road going through a green forest in the PNW

Tipsheets, Blurb Requests, and Press Kits: Where We Call Home

This past winter was another busy term for the Where We Call Home team! We recently received the full manuscript of the book, so our editorial department is working on copyedits while our designers get ready to create the galley of the book. As we enter publication year, the project team is hard at work making sure our sales and press materials are ready to be put out into the world.

The very first thing the team worked on this year was the interior design brief. We met and discussed how the book is organized as essays, thus requiring certain design specifications. We also talked about the possibility of light illustrations in the book, which we are keeping open.

Next up, one of our team members created our beautifully designed tipsheet. The tipsheet is a well-designed document that provides marketing information for sales representatives in one easy-to-find place. With the tipsheet designed, we’re another step closer to being ready to present Where We Call Home to sales representatives.

Right now, we have a light copyedit in progress for the entire manuscript. As that’s happening, the project team is diligently working on filling the contact sheet with individuals to send blurb requests and review requests to. This process takes a lot of web sleuthing as we want to cast out a large net of requests later on. We’re getting pretty close to having a good number of contacts in our contact sheet, which will then signal that we’re ready to start on the blurb requests and review requests themselves.

The rest of this term is going to stay just as busy. Next up, we’ll be working on the press kit and templates for blurb and review requests. The press kit will include a one-pager, which is very similar to a tipsheet, the press release, and information about the author, the book, and our press for publicity. At the same time, we’ll be personalizing and perfecting our templates for blurb requests and review requests. We’ll be sending those to potential reviewers and blurbers before the end of the term as this can be a particularly time-consuming part of the publishing process.

Because Where We Call Home is publishing in November of this year, next term is going to be just as full of things to do. We will be taking that time to work primarily on the Social Media Strategy Document and the Bulk Upload Sheet. We will use these documents to create social media posts to promote the book ahead of its publication date.

Here at Ooligan, we will also be preparing second-year students to graduate and training first-year students to take over management positions next term. The team will have no shortage of exciting things to do and learn as we move closer to publication this fall.

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.

Building a Brand: Production Goals for COURT OF VENOM

The heat of summer has finally given way to crisp winter, which means Ooligan production is back in full swing. The Court of Venom team has worked all summer on our contact list that will be put to use once our galleys have been sent to the printer. Our main goal is to send out ARCs and DRCs to gain blurbs and advanced reviews, but getting these together is a matter of waiting for the blurbers to read the book. The good news for us is that we have quite a bit to work on in the meantime.

Our team has started laying out our social media strategy document (SMSD) as well as our branding brief. The latter will inform our team on what themes and palettes to use in our social media collateral. Since we already have not only our cover but also a fully designed booklet, we have a lot of our branding cut out for us. We’re focusing on dark blues, white, and gold, which are also the colors used in our beautifully designed tipsheet. Of course, we won’t be creating any social media posts with the design brief until we have our bulk upload sheet completed, and that won’t be available until we complete our SMSD.

The team has already got some amazing ideas for our future social media presence. One team member suggested creating a series of character posts to highlight the amazing characters in the book. Both Faultland and Laurel Everywhere did this, and it was well-received across our platforms. I can’t wait to create some for the amazing characters of Court of Venom too! Since we want to have most, if not all, of this done before we leave for winter break, we have our work cut out for us!

While the team cruises along on the SMSD, I’ve been reaching out to contacts in new and exciting ways. We intend to reach out to several fantasy-themed book boxes to get Court of Venom out to their subscribers, and we are also looking at fantasy BookTokers to promote Court of Venom. Since this is a fantasy book, we think TikTok will be a huge asset in reaching potential readers. We have quite a few other marketing projects in mind, but these need to wait until closer to the pub date in order to be successful. The next big project deadline we have is in January, when our press kits will be ready to send out. I’m so excited to see how hard the team is working and to see all of this happening so quickly. We are trying our best to get ahead on projects so that we can launch on our pub date even if production delays occur.

Put simply, the Court of Venom team is working on our social media strategy and branding, which we are aiming to complete before winter break to ensure that we can stay ahead of schedule in the event that production delays hamper us in the future. I have no doubts our amazing team is up to the challenge.

Introducing Odsburg: Finding the Surreal amongst the Everyday

You know how everyone from a small town has a deeply ingrained sense of being watched by neighbors, family, and their friend’s abuelita? In a small community, no personal business is ever truly personal. The baristas at the only coffee shop in town have your order memorized; meanwhile, the dating pool somehow intertwines parents with their kids’ teachers, and then spills into the local bar, where a memorial service is being held. How about those old folks down the street whose lifelong feud is imbued with power by a peculiar last will? If you’ve never before lived in a place like this, then allow me to welcome you to the small, fictional town of Odsburg, Washington.

Ooligan Press is proud to announce our upcoming title: the thought-provoking, skin-crawl-inducing, non-cannibalism-condoning novel Odsburg by Matt Tompkins, to be released October 29th.

First, a bit about the book. Odsburg is a novel compiled by the town’s local socio-anthropo-lingui-loreologist, Wallace Jenkins-Ross, yet he isn’t the main character. He’s the guide to this quirky locale, but the main character is the town itself, composed of its citizens, its pet parades, the local pharmaceutical company, and a variety of Washington wildlife. The voices of Odsburg’s residents are collected in the form of transcriptions and found documents, which has presented a unique challenge for Ooligan, pushing us to consider more complicated design and editing techniques to best convey the story.

