- Here are a few bits and pieces from the discussion (mostly paraphrased):
- A recurring project I routinely procrastinated on because I felt it took more time than it was worth only required 90 minutes a week—far less than I had thought. After finding that out in the first week, I no longer put off the task.
- I work in two- to three-hour bursts, then I get distracted. If I try to push through and stay productive, I just end up wasting time.
- Wednesdays are my most productive day: another reason it’s the hump day.
- I also tend to work more in the mornings, especially between six and ten. I get another burst of energy in the early evening between six and eight, but I might as well take a siesta for all the work I get done in the afternoon.
August 27, 2014
We here at Ooligan Press have been watching recent developments in subscription reading services closely. In May, the two largest providers of subscription reading services for trade books—Oyster and Scribd—announced that 10,000 e-books from Simon & Schuster’s backlist would become available to subscribers. Until then, HarperCollins was the only publisher of the big five to offer their content through these services. At that juncture, the viability of recurring revenue models was highly suspect. There is still no guarantee Oyster and Scribd will survive, but the addition of Simon & Schuster has increased the likelihood of success. The fact that two of the five big guys have chosen to offer their content this way suggests subscription models are becoming a mainstream way to read. Let’s more closely examine how the model currently used by Oyster and Scribd works.
Readers can gain total access to Oyster’s content for $9.95/month; Scribd is slightly cheaper at $8.99/month. Once you pay the fee, a massive library of e-books is instantly available through your chosen device. Sounds great, right? Now, neither Oyster and Scribd nor the publishers are giving full disclosure of the exact details of their agreement. They have said that a threshold has been established within a distributed e-book, and if a customer reads past that threshold, Oyster and Scribd will pay the publisher the full list price of the book. The Shatzkin Files reports anywhere from 10 to 40 percent of the e-book must be read before the publisher gets paid. If a majority of users regularly read more than two Simon & Schuster or HarperCollins books in a month, it’s hard to imagine that this model could be sustainable.
Much like gym memberships, subscription reading services employ models that are reliant upon customers not using the service to its full potential. In this case, success is contingent upon a percentage of users never reading titles offered by Simon & Schuster or HarperCollins. This does not necessarily spell failure; the services offer content from many other publishers besides the two big names. Indie e-book publisher Smashwords has partnered with Oyster, citing the potential for author discoverability as the most attractive reason for this partnership. The substantially lower price point of Smashwords titles to that of the big guys makes this partnership beneficial to Oyster, Scribd, and users seeking that kind of content.
The exigent demand these two companies face is to appease all parties involved. The reason that Simon & Schuster’s decision to join in the subscription experiment is so momentous is because it raises the stakes. Two big publishers are well on their way to becoming a crowd. If there are no serious complaints in the next year, you can bet other big names will follow. Yet, entering the game means that risk of failure is much greater. Can Oyster and Scribd find the goldilocks scenario needed to keep publishers and readers happy? To do so, they will need not only to sign up readers, but to sign up the right kind of readers. If millions of users join but never read more than one book past the magical threshold, publishers will lose faith and withdraw. Losing the support of a big publisher will severely reduce whatever social capital the companies may have accrued by this juncture. To complicate their situation further, these companies still have their own well-being to consider. If they sign up too many gluttonous readers, turning a profit will be impossible.
You can bet we will be keeping a close eye on these companies over the next year. The success or failure of this model will play a decisive role in the future of e-books and in the way those in the industry think about and produce content, and that is pretty close to all of our hearts at Ooligan Press.
August 27, 2014
In this break between summer and fall terms, the Mastersounds project is keeping things simple. The team is continuing to help with transcribing interviews for the author’s research. This not only provides more opportunities for the author to conduct research, but also provides the team members with more knowledge about the jazz community. This will play into directing the research in the future when the team begins to develop the marketing plan.
Last week, I met with Marc Moscato of Know Your City about developing a tour that works with the jazz book. A small team will be created at Ooligan that will develop, test, and present the final tour to Know Your City. Not only will it take people through the jazz history or Portland, but will also, hopefully, show people the community around the culture.
That is it for this update. Next time, I will talk a little more about how the manuscript is developing.
Also, if you are interested in the jazz community, Oregon Humanities is offering a free lecture, titled The Art of the Possible: Jazz and Community Building, by Tim DuRoche. It will be held at the Belmont Branch of the Multnomah County Libraries at 3pm on Saturday, September 6th.
August 22, 2014
Kate Burkett completed Portland State University’s graduate program in Book Publishing in June 2013. From her new home in Fort Collins, Colorado, Burkett talked a bit about what she’s been up to since graduation and reflected on her time in the program (spoiler alert: it was very productive).
What drew you to PSU’s publishing program?
