I recently had the lovely opportunity to sit down and have a chat with Paige O’Rourke, one of the publisher’s assistants (as well as one of the Graduate Assistants) at Ooligan Press. As a publishing assistant, Paige functions as an important cog in the book publishing machine that is Ooligan Press. She shared with me some of the things she deals with on a daily basis and some of her experiences working in the publishing field. She was a delight to talk to and gave me some good insider’s information about what it’s like to work at Ooligan.
David Quinton: What are your duties at Ooligan?
Paige O’Rourke: Before we restructured the press, we used to have an operations team and then a sales and external promotions team, so the publisher’s assistant has combined the operations duties and the external promotions duties. What Keely [Burkey, the other publisher’s assistant] and I do is a lot of networking and corresponding with other publishers, book sellers, and customers in general. [We also communicate] with authors at first, especially if they’re confused about where they go for acquisitions. We also take care of packaging different books that we’re going to sell. On the other side of it, we also handle getting prepared for different events; we help out with that and go to those events and get everything ready for them beforehand. We handle part of the sales side too. We take care of the logistical money side of it. Also as a publisher’s assistant, you’re there for Abbey [Gaterud, the publisher of Ooligan Press and one of the instructors in the book publishing program) and do whatever she needs you to do.
Quinton: What is the most memorable book project you’ve worked on so far?
O’Rourke: I think working on The Ninth Day was interesting because I got to be there from the very beginning. I worked on the design team for that, coming up with concepts; I read through the manuscript and did a little bit of editing work as well; and then I got to actually be kind of the model for the book cover, which was really interesting. So it was just something where I think I was able to be there from start to finish, which doesn’t always happen in the program, depending on where books are.
Quinton: What is your biggest challenge working at Ooligan? What are some issues that you have to deal with on a daily basis?
O’Rourke: I think one of the biggest challenges for me personally is [that] I’ve got to step into looking at design a lot more. I’ve always been creative and kind of crafty, but I didn’t think that would ever translate into anything that I would actually be doing. So it’s really something to keep challenging myself with and to keep trying at. I don’t come from an art background at all, so I definitely feel like that there are limitations to my abilities, which can be really frustrating sometimes. I think what’s great about the program is that you can explore that, and even if you don’t come in being stellar you can work towards that. For me, that’s been great, and when a new book comes out and there are cover designs or interiors [to be designed] I like to try my hand at it.
Quinton: Do you have any plans for after grad school? What do you want to do with your master’s degree in book publishing?
O’Rourke: Yeah, I have kind of vague plans. I would love to open up some sort of—not exactly a literary agency, but kind of combining multiple things. So I’d love to be able to publish books, kind of have my own publishing house. These are kind of in-the-future goals, not immediate. I’ve always loved individual tutoring, so trying to find a way to do that for authors, maybe some developmental work on that end. So I’m kind of interested in forming something, I don’t know exactly how it’s going to look. Hopefully it’s going to be unique, but I think especially if I plan to stay in Portland I wouldn’t mind that. But I feel like it’s such a small city, really, you have to find something unique to give to people. There are so many little publishers who are doing cool things already. So I want to do something to incorporate publishing and writing and really assisting authors and making those connections; that’s huge for me. So something like that, possibly with agenting, is where I want to go.
Paige and the other graduate students I have had a chance to interact with are an inspiration to undergraduates like me who are aspiring to work in the publishing industry someday. My own goal is to get into the book publishing program at PSU. Some of this interview was omitted in the interest of keeping the blog post short, but you can listen to the complete interview via Soundcloud: