Publishers Are Making Room for Smart Speakers

The publishing industry is no stranger to changing with the times as technology advances and dominates our lives more and more each year. Ebooks and audiobooks speak to the industry’s adaptability and willingness to evolve with this ever-changing market, whereas other industries have failed. Smart speakers, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, are one of the developments spearheading the call for change in recent years as they have altered the way consumers get information and utilize the internet. This development allows us the opportunity to see how publishing is going to integrate voice optimization in the near future as this technology becomes seemingly inescapable.

Smart speakers are on track to become as commonplace in the average household as a television or microwave with the added ability to connect to these other appliances with ease. With 30 percent of searches expected to be voice-based this year, the industry is taking notice. Publishers have some big things to consider, from SEO optimization to the very content consumers are receiving. An alternative to SEO called AEO, which stands for “answer engine optimization” in reference to the nature of interactions people have with the devices, is also being explored. This developed because consumers who speak to these devices often use a more conversational dialogue rather than the language used to type out searches in a web browser. The ultimate goal of AEO is to make content readable to machines so that when you use your voice to look something up, the smart speaker is able to concisely present that information to you.

This shift in focus to voice optimization is clearly shaking up marketing strategies, since companies must now rethink how targeted ads will be presented to consumers who won’t be making much visual contact with their platforms. Though there are these new hurdles to consider, voice optimization also offers new ways to increase customers’ active engagement with a company and for the company to build upon their brand. The publishing industry has the opportunity to jump on these and make products like HarperCollins has with their StoryCastle app—a choose-your-own-adventure for children’s audiobooks. The company is able to present their content to their listeners who come back weekly, building a loyal following. While there are still questions about the best way to go about advertising, it is notable that applications such as this one increase the accessibility to a publisher’s work. Voice optimization brings down a lot of barriers for customers that publishers would not normally be able to address so easily.

While the creation of new products, increased accessibility, and new opportunities for ads are important, publishers do have to worry about being “searchable.” In 2019, “the top voice search tools [could] only recognize approximately 43 percent of the key searches for best-selling titles.” Tackling this issue should be a priority as it is preventing exposure to a growing audience. Some publishers, like Simon & Schuster, have made an effort to rectify this by using creative “skills,” or recognized voice commands, like this exclusively voice-based quiz to connect you with a Stephen King novel.

Smart speakers present an interesting challenge, but it looks like there is a clear understanding of what the publishing industry needs to do to face it. Publishers are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to figure out how to navigate this tricky advancement and whatever technology there is to come in the future. The resilience of publishing in these digitally-focused times is something that many industries hope to mirror, so consumers can look forward to seeing what successful ventures the industry comes up with.

We’ll See You at Wordstock

Greetings, readers:

This week at Ooligan Press, we are preparing our staff for the upcoming marketing blitz for We Belong in History. Teachers, students, lovers of good poetry, and William Stafford aficionados of all ages are already knocking at our door to reserve their copy.

I assigned work roles to my team during our first executive meeting this term. I am overjoyed to begin working with a new crop of outstanding individuals. With this talented team,We Belong in History is sure to be a success.

Since my last update, my team and I have been preparing the interior design for submission to our editing team. While this group reviews the final product, we will be sending out requests for galleys to our publishing partners. Soon, we will be mailing our review letters and galleys to media outlets.

Keep a lookout for our press’s table at the Oregon Council for Teachers of English (OCTE) this Saturday, October 5. Our director, Per Henningsgaard, will be there and ready to answer any questions you may have. We will also be at Wordstock that same Saturday and Sunday (October 5 and 6). There will be several students in attendance at both events, so make sure to stop by and hear all about what we’ve got in store for our forthcoming books.

History in the Making: The Passing of the Project Manager Torch

We are at the beginning of summer term here at PSU, and many opportunities are unfolding for the next year. We Belong in History’s previous managers, Rachel Pass and Becky Stevens, have left us with a student anthology well on its way to fruition, and we will miss their guidance. However, every season has its end, and with one end comes a new beginning. This is my first week as project manager and my first post on Start to Finish. I am excited to lead this production into its final stages.

At present, we have our ISBN number assigned, developmental edits completed, copyedits finished, and we have also selected a cover. Soon we will turn our focus onto marketing/sales materials and the interior design. We have quite a busy summer ahead of us here at Ooligan Press, but we are ready to get to work. Be sure to check back on August 1st for a preview of the finalized front cover of We Belong in History and an interview with the book’s cover designer, Lorna Nakell.

