Publishing” panel.

Our “Writing Good Dialogue” workshop will be led by Adam O’Connor Rodriguez who is not only a writer but the senior editor at Hawthorne Books. Adam’s years of expertise and passion for excellent writing make his workshop a can’t miss!

We are only a few weeks away from the event and will keep you updated as we enter the final stretch. Get your tickets here!

Schools for the Summer

Thu, 02 Jun 2016 00:00:58 +0000

Hello, friends, and welcome to the official home of the twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Ricochet River as it makes its way from brilliant idea to beautiful book. We are proud to be working with Robin Cody to ensure that this book remains a vibrant reading experience for students and hope that this new edition will help bring Robin’s story to an even wider audience.

Over the years Ricochet River has been embraced by local Oregon schools. We want to celebrate this legacy. To that end, we’ve been working to develop new content that will enrich the reading experience. Robin, who was an educator himself for many years before turning to writing, has drawn on this history and a decade of experience talking to classrooms about Ricochet River to create a wonderful series of lesson plans; you’ll also find essays and interviews that reveal more about Robin’s personal connection to the story and explore Ricochet River‘s fascinating publication history. Lastly, we are very excited about the opportunity to explore the story we already know and love through some new lenses and place it within a wider cultural context. We’ll be presenting much of this material to local teachers whom Robin has worked with over the years, ensuring that the book will be as helpful to classrooms as it can be.

Though students all over the country will be starting summer vacation soon, we are already thinking ahead to the next school year. Over the past couple of weeks, our team has been scouring online databases for contacts in schools all over the Pacific Northwest. Though the book is set near Portland and certainly has local appeal, it speaks eloquently to the reality of small-town rural life and the universal struggles of growing up. This is a story that students from many states can relate to, and we are determined to reach out and share Ricochet River with as many students as possible. Finding contact info and sending emails isn’t necessarily the sexiest part of working for a small press, but it’s worth it to spread the word about our amazing books. Today the PNW—tomorrow the world!

Galleys: The Harbinger of a Book Launch to Come

Thu, 04 Feb 2016 01:00:46 +0000

By the time this post undergoes editing, makes the posting calendar, and arrives on the Ooligan Press blog, Memories Flow in Our Veins will have reached a particularly tangible benchmark in the publishing lifecycle: our galleys will have arrived!

For many of the folks on the team this term, the arrival of these galleys will be the first time they experience the thrill of holding a book-shaped physical manifestation of the work they’ve put into an Ooligan title. There’s a special satisfaction that comes from being able to flip through the fresh-cut pages of a galley for a manuscript that you’re so intimately acquainted with, one that you’ve read dozens of times before as a PDF proof, as a first draft document, and (in the case of Memories) as a collection of scans of the various CALYX Press titles and copies of CALYX Journal from which this remarkable anthology draws material.

Moreover, galleys are the harbinger of a book launch to come. Their arrival marks the beginning of a book marketing campaign that the Memories team has been avidly preparing for—one that has continued to evolve as the book has taken shape. At each step, we have paused to marvel at the unique opportunity we have to promote such an unflinchingly authentic, deeply feminist collection of writing by some of our own personal author-heroes. The challenge ahead of us now is to employ our cleverest marketing schemes to do justice to Memories Flow in Our Veins by spreading it as far as we can and finding all of the virtual and real-life bookshelves it belongs on. At a time when readers and publishers alike have begun to take take up the call for more diverse stories and a wider breadth of representation in our culture of books, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

Next up for Memories: mailing galleys, selecting a printer, beginning our ebook design, and reaching out to our favorite feminist bookworms.

Please, Ma’am, We Want Some More! Seriously. We’re Great Publishing Multitaskers

Wed, 02 Dec 2015 21:00:57 +0000

In just a few weeks, Memories Flow in Our Veins has gone from a raw Word document-manuscript to a very real, very happening book-in-progress. In the last few weeks, the team has balanced a number of projects: we’ve pored over the manuscript in editing; helped to develop evocative, on-point titles for the sections of the book; researched the contributing authors to write bios and perform an author social media audit; designed some incredible collateral and compiled sales kits; undertaken revisions to our marketing plan; and commenced the XML tagging process. With the interior design already under way and only a few final pieces of the manuscript still outstanding, the Memories team is racing our way to the end of the term and the year.

One of the greatest challenges of this term has been the rapid turnaround required from manuscript to, well, everything else. As we’ve learned, there are some things that you just can’t do without a manuscript in hand (hello, editing!) and some that you do so much better with that manuscript at your fingertips in all its glory. Figuring out how to mobilize our resources to work through the most time-sensitive projects, while also making time for bigger-picture projects that require lots of long-term thinking and planning, has been essential to keeping Memories moving.

As we discovered, reading the manuscript for the first time brought out all kinds of fresh inspiration and ideas for collateral, marketing, and promotion (about which our current team and yours truly are pretty excited). We felt that there were enough brand new nuggets of inspiration brought about by the revelation of our contributing authors, by our direct access to their content, and in the experience of the book’s particular organization to necessitate a revision to our marketing plan, helping us to think more deeply about how Memories figures into current publishing trends and what makes it a truly unique book. Though marketing and promotion still seem like part of a remote to-do list at this point, cultivating plans for these long-term projects offered us some creative cushion and perspective as we worked through the intensity of copyediting and the rote mechanics of XML tagging.

It’s been a lot to do all at once, but I’ll dare to say it: we’re ready for more! Next up: delivering a tagged and complete manuscript to our designer, jumping into proofreading, and launching our blurb requests out into the world before it’s time to print those January galleys.

It’s All Falling Together

Tue, 27 Oct 2015 17:00:37 +0000

It has been almost two whole years since Ooligan Press held the vote to acquire Rhythm in the Rain: Jazz in the Pacific Northwest, and now after countless hours of hard work and dedication, we are finally on the verge of having a finished book in hand. Since our last update, we have conquered such hurdles as nailing down a complete and final manuscript, deciding which photos will accompany the text, and gaining an understanding of how all of these pieces will fit together visually in the book’s interior design.

As our interior designers chip away at creating a book with aesthetics that properly complement the rhythm and flow of Lynn Darroch’s writing style, the majority of Rhythm in the Rain‘s team has shifted to a mindset revolving around marketing. Because this book is so unique among the types of titles we usually publish here at Ooligan, it has provided us with a wonderful opportunity to approach the marketing and promotion process in a way like never before. Without giving too much away, I would urge readers to look forward to some exciting and interactive experiences via Ooligan’s Instagram and Spotify accounts, not to mention plenty of opportunities to catch live jazz performances (and some readings of the book by Mr. Darroch himself) as the Portland Jazz Festival and other events come through the city.

As the manager for this project, I always like to take any opportunity I can to give credit where credit is due. Every spring, Ooligan adopts a new influx of students into its ranks, and considering that I and every other seasoned Oolie was once “one of the new kids,” I can attest to how daunting being a newcomer can be. Despite the nerves and learning curves that come with suddenly becoming an integral member of a real-life publishing house, the four newest members of the Rhythm in the Rain team have been nothing short of tremendous. Maeko Bradshaw, Alyssa Hanchar, Cobi Lawson, and MacKenzie Turner have each come into the program with a passion and enthusiasm that is to be applauded, not to mention unique abilities and expertise that are certain to make this book an even bigger success than it would have been without them.

A Title, A Cover, and the Calm Before the Storm

Mon, 10 Aug 2015 17:00:53 +0000

Memories Flow In Our Veins—the project formerly known around Ooligan Press as “The CALYX Anthology”—has been moving, shaking, and making steady progress along the path to publication during Summer 2015. We have a distinguished new title, a hot-off-the-designer’s-desk front cover, and the manuscript due date is just around the corner. In the meantime, we’ve done a lot of brainstorming and planning to make sure that we’ll have all the resources in place to take the next big steps to publication once our manuscript is delivered.

We closed out Spring 2015 with a title brainstorm of epic proportions and a press-wide title vote. Memories Flow In Our Veins was inspired by a line from Olga Broumas’s poem “Old Wives’ Tale,” which will appear in the anthology. We felt it evoked an appropriate sense of forward motion for CALYX Press and the future of women writers, while also acknowledging CALYX’s vital, living history as a press. Summer term opened with a cover workshop, and the whole press helped to select a particularly elegant design*, shown below, by Ooligan alum Alexandra Haehnert (*Note that names on the current design are meant to represent text layouts only and do not necessarily reflect finalized contributors to this title).

What’s next? Our team has had the opportunity to review many of the poetry and fiction pieces hand-picked by CALYX Press for inclusion in Memories Flow In Our Veins, but we’re looking especially forward to getting acquainted with the additional introductions, forwards, and new material that will unite these pieces into a true and full manuscript. In the meantime, you’ll find the Memories team in hot pursuit of grant funding for our project, and gearing up for a super busy autumn.