I was living in Kansas City, Missouri, working at a gas station with a film and English degree. I was researching publishing programs, and I was just so excited about the innovativeness of Ooligan. It seemed different than a lot of the other [options]—especially the work study aspect of it. You’re getting work experience while you learn about editing, marketing, design… It offered so many different specialties.
When you arrived, what did you think you wanted to focus on, and did that change at all?
I was very excited about editing when I first joined the program. I wanted to be a screenwriter; that’s why I was a film undergraduate. I found that I just really enjoyed talking to people about their stories and helping develop them, and so developmental editing really appealed to me. Then actually I found that I really enjoyed marketing. I love taking the great works that people create and helping get them in front of the right people. It feels very fulfilling.
Your redesign of Ooligan backlist title Speaking Out was chosen for the new edition. Can you tell me how that project came about? What did you hope to accomplish, and how did it feel when your design was selected?
It felt great. Speaking Out was one of the first titles that Ooligan Press did, and from what I understand, I don’t think they had a robust design department [then], so once the program got bigger they wanted to redesign it with people who were more skilled in that area. In Advanced InDesign, the class was tasked with redesigning the book. Honestly, I worked on it a lot. I got really into it. I was really excited about making the book more user-friendly, more student-friendly. The text was super small in the original one, and the way it was organized just didn’t make sense to me. You know when you take undergraduate courses, and you get assigned these textbooks, and sometimes… I just wanted to make it as easy as possible. Speaking Out is a really great book—but I wanted to make it easier to read and to redesign some of the graphics.
And that you did! You also had a hand in Start to Finish, right?
Yeah, I actually created Start to Finish! Another student, Jonathan Stark, and I had similar ideas around the same time for how to promote Ooligan’s books and get people to keep coming back to the website. We joined forces and improved upon each other’s ideas, and then I designed and coded the pages, [as well as] the application that automates all the moving parts on the page.
What else about your Ooligan experience was especially useful or instructive for the work you do now?
Probably one of the number one things was being the digital content manager. At the time, a lot of people had just left that group. We’d just gotten the new website redesign out, and I was teaching myself how to code and make e-books. I learned a lot by taking what Ooligan Press is and using it to teach myself how to do things. I learned the value of teaching myself. Not to take away from anything in the program, because there are really great teachers there, but as a manager—being responsible for what came out the other side—it was character-developing, in a way.
I also taught two one-hour digital courses—I do a lot of digital work now, and that introduced me to the field. Changed my life, basically.
What are you up to these days?
I work for an online company called Booktrope. They’re based in Seattle, but their employees are all online. I do layout design for them, I do interiors, and then I turn those interiors into e-books. I also do some book marketing for them. It’s kind of a unique publishing house; it’s set up into teams—kind of like Ooligan Press, actually—where there’ll be a marketer, a designer, an editor, and an author for a project, and they all work together using an online platform. I’m currently working on a book that’s coming out on July 21st, called Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure by Michael G. Munz. It’s kind of a comic fantasy [along the lines of] Terry Pratchett.
I’m also working on launching a website, the
Interrobang Collective, with two other Ooligan graduates: Lorna Nakell, who is a really great designer, and Poppy Milliken, who’s a great editor and interior designer. We met through Ooligan, and we’re launching this business to help each other get additional work—to help each other out. So instead of floating off on our own, we can use our complementary skill sets to reach more authors together.
August 20, 2014
This post is the story of my day at the Golden Crown Literary Society’s conference in Jantzen Beach, where I met several new people, picked up a new book, and got to listen to Karelia Stetz-Waters speak as part of a panel. I arrived at the Red Lion Hotel about fifteen minutes early to hear Karelia speak, so I walked around the vendor area and picked up a copy of one of her other books, The Admirer. It came with this cute reusable goody bag filled with candy, a rubber duck, promotional postcards and bookmarks, a pen, and even a USB car charger with the Golden Crown logo on it.
I took my swag bag and headed toward the room where the panel was being held, stopping in the ladies’ room. Much to my surprise Karelia was in line right ahead of me, so never having officially met her, I of course introduced myself awkwardly while waiting to get in.
The panel discussion was called “Kids, This Ain’t Your Parents’ YA” and featured panelists JD Glass, D. Jordan, Nell Stark, and Karelia Stetz-Waters, with moderator Andi Marquette. After figuring out the Skype situation for two of the panelists, the discussion was under way. The questions ranged from “What was a YA book that has stayed with you?” to “What is it about dystopian fiction with strong female characters that is so appealing at this point in time?”
Nell: From the many talks I have with my students about books that they are loving right now, the two that keep coming up are The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Fault in Our Stars. It seems that students today don’t want things sugarcoated, they want real, gritty stories. Is this a new thing?
JD: I don’t think this is a new idea. Look at The Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird. These were groundbreaking books for their time, they were certainly not sugarcoated, and this appealed to people in their time as well.
