I can confidently say that Ooligan alumnus Lucas Beechinor (2010) is the reason I find myself in the Ooligan Press workroom today. After about five minutes over coffee at Whitworth University, where we both earned our undergraduate degrees, Lucas had sold Portland State University’s Book Publishing program to me. A few days later, I submitted my letter of intent to attend. Today, Lucas finds himself back at Whitworth as Media Relations Manager, in which capacity he manages the university’s public image by editing university publications, handling media inquiries, and executing crisis communication plans. He also owns Greenerside Digital, a company which designs and develops marketing plans for authors and publishers. In this interview he tells about his time spent at Ooligan Press and reveals how he’s found success since graduating.
What was your favorite course you took while at PSU?
I took a book design class from Abbey Gaterud which had a big impact on me. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of quality design and the visual elements of how a message is packaged in order to resonate with certain audiences. That’s really a publisher’s goal—packaging messages in the form of a book—so it’s really integral to the whole publishing process.
Which course material do you use most today?
Anything related to marketing. Like good design, marketing is essential when you’re trying to communicate with audiences. The two go hand-in-hand in so many ways. But marketing is different in the sense that it can be fairly nebulous and you must understand where your audience is and how to communicate with them by examining data.
Was there a course that was particularly challenging?
Yes, Vinnie Kinsella’s advanced book editing class. At first I assumed there wouldn’t be room for creativity, but it’s just the opposite. Once I became more familiar with the actual rules in grammar and punctuation, something clicked and I considered pursuing a career in editing.
What book projects did you work on for Ooligan?
I remember working on Classroom Publishing, Cataclysms on the Columbia, Killing George Washington, and Dot-to-Dot, Oregon. The energy Ooligan students have is infectious, so it was easy to get excited about every book. I found myself getting caught up in all the excitement, regardless of genre.
Can you talk about your internship experience with Dark Horse Comics while you were in the program?
This experience was invaluable in growing personally and professionally, especially after it became full-time employment in their marketing department. Dark Horse taught me how much further down the rabbit hole can go when you’re trying to engage with audiences and get books onto shelves.
With Star Wars, for instance, we worked closely with LucasFilm to get in sync with their biggest pushes, and it was interesting to see how far out their marketing was planned—usually a decade at least.
Comics are interesting because even though they are a niche product, they remain at the tip of the spear in how popular culture is consumed, so marketing them is extremely fun. There is a general sort of energy in the comics industry that is hard to describe, but part of that probably comes from getting stacks of free comics every week.
You’ve mentioned before that you do freelance editing. How do you find clients?
Actually I have pretty much directed all my freelance work through a site called Fiverr. The worldwide audience makes it almost effortless to find customers, and the website does an excellent job of displaying credibility as you do quality work. I highly recommend publishing students plug themselves into it.
You also started your own publishing house, correct? How did you
Yes! As an Ooligan student, I figured out how to make ebooks using InDesign, so I started taking public domain titles and uploading them to Amazon. You can’t just do that anymore now though. And after a while I thought it would be cool to publish some original content, so I got in touch with local editor/author Cheri Lasota and we talked about publishing her book Artemis Rising, which we did in September 2010. I also collected some short stories from one of my English professors and had a pretty nice lineup of books that first year.
I wanted to focus on a digital-only strategy because I think that digital publishing has endless potential. However, I knew the importance of having a physical product to sell or give away, so I developed a way to create download cards for all our books. We used them at the Artemis Rising launch party and they were a huge success. After that I began a separate service, Greenerside Digital, which is a service provider that creates cards for other authors and publishers.
What advice do you have for new or prospective Oolies?
Network with as many area professionals as you possibly can. Ask if you can buy them lunch, or maybe even job-shadow them. I have found the key to pursuing a career is to first meet professionals in [the] area so you can build relationships and earn good recommendations.
For prospective students, I would say this: There is really no better time to get into publishing, thanks largely to the internet. The skills you’ll acquire in this program will carry into whatever industry or field you want, so don’t be afraid about pigeonholing yourself just by studying book publishing.
Any advice for Oolies who will be graduating soon?
If I was about to graduate again, I would forget about the idea of working in a giant glass tower in New York City. While that old-school publishing establishment still exists, it’s not stable and I think there are tremendous opportunities in the independent and self-publishing scenes, especially on the West Coast. We should be looking for ways to make publishing more profitable while at the same time forgetting that old-world establishment.