A Fond Farewell

We’re finishing up the last week of classes here at PSU and a lot of things are coming to a close. This will be my last week as project manager and my last post here (for this project at least!). In a way, I’m sad to pass this project on, but I’m looking forward to seeing it reach completion in a new pair of even more capable hands.

At this point, the manuscript has been organized and is being sent off to our editing department for a look-over. We’ve also sent out a request to the press for an interior designer to handle the inside formatting of our unique book (which will include poems, essays, and lesson plans). Soon we’ll start to focus more heavily on marketing as we move closer and closer to the book’s launch (which I, for one, am already eagerly anticipating).

It’s been a pleasure to work on this project and I cannot wait to see where it ends up!

Exciting News

First and foremost, it’s been awesome to read through all the submissions we received—there is a lot of wonderful work in there that I can’t wait to share with the world. But before that, of course, some other details need to be taken care of. Rachel and I met with Ooligan’s design team this week to view options for the cover. We’ve selected three that will go to a press-wide vote on Monday (and, personally, I would be thrilled with any of them—our designers did a great job). Seeing the covers has made me extra impatient for the real live book.

We’ve also been working on the interior of the book, the grouping of the poems and overall concept. This has always been and continues to be a unique project that requires adjustment and reshaping as we move forward toward a finished whole. While this is sometimes challenging, it’s always rewarding and I’m confident the result will be even better than we originally imagined.

Things are moving quickly now so keep checking back for the latest updates!

Next Steps

We’ve got big news: our submissions are in! The internal judging panel—made up of editors, educators, and project managers—is now sifting through them, and publication selections will be made soon. We’ll be sending out letters to all of our student submitters within the next two weeks—teachers, be on the lookout!

Once our selections are finalized, we’ll begin pairing up these student poems with the Stafford poems that inspired them, and working to establish potential organizational structures for the manuscript as a whole. We’re excited to see how these separate poems will come together to tell the stories of students across the state who have drawn inspiration for their own work by writing with William Stafford.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!


I can’t believe it’s already May…anyone else feeling like that lately?

As you probably know by now, we’ve reached the deadline for We Belong in History submissions. However, we’re still waiting to make sure we’ve received everything postmarked by the due date. We’d be thrilled to have a huge pile waiting for us next week!

In the meantime, we’ve been finalizing some details regarding our judging panel and getting everything ready to go as we enter into the next phase of the project. We’re getting closer to having a cover design and are starting to shift our attention to interior design and the layout of the actual book.

Stay tuned!

Small Updates

I don’t have much to update this week—but that doesn’t mean things haven’t been happening. The marketing plan and tip sheet for We Belong in History are complete, and the Design department has started work on the cover. And (most importantly!) Oregon’s students are hard at work creating amazing content for us to show off.

Again, there’s still time to submit! We would like to see as many submissions as possible, so send them our way through the end of this month (information on how to submit can be found in the previous two posts). We can’t do this without you!

Pause for Reflection

And just like that, we’ve reached the end of winter term here at PSU. I imagine I’m not the only one who feels like time is flying by, especially with the convergence of final papers, projects, and exams in the last week. I’m looking forward to spring break as a nice moment to pause and take a breath.

While I may be pausing for a few days, We Belong in History is moving steadily forward. As Rachel mentioned last week, we’re heading into the design phase of the project. While it’s still a few months off, I’m already excited to see the cover designs! We’re also getting ready for (hopefully) a flood of submissions as April, National Poetry Month, comes upon us. We’ll be meeting with our judging panel soon to get them prepared, and are eagerly anticipating the work we’ll receive from Oregon’s fabulous students.

It’s been a great term, and I’m looking forward to what happens next. Happy spring, everyone!

Listening to Poetry

“My father could hear a little animal step,

or a moth in the dark against the screen,

and every far sound called the listening out

into places where the rest of us had never been.”

–William Stafford, “Listening”

Over this past month of William Stafford readings and celebrations, I was reminded of how wonderful it is to listen to poetry being read aloud. Written words should be shared; they have the power to transform us, to take us to places we’ve never been, and into the lives of strangers that somehow still seem familiar.

The William Stafford Archives is a wonderful place to go if you want to listen to some excellent poetry. With 118 poems included in the archives, and many of them available in audio files (see the link for “Listening” above), a quick browsing session can give you a lot of wonderful words to share.

We hope your trip to the archives might inspire you, or a student you know, to check out our contest page and learn more about the William Stafford Writing Contest.