Karelia:Students today, the Millennials, have grown up being so overprotected by their parents, Generation X, that they really just want a story that doesn’t coddle them.
It seemed like the panelists were mostly in agreement on all points, and each brought their own experiences and insights to every question. The hour went by quickly; there was never a lull when a member of the panel or the audience wasn’t asking a question or expressing a great thought. One of the questions asked that stuck with me was “Why is it that YA/NA books are so popular not just with young people, but those of all ages?” And the answer seems to be shared experience. JD brought up a quote that she heard once, which goes, “If you want to create a good YA book, write a good book, and make the protagonist young.” Karelia shared the fact that studies show that memories are imprinted more between ages sixteen and twenty-four than any other time of life, even the recent past. She thinks that this age is wonderful because young adults are old enough to know what’s wonderful but still young enough to be having first-time experiences. Nell says there is a queerness that comes with puberty that everyone can relate to, and it has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Everyone just feels strange. All of these things are so true, and definitely answer the question perfectly.
August 18, 2014
Hello my friends!
I’m finally back from my vacation, and feeling eminently less stressed. Melanie and I have already met up to hash out current battle plans. It certainly makes planning easier when talking face to face!
One thing Melanie and I wanted to try this year was to find a sponsor for the conference. It was the first time any of the Write to Publish managers had tried to partner with a presenting sponsor, but to Melanie and I the idea just made sense from the beginning. What we can offer and the quality of the conference increases if we partner with someone else. We hoped that we could find a partner involved in the publishing industry, but realized we might have to go outside the industry.
We are ecstatic to announce that we have secured a sponsor for Write to Publish 2015: Pubslush, the global crowdfunding and analytics platform for the literary world. Run by a mother and daughter duo, Pubslush tailors its services to the needs of authors, agents, and small-presses. If you aren’t familiar with Pubslush, check out their website or blog. Forbes also wrote a great article about the company. Pubslush actually approached us, having heard about the conference, asking about how they could get involved; in addition to sponsorship, we thought about other ways we could benefit from their experience.
As a result, Nicole McArdle, marketing director of Pubslush, will be attending the conference and speaking on a “How to Fund Your Creative Project” panel. She will be joined by publishers Chris Morey, of Dark Regions Press, and Patrick McDonald, of Overcup Press, in addition to well-known publishing consultant Todd Sattersten.
Our other panels are almost filled as well; we are confident that by the end of summer we will have a finalized schedule to present to you, readers. We have one workshop set; two more to go. Our short story contest and our design contest should be starting around the same time our schedule is finalized. We are currently working on press releases and marketing initiatives for both those programs, so we will be ready for when we open them to submissions. The website continues to be built one line of code at a time and so far progresses well; in the meantime, some information is available at our temporary page at http://ooligan.pdx.edu/writetopublish/.
August 15, 2014
Everyone dreams of something. Winning the lottery. Starting their own business. Publishing a book. From little children to adults, dreams fly through our heads, but what doesn’t are the potential detours we take when on our way to realizing these dreams. Where we end up is not necessarily the place that we intended to be, but it is the place that we need to be at the time we get there.
American Scream: Palindrome Apocalypse by Dubravka Oraić Tolić explores the idea of dreams and what these dreams cost. It explores the idea of freedom and uses the historical story of Columbus discovering America on his way to India to ask the question of how to keep going when things do not go the way you intended.
The beautiful part about the poem “American Scream” is that anyone can relate to the story. Tolić just uses the idea of America, India, and Columbus to get at the wider picture of dreaming and, while I know hardly anything about Croatia, I found myself intensely drawn to the humanist aspect of the images. Dreams, not in the sense of those cryptic images that go through our minds when we sleep but in the wishes we have for ourselves and our future, lead us on paths that we cannot map. In the hundred texts of the poem, Tolić balances the historical telling of Columbus’ discovery of America and uses the same imagery to explore the issues surrounding art, mainstream history, politics, and many other humanist ideas.
The poem “Palindrome Apocalypse” explores these similar ideas of mainstream thinking and dreams on a much more personal level. Tolić uses her skill as a poet to explore the wars going on between east and west, on both the large and small scale. When I read the poem, I could feel the tensions between society and language within the words, echoing the tension of the war between Croatia and Serbia. While this is my first time seeing Croatian written out, I couldn’t help but read over the original text as I read the English translation; somehow it made me feel like I was getting closer to the true feelings of Tolić and her intention for the poem.
As far as poetry normally goes for me, and I’m going to be honest here, I still don’t fully comprehend everything that Tolić wanted for the poem. Even after reading the critical narratives included in the book, the most interesting of which being her fictional letter to the American Ambassador in Croatia, I found myself at a loss. I reread parts and looked up some of the citations in “American Scream,” but I still felt like I only understood the surface: the words, the lyrical movements within the narrative. I know that I will go back and reread both epic poems a few times, if only in a possibly vain attempt to understand everything that Tolić was trying to impart. But perhaps that is the point: to go back, to learn by seeing the same thing over and over. Maybe I won’t come to her conclusions, but I will come to one of my own, one that has more meaning for me than anyone else.
