Author Insider

Publishing Books Close to Home: Celebrating our Ohio Authors

Orange Frazer Press has been publishing books independently for over twenty-six years. In that time we’ve worked with gardeners, grandparents, pilots, travelers, illustrators, archaeologists, professors, anthropologists, lawyers, painters, photographers, CEOs and many more. Our authors have shared lifetimes of experiences we may never have encountered otherwise, educating and entertaining readers with their stories. We love to celebrate the incredible work of our custom-published authors, real people with storytelling gifts. We have been even luckier to call many of them “neighbors.” And we’d like to take some time to showcase our Ohio authors, their books, and their experiences with OFP:

Jan Thrope, Cleveland: Jan Thrope is the author of InnerVisions: Grassroots Stories of Truth and Hope, an award-winning collection of stories, photographs, and personal experiences that document the struggles, and conversely, the reasons for hope in inner-city Cleveland.

Jan Thrope, Orange Frazer Press, Orange Frazer Press Custom Publishing

“I will forever be grateful to you for helping me bring my photos and words together so that my story could be ‘beautifully told.’ You live up to your mission!”—Jan Thrope, InnerVisions: Grassroots Stories of Truth and Hope

Janet Shailer, Grove City: Janet Shailer is the author of The Austerlitz Bugle-Telegraph: A King, a Goddess, and a Chronicle of Deception, an intriguing tale of local scandals, family secrets, and the “biggest theft [this] sleepy Appalachian town has ever seen.”

Janet Shailer with her book, The Austerlitz Bugle-Telegraph

"The staff at Orange Frazer Press is terrific. They are creative, cooperative and thorough. I hope to work with them again.”—Janet Shailer, The Austerlitz Bugle-Telegraph: A King, a Goddess, and a Chronicle of Deception

Verne Haugen, Washington Court House: Verne Haugen is the author of Count Me In, a memoir crafted with love and passion for a lifetime of deeply caring relationships and hard work.

Verne Haugen's book, Count Me In

“I am very fortunate to have met the entire staff and enjoyed their company many times over. John Baskin and I have had many interesting conversations, and Marcy is a wonderful woman to say the least. Sarah speaks volumes of energy and enthusiasm.”—Verne Haugen, Count Me In

John Fulker, Troy: John Fulker is the author of Cash, Cars, & Kisses, a collection of real-life cases from Miami County. The stories will shock and entertain even the most skeptical reader.

John Fulker's book, Cash, Cars, & Kisses

“As the author of five books over the course of some thirty years, and having thereby acquired at least a moderate acquaintance with the process by which my own naked manuscripts have morphed into attractively designed, professionally edited, illustrated and published books, I take great pleasure in assuring other writers of the considerable merits of Orange Frazer Press—and its tremendously helpful and congenial staff. Orange Frazer has been good enough to re-publish the first of my books and has capably handled the entire process involved in the publication, distribution and marketing of my last three. Best of all, they've done more than I could ask of them attentively and with amazing alacrity. They have, in fact, made the publication process into a fun event.”—John Fulker, Cash, Cars, & and Kisses

David and Barbara Day, Cincinnati: David and Barbara Day are celebrated Cincinnati artists and have collected their hand drawn images of Cincinnati into a beautiful coffee-table book, Vanishing Cincinnati.

David and Barbara Day's book, Vanishing Cincinnati

“We have followed their work for nearly twenty years and have seen the amazing track record they have created, making it easy to want their professional assistance when it came time to publish a book of our drawings. Orange Frazer set thoughtful guidelines and industry standards, then stepped back to gave us the freedom to create the high quality art book we had originally envisioned. We could not have done this without their expert guidance. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”—David and Barbara Day, Vanishing Cincinnati 

Nadine Huffman, Cincinnati: Nadine Huffman and Marilyn Lebhar are the authors of A Cincinnati Night Before Christmas, an endearing Cincinnati rendition of the beloved Christmas tale, and a regional bestseller.

Nadine and Marilyn with publisher Marcy Hawley (middle).

“Our experience with OFP has been, in a word, superb. The wonderful folks at OFP made the book of our dreams come to life through their design talents. They also gave us the knowledge, encouragement, and insight we needed to make our project successful. They always met deadlines, and sweated every detail. They were patient when we asked ignorant questions, and understanding when we had to push back our initial timeline. Most importantly, they are people of honesty and integrity, which shines through everything they do. The fact that they’re genuinely likeable, bright, and enjoyable to work with is a delightful bonus. We’ve been blessed to work with them.”—Nadine Huffman, A Cincinnati Night Before Christmas

To learn more about publishing with Orange Frazer, shoot me (Kelsey) an email at [email protected]!

