Brandon Sanford started at Ooligan Press in the winter of 2014 and graduated in the summer of 2015. He first participated in Write to Publish (W2P) in 2014 as an attendee, and was so enthusiastic about the event that he headed up the conference management team along with Melanie Figueroa the following year. In this interview, Brandon reflects on the 2015 event and gives insights into what is possible for future Write to Publish conferences.
What aspects of W2P management were you really looking forward to, and which ones were you not so excited about? Was it all it was cracked up to be?
It was exactly what I thought it would be going into it. I had attended the year before, and there were a lot of things from my personal experience working in management, customer service, operations, and some event planning that I could bring to the event to make improvements. There were a lot of areas with room for development . . . kind of whatever Melanie and I wanted to make it into.
What are some things you were proud of after the conference was completed?
I was really proud of the vendor section. We started with a few tables, then we filled those and rented out more. We ended up with fourteen tables, some of those having two vendors. We also had a great turnout: around seventy attendees, which is really big for us. And we made a lot of income for the press, which is great: upwards of eight thousand dollars gross and five thousand dollars profit.
And you were also responsible for the thirty-six-page Write to Publish manual?
Yes, the manual originated with Melanie and me. We also created a website that could be continuously updated. Up until then the website had to be remade every year, so we made an all-purpose website that could be tweaked for future years. Having a legacy was something that was very important to both Melanie and me. Another way we did that was getting more survey info. Previous years had done surveys too, but we focused a lot more on detailed questions, very specific, targeted questions. And that gave us a lot of usable data.
What were the most challenging aspects of actually putting the event together?
I would say, trying to keep everyone in the loop constantly . . . it was the ongoing thing we were always paying attention to, but it wasn’t like that for other people. So, we might talk to you in the summer and you’d agree to be a speaker . . . and then eight months later you’d have forgotten. The problem is that even if we’d emailed someone before, sometimes it’d still go to spam, and they might forget and double schedule. So the biggest challenge was finding where that line was.
Did anything happen the day of that you totally didn’t expect?
We didn’t expect people to be early. We had doors at 9 a.m., but people were there a good half hour early, and that was our time to get the vendors all set up. There was a long line of twenty-plus attendees wanting to check in right away. Then all of the vendors were trying to get settled. So, I took one section, Melanie took the other, and we tried to get through it as quickly as possible.
At the same time, the University’s payment system went down, so anyone who was trying to buy tickets at the door could only pay with cash. So right at the beginning there were about fifteen minutes of the perfect storm. There was kind of a panic, but I guess it was funny in retrospect.
Why would you recommend writers go to W2P?
I think there are a lot of conferences that target writers with workshops about the writing process, but I don’t think a lot of them discuss the business side of things. And if you are trying to make a living as a writer, you need to know about the business side of things. It is essential. Write to Publish is a great venue for that, and it’s a very inexpensive choice compared to other conferences that charge as much as three hundred dollars. And you get a lot of information.
And do you have any advice to Oolies who are working on Write to Publish?
I think Write to Publish has great potential. I think we can really build it up to being a big event. Even though we had a really successful conference last year, it’s still small. I very much believe that we’re offering something other conferences aren’t, and if it gets the right nurturing, it can be recognized nationally.