As the manager for Odsburg, I have the responsibility of making sure each aspect of this book’s production is on track and working to benefit the book and the author. We acquired this book right when I started as a project manager, and now, one year in, I still feel it’s been a difficult book to grasp. In the simplest terms, it offers readers so much lovely and strange content—depictions of loss, aging, hunger, and the questionable place of pharmaceuticals in the world—that it isn’t a story that lends itself to a one-line description; yet that’s exactly what my team and I have attempted to capture during the marketing phase of the book’s production. Distilling the essence of a book into copy that will be enticing to reviewers and readers alike is never an easy task, and it’s even more difficult with a book whose mission is to both confound and familiarize readers with the surreal and the strange in an otherwise mundane small town.

At this point, Odsburg has undergone a line edit, two rounds of copyediting, and a proofread. During this time, we’ve also worked to create and integrate found documents and miscellaneous design elements to mirror the texture and voices this book contains. It’s been an intricate collaboration between editing and design as we’ve tried to figure out what we can bring to life from this town while maintaining logical and textual consistency within the book. Developing this book for publication couldn’t have worked without the immense talent our press has captured recently (for example, the gorgeous cover is a testament to the skills of our amazing designers Hanna and Jenny), and this process is sure to provide both a test of our publishing skills and a wonderful opportunity for creativity as we move forward.

We’re wrapping up a busy spring term as we continue working on marketing, design, reviews, and social media, all while trying to find out just how many people we can get to believe in the town of Odsburg. It’s rare to work on a novel that you genuinely enjoy and want to read, give as a gift, and possibly buy extra copies of, but so far, Odsburg is hitting all these marks. Keep your eye out for Odsburg (as Odsburg will definitely be keeping an eye out for you)!

What to Do About Reviews

Every traditionally published book needs reviews. At Ooligan Press, we submit each of our titles to anywhere from fifty to one hundred different media outlets, bloggers, and authors for book reviews. There are a few media organizations that we approach for every book—Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and other juggernauts of book reviewers—but the review request list for each book varies depending on the genre, author, and content of the book.

For Three Sides Water, we focused on a few different elements of the book and sought reviewers who were familiar with those elements:

  • We doubled-down on regional reviewers. Author Peter Donahue lives in Washington and is an active member of the literary community there, so we reached out to reviewers and media outlets based in Seattle and other Washington locales.
  • As a Portland-based press, Ooligan requests reviews from Portland-based news outlets. We did the same for Three Sides Water, but we stretched further and requested news coverage from Oregon coastal towns, such as Astoria.
  • Three Sides Water is set on the Olympic Peninsula, so naturally we reached out to publications and reviewers who lived there. In particular, we contacted local newspapers in towns such as Port Angeles and Forks.
  • We also contacted book reviewers and bloggers who review historical fiction. Two out of three stories in Three Sides Water could be considered period pieces; moreover, Donahue’s previous books, Clara and Merritt and Madison House, are firmly in the historical fiction genre.
  • Due to the striking nature of the cover, we reached out to bloggers who post reviews on YouTube, often referred to as BookTubers.

Not everyone we contacted will be able to review the book or mention it in their newspapers. But we go into this process expecting that. Not every media outlet we contact about Three Sides Water will review it—but every person we contact is someone who then knows about the book. We’re spreading awareness of Three Sides Water no matter the response to our review request.

If you’re seeking reviews for a book, consider outlets that have reviewed your author before, where your author lives, people who reviewed your comp titles, and reviewers who would truly enjoy the book. Even if they don’t review your book, they might become potential buyers or fans.

Look for Three Sides Water in your local bookstore on May 1, 2018.

Sales Kits: Introducing a Book to Bookstores

Fall was a long, blustery term for the Three Sides Water team. It’s a traditionally busy time for publishers, as it’s one of the big acquisition seasons—but for us, it was the season of sales kits, final copyeditng, and interior design. But mostly sales kits.

You may have heard of sales kits in the past; several Ooligan blog posts mention them, and a few, such as this post about our title The Ninth Day, discuss sales kits in-depth. Nearly five years have passed since that blog post, however, and the sales kit process has changed a bit, too. The general idea behind them remains the same: a sales kit is a package of information about a book that is sent to your sales representatives, or the people who convince bookstores to stock your book. Every Ooligan sales kit contains an info sheet about the press, a two-page tip sheet about the book in question, a press release for the book, an excerpt or chapbook, and some fun collateral to brighten your sales reps’ days. That said, assembling a sales kit from start to finish is a bit more complicated than it sounds.

Where the Ninth Day team finished their sales kits in eight hours or so, we took longer. Much longer. These days, our sales kit materials are fully designed with Adobe Creative Suite. The chapbook alone easily took four hours to design, proof, print, and assemble. On top of that, we designed the press release, a postcard, and a double-sided bookmark (mostly to show off our lovely yet still unfinished cover design, above). One of the biggest challenges with so many designed pieces was sticking to a unified style that could be used across all our artifacts. We stuck to the same color palette, but some of the fonts had to be swapped out on occasion.

Including writing, proofing, designing, researching, and printing our collateral, we spent anywhere from eighteen to twenty hours working on the sales kits. In the end, we have 114 tidy packages ready to be opened by our sales reps. The representatives will use the included materials to talk about Three Sides Water and convince booksellers to stock it in their stores. We can’t wait to see where Three Sides Water ends up. Perhaps it’ll be in your hometown? Look for it in stores on May 1, 2018!

Three Stories, One Cover

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

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

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

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!