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.