Books Have a Shelf Life: The Season of Bookstore Returns

It’s January, which for many is a month of resolutions (we’ve certainly adopted a few), new beginnings, and celebration. It is that month post-Christmas where we can all play with our new toys, read our new books, launch our new ideas, and lace up our new tennis shoes. Unfortunately for publishers, January, and its less glamorous successor, February, have quite a different connotation: these months herald the benighted season of book returns. Books

Book returns make the book business unlike any other business. You see, when an author and publisher team up to create a book, there is a whole lot more than just the end consumer in mind. In fact, a book may be “sold” three or more times before it ever reaches the customer’s hands. It is first “sold” to the publisher (in that, for commercial or trade books the publisher buys the rights to distribute and sell), then “sold” to distributors (Ingram for bookstores, Baker & Taylor for libraries), then “sold” to a bookstore buyer, who, finally, sells the book and its premise to the rest of the sales team, so that it can make its way from the bookstore shelf into the patron’s loving hands. This series of sales means that any number of factors can determine the how, when, why, or why not of a book’s journey through bookstore to consumer.

For instance, you write an incredible book. Your publisher loves it, takes it on, buys the rights to distribute and sell it, puts some cash toward marketing and publicity, then meets with buyers from every major independent bookstore in the region. They sell it to their B&N rep, they sell it to their Ingram rep, they get Baker & Taylor in, too. But this isn’t the end of the road. The buyers must determine how many copies they put in their bookstores. Make no mistake: it is a delicate, admirable art to take on this incredible challenge. Buyers have a number of goals in mind: they have to maintain diversity in their bookstore, serve the unique needs and tastes of their local audience, bring in enough that they won’t be short during high-buying times, bring in few enough that they won’t have leftover stock, predict fads and evolving cultural inclinations, and stay within their budget. To balance these many goals when meeting with publishing houses across the country is an admirable feat. And as publishers, we respect and appreciate all that our buyers do to make this process run smoothly.

The one hiccup to this process, for a publisher, is that if a book doesn’t sell (for any number of reasons: the bookstore ordered too many copies, planned publicity was overshadowed by a major news event, etc.), the bookstore can return the book to the publisher (or to/through the involved distributor) for its money back. In no other business-to-business sales model do you see this form of return. I will repeat: when you sell your books to a bookstore, you hope, pray, and drum up good juju so that these books will not be back on your doorstep in three months. And January/February is by far the biggest return season for all publishers, as the Christmas sale season has passed and the overstocked books wind up coming back—not all of the time, of course, but it does happen.

This business model is still important for those who self-publish, particularly for those who custom publish with a custom publishing house like Orange Frazer that helps you with distribution through bookstores and retail outlets. The advantage to publishing your book with a professional publisher is that we do have these connections—the distributors, the buyers, the regional warehouses. Orange Frazer is in a unique position because with each custom book we are able to bring our twenty-five years of experience in trade publishing to the table: we know the system, we’ve filled out the paperwork, we maintain the memberships, and we know what we’re doing. Unfortunately, however, this return system won’t change for a self-published or custom-published book. Until we develop a sixth sense or create a highly accurate magic eight ball, there will always be occasional excess in the system. But with a foot in each stream—trade publishing and custom publishing—Orange Frazer will always be evolving to meet these challenges.

Author Insider: How to Sell Your Book with Susan Levine

As I’m sure our readers know (because I haven’t been able to stop talking about it for weeks), our newest children’s book, Harriett’s Homecoming: A High-Flying Tour of Cincinnati, comes out next week! The author, Susan Levine, is a marketing powerhouse, and I thought it would be a great resource for our commercial and custom authors alike to hear about her unique promotion tactics. As she will tell you herself, it’s all about personal relationships, so I spent a while on the phone with her this morning gleaning her wisdom. Here is the condensed version:

1. Start with questions: You have to put yourself in the customer’s shoes to understand the audience.  Why do they want my book? How is my book different than any other book they could buy? I knew my audience would be engaged parents and grandparents—people that are taking their kids around the city to see these places. My audience is also librarians and teachers. It is required by state education standards to teach elementary-aged children about Ohio history. This is the perfect book for them—an illustrated children’s picture book about a great Ohio city.

