What goes into launching a book?

I have been a graduate student at Ooligan for two quarters, but until recently, I had yet to experience a book launch for a book I helped with. I was first introduced to Three Sides Water on my first day of graduate school. At the time, it was still in manuscript form and had only been read by a few members of our press. Seeing the book grow from something completely digital and abstract to being printed and sold has been very exciting to say the least.

The launch event took place on April 28 in southeast Portland. It was an aggressively rainy day, but the mood in the wine bar was cozy. The bar was decorated in an old-timey speakeasy fashion. Warm vintage lights of every shape and size were scattered throughout the small bar. The wall lining the entrance to the bar was covered floor to ceiling in various wine bottles and black and white vintage photos. The Three Sides Water team had been planning this event on and off since September. Months of planning, phone calls, and emails boiled down to two hours. A book launch event varies based on the themes of the book being presented. Three Sides Water takes place over three different time periods on the Olympic Peninsula, so the vintage wine bar was the perfect location to match the first short novel in the book. We compiled raffle prizes that related to our book, and physical copies of the novel that dozens of people had put their blood, sweat, and tears into to sell to the public for the first time. Most of the attendees were members and friends of Ooligan Press, and friends and family of the author, Peter Donahue. The first half hour was spent mingling and enjoying wine. Talk of the new book could be heard throughout the bar, but the conversation often carried on to to other novels as well. There is something truly heartwarming about discussing literature in a casual environment, beyond the constraints of a classroom. Knowing that you are willingly among people who love books as much as you do is something I wish every book lover could experience at least once (but hopefully much more).

As the conversations winded down, the project manager (and cover designer), Michele Kimbriel-Cope, took to the makeshift stage to introduce Peter and the book. You could feel her passion for the text in her voice. Peter spoke next, and after a moving speech about Ooligan Press, he read an excerpt from each of the short novels in the book. This is what all the stressing, planning, and hard work had been for—seeing Peter read his book out loud. Seeing a manuscript become an actual physical book. After the readings, there was brief period for more mingling and for purchasing raffle tickets and the book. We had generously received six prizes for our raffle: three bigger, experience-based prizes, and three bundles of smaller items loosely related to the themes of the novels.

I had never attended a book launch before, but I can only imagine the possible variations for an event like this. If you ever have the opportunity to go to a launch event, for Ooligan or any press, I would definitely encourage you to attend. In the case of the launch event for Three Sides Water, we had the chance to sit around with friends, drinking delicious wine and discussing books. And really, isn’t that why we all want to be a part of the publishing industry? Not to drink wine, of course, but to discuss our passion for great books.

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