August 14, 2014
Summer term is wrapping up at the Ooligan office, but Sean and The Wax Bullet War will be maintaining a steady rhythm throughout the entire summer. The first week of August we hit our peak time, with Sean reading in Bend, Seattle, and Tacoma—all in one week! Tonight, he will be at Another Read Through on N Mississippi in Portland with fellow veteran and author Matthew Robinson for a Second Thursday event. Following that will be readings in Corvallis and Beaverton at public libraries, with even more events continuing in the fall.
We’ve done so much for this book, and Sean has done even more, so that we could get his story into the right eyes and ears and we’re really happy to see how much attention it’s been getting since its launch in April. It’s been over four months, but we’re glad that we don’t have to say our goodbyes just yet!
August 13, 2014
As students of publishing, everyone who works at Ooligan is very busy. There are papers to write, portfolios to put together, sales kits to assemble, ebooks to craft, as well as the day-to-day operations of a trade publisher. On top of all that, many of us also have day jobs, which means our days are both full and fragmented. It isn’t surprising, then, that many Ooligan alumni go on to work as freelance editors or designers: the course prepares you to work independently doing any- and everything. Given that freelancing is the new norm, this focus on flexibility is probably a good thing. As future publishing professionals, whether working nine-to-five or freelance, we need to keep in mind certain best practices, and one of these is being aware of how “busy” we actually are.
After one year in the Ooligan course, I’m already starting to think of life after graduation; freelancing is definitely on my mind. To get a head start on the best practices of working life, and also as an experiment, I installed the free service RescueTime on my computer for the first two weeks of spring term. By tracking website and software usage, RescueTime provides an hour-by-hour breakdown of time worked and whether it was “productive” or not, based on user categories. I chose RescueTime for its simplicity, pleasant interface, and lack of annoying ads, but there are many other options available. There are some limitations, though: RescueTime’s free version doesn’t allow you to input time spent away from the screen in meetings, errands, or phone calls. With that in mind, during those two weeks I logged seventy-five hours on my personal computer, fifty of which were “productive”—that is, they were spent in work-related programs or websites, such as Photoshop, InDesign, Word, and Google Docs. Although the numbers were interesting, some of the other information was more useful and changed how I looked at my time. For example:
Those were some of the insights into how I personally spend my time; your mileage may vary. Although most of us don’t need to create invoices (yet), taking stock of how we spend our time can give us a better idea of whether we have the time-management chops to make a go of freelancing—and help us develop them if we need to do so.
August 13, 2014
We have some results from our networking! I am meeting this week with Marc Moscato, Executive Director of Know Your City, to go over how we might create a tour of the Portland area that follows the same themes of the book. I’m hoping that the tour could follow a timeline that shows the evolution of the jazz culture in Portland and perhaps the surrounding areas.
I have also contacted the film school at Portland State University to collaborate on the crowdfunding video which will introduce everyone to the author, Lynn, and the project in more detail. I went this route because all aspects about this project should be about community, much like the jazz culture is. I will be finalizing our call for a videographer and sending it to the film school early this week.
This week we will be adding to our list of people to contact about gifts for donations to the project, doing some more transcribing, and researching the possibilities for a web application to go with the book.
Until next week!
August 11, 2014
Hello again, everyone.
It has been a relatively calm week for Untangling the Knot. The project team’s main focus has been the continuation of some ongoing tasks as we try to finish the summer term with all of the project’s goals and deadlines in mind.
The social media audit of the Untangling the Knot contributors is wrapping up. The information gathered about which, if any, social media platforms each author uses will be of great use in the fall, when we will begin employing our marketing strategies to spread the word about the book. In addition to the audit, the team completed the sales kits and mailed them to Ingram Publishing Services.
The team has also been building a list of authors, reviewers, and community leaders and activists that we will contact about possibly providing blurbs for the book, a process that is integral to the outcome of a new book. It is asking a lot out of someone that they agree to read a book and provide a meaningful statement about its content, meaning, or style. The manner in which this communication takes place is important; we need to approach each individual in a welcoming fashion, but it also must be clear that we are not randomly contacting as many people as possible. It is important that the team take the time to learn about each potential blurber, and that we know prior to contacting them why their voice would be a good fit for the book, and that we carry that message through our communication.
Along with the other preparations for the upcoming marketing push, we are creating a list of potential awards for which the title would qualify. The final edits carry on, and that stage will soon be finished, and Untangling the Knot will finally be a whole and complete manuscript. Each step brings the project closer and closer to the final, finished book.
Until next time.