And it’s not just the end consumer—you have to think about the distributors who will move your book along to the customer. Who wants to sell my book? How is this different than any other book they sell? What can I do to get it to them? How can I get them excited about my book? I knew I should approach the highlighted places in the book, and then hone in on specialty book and toy stores. When I was promoting my first book, Packard Takes Flight: A Bird’s Eye View of Columbus, I approached Larson’s Toys and Games in Columbus about carrying it. I stopped in every few weeks, I brought them Graeter’s Ice Cream coupons as a thank-you when they bent over backwards to help me—I built a personal relationship with them. And the result? They have had my book on the counter for over two years now, and they’ve personally sold hundreds of copies.

2. Network: I worked with the places featured in the book for months ahead of time—researching, building relationships, getting permission for inclusion and pictures and history, etc. I will be dropping off a thank-you copy of the book to every single one of these places, asking them to pass it around and tell their friends.

3. Know your seller: Niche markets want something people can’t find many other places. When I am doing a book on a particular city, I will go to every neighborhood in that city and walk through all of the specialty book and gift stores. Once I’ve figured out which one is the best fit for my book, I go in and talk to a manager, explain to them how perfect their store is for my book and pitch it to them to stock it. But, I will only offer it to their store, and I make it clear that they would be the exclusive seller in that neighborhood.  It then becomes mutually beneficial.

And once you have your book stocked somewhere you can’t just stop there. Specialty book and gift shops don’t operate like your franchised Barnes & Noble: they don’t have books on automatic replenishment. You have to go in every six months and check on your book—do they have enough copies, do they need any more signed, is the book displayed well and correctly? This is where an author has a lot of pull in keeping their book stocked and displayed.

4. Be Assertive: You have to be confident, and you have to be proactive. Talk personally with booksellers, know the Kids’ Lead at your local Barnes & Noble, ask them if they need to place a new order, ask them how to get a staff-pick for your book or how to get better bookshelf placement.

5. Social Media is Powerful: I’m still learning how to optimize social media, but I am learning just how effective it can be. When I was doing Packard Takes Flight, a natural resources/falcon conservancy blog posted about the book and linked to my web store. Within days orders were rolling in online—and these were just from peregrine falcon enthusiasts! Never underestimate what online buzz in a niche industry can do for you.

6. Do Complimentary Programs and Speaking Engagements: Our greatest success with both Packard Takes Flight and Harriett’s Homecoming has been our interactive, engaging, and multi-disciplinary school program. I’ve had so many school librarians who’ve told me it’s the best program they’ve ever been a part of. My favorite was an older librarian who told me: “This is the best author visit we’ve ever seen…and I’ve seen a lot.” And it’s effective because it keeps the kids engaged, learning, and moving.  We talk about architecture, about cities, about falcons, about how books are made. They get to meet Erin, the illustrator, and learn about the artwork and they get to meet the falcon and learn about a native species. It’s really fun and fast-paced, and it moves more books than anything else.

Speaking engagements are also important because they help expose you to your niche audiences. They are never a direct sales pitch, but they enable you to talk about what you’re best at, and you can use your experience and your book as an example. I’ve spoken for the Audubon Society, the Ohio Libraries Conference, the Columbus Historical Society—the list goes on.

7. Make sure you are filling an unmet need with your book: Write a book that fills a need that you are uniquely qualified to fill, and then tell people about it. 

A big thank-you to Susan for her insight!

Harriett's Homecoming: An Interview with the Illustrator

While the focus of this blog is primarily on our custom books division, I couldn't help but shine the spotlight on the illustrator of a commercial children's book we are doing this year. The book is Harriett's Homecoming: A High-Flying Tour of Cincinnati, and it is the entertaining story of Harriett, a Peregrine Falcon chick, and her adventures (and misadventures) in downtown Cincinnati. Harriett's discoveries—Eden Park, The Newport Aquarium, The Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and many more—are woven throughout the narrative in brilliant watercolor illustrations. Erin Burchwell, illustrator, took some time to talk to me about her artistic history and training, her process in creating the unique, layered illustrations, and her personal relationship with her work:

How did you become an illustrator, and what brought you to watercolor illustrating specifically?

Well, I believe a person’s art is a reflection of their whole life in some way—from childhood experiences, to schooling, education, etc. And my life is no exception to this belief.

I grew up in an artistic family, although I was the only visual artist of the bunch. My father taught voice and directed operas (my sister followed in his path), and my mother taught Shakespeare. So while many of our friends were going to summer camp or weekend ballgames, my sister and I were going to operas, art museums and Shakespeare plays. We also travelled in the summers with a choir that my father directed across much of Europe. The travelling, especially in eastern Europe, I think had a huge impact on my artistic ventures.

When I was 13 years old, I got my first set of watercolors at an outdoor open market in Moscow. I had no clue how to use them “correctly”—in fact, at the same market I bought wooden boxes and things to paint with the watercolor. Somehow, I managed to get the paint to stay on the wood, and I used clear fingernail polish as a sealer.  I’m still not sure how I managed that “technique!”

From there I moved to paper with my watercolors, but I was already in the habit of really saturating the paper, and still had no instruction in painting. By the time someone showed me how to actually use watercolors, I thought, “those colors look weak,” and kept doing things my own way.

I went on in college to major in theatre with an art minor (still no painting classes, however), and after graduating, I taught high school drama and directed school plays for 7 years until my daughter was born. I loved teaching, but I always had this idea in the back of my head that I wanted to write and illustrate children’s books someday. So, when I quit teaching to stay home, I decided to actually start pursuing the book idea. I joined a local group in Columbus (COSCBWI) with other aspiring authors and illustrators and after about a year, I sat next to Susan Levine (the author) and the rest is history!

What research was involved in the falcon books (Harriett’s Homecoming and Packard Takes Flight)?

Well, first off, I had to learn a LOT about birds, falcons in particular. It’s funny, now, because I see them everywhere when I’m driving around, whereas before I never really noticed them. Several bird sanctuaries have been very helpful in answering my many, many questions, and letting me get up close to see various birds in person. I used a human dummy model and a picture of a bird skeleton to help me get my poses. I used both because, of course, our birds are doing things that real birds can’t do, like picking up things with “fingers” etc. Then, of course, I had to get familiar with all of the places in the books. I visited most of them in person and took lots and lots of photos (I think I took 2,000 photos for Packard, and even more for Harriett). It’s killing our desktop computer.

What was your process for these illustrations (the layering, etc.)?

Again, I think my childhood travels and theatre training all influenced my artistic choices, here especially. My mom gave me a book on British toy theaters when I was in junior high, and I have been fascinated with them ever since. I felt comfortable designing in “levels” or layers similar to my stage experience, so I began to design my pages like I would a set for a stage, with the backdrop (background), the center stage (middle) and forestage (upfront). I started cutting out and using puffy stickers to get the effect I was looking for—a miniature theater. Surprisingly, I really liked the scanned images. I felt like it added a lot of depth, and the originals looked beautiful in framed shadow boxes. It’s a tedious process, cutting out each individual piece or character, but it frees me psychologically from the fear of messing up in the final hour.

How do you reward yourself after such a time-consuming project?

Books really are very time-consuming projects. I think we calculated around 450 hours for Harriett (my husband is a nerd accountant). And I’m sort of ADD, so something that big is tough to get through, and it is nice to look forward to a little reward of some kind. For years, I had joked with my husband about getting a hairless cat. I thought the logic would appeal to him—they’re perfect pets. You don’t have to walk them or let them out, yet they have the personality of a dog without the shedding fur. Genius! He didn’t think so. So we had an “agreement” that I would get a Sphynx cat if I ever got published. So, the very day after I signed on for Packard, and before I ever even did one painting, I found a breeder and drove a few hours one way to pick up my new baby, “Harry.” He is quite the character. He has gotten into my workspace in the basement more than once and eaten (yes, eaten) some of my Packards and Harrietts right off the page. But he’s still worth it. I think I’m going to have to stop talking about him to kids at school visits, because it seems to be the only thing they remember.

When I talk with kids about art and illustrating in the many schools that we visit, I like to reiterate to them that if they get a chance to take art classes they should eat them up. However, if they love art, if they are passionate about art, if they constantly pick up a book and just look at the pictures, with enough practice and determination, they can illustrate without the formal training. I know a lot of artists cringe at this idea, but illustrating books for children is an art form very different from any other.


Harriett's Homecoming will be available the week of October 15, 2012. Order online at or purchase at your local bookstore.