Trade/Commercial Publishing

Do it for the Monarchs

CBS Sunday Morning had a wonderful segment this weekend highlighting just how critical native plants are to the survival of the Monarch butterfly. Photographer Joel Sartore shares his own transcendent experience with Monarchs in Mexicowhere they migrate in the winter monthsand reflects on his decision to convert part of his farmland to native plants. It's a wonderful featurewe recommend checking it out for some spring inspiration:

Native plants are often overshadowed by the flashy, hybridized annuals (and perennials) that modern gardeners see in many commercial greenhouses: exotic black wave petunias, knock-out roses, or any of the other thousands of new varieties of garden plants that promise resilience and color. Native perennials require patience and an eye for natural beauty, but those that know how to work with them and coordinate them, love them, and they're the favorites of master gardeners. While blooming periods for native plants are often shorter than those of today's more commercial annuals, months-long color can be achieved with the right mix of plants in your landscape. Native plants also support native creatures (like bees and butterflies) and more balanced local ecosystems.

Our author Frank Porter explores the versatility and beauty of native plants in his book, Back to Eden: Landscaping with Native Plants. And he discusses in more detail several of the natives mentioned in Sartore's featuremilkweed, asters, and more.

Butterfly Milkweed and Nodding Ladies Tresses in the Trella Romine Prairie in Marion County, Ohio

Butterfly Milkweed and Nodding Ladies Tresses in the Trella Romine Prairie in Marion County, Ohio

Heart-leaved aster

Heart-leaved aster

If you're already dreaming of spring, check out Frank's book for inspiration. Whether you're trying to find creative solutions for landscape problem spots or you simply want more context for today's ongoing discussion of native plants and animals, Back to Eden is a lovely read.


Pitching to Publishers: Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

Perhaps the most intimidating part of the publishing process for many authors is pitching to publishers, or more often, the agent/publisher quest—and rightfully so. Finding a suitable partner for your work who believes in you and your work and is willing to invest in it isn’t easy. Knowing where these potential partners even exist—or how to contact them—adds an entirely new layer of complexity. I regularly lead workshops on traditional book publishing vs. self-publishing, and there are several questions that come up again and again: how do I find an agent, how do I find a publisher, how do I put together my proposal? While there is no step-by-step list of advised actions—and fate, luck, and coincidence play frustratingly large roles in the process—I do have a few notes of advice for those pursuing a traditional publishing route.

1) Start by looking for an agent. If you are serious about being published by a larger house (most of which are located in New York), you will need to do the hard work of finding an appropriate agent first. Unsolicited manuscripts (unagented manuscripts) are often read by editorial assistants and interns at large houses, if they are read at all, and you are unlikely to make your way to the top of the slush pile without a seasoned and in-the-loop advocate. If you are hoping to work with a smaller, independent publisher, you may be able to forgo the agent (Orange Frazer Press, for example, seldom works with agents).

2) Proofread your email pitches, proofread your proposals, proofread your manuscript—proofread. I can’t describe how off-putting it is to receive an email pitch from an author (or even a follow-up question on a proposal) riddled with typos. Misspelling the name of our press is hardly the way to make an impression. Make people want to advocate for your work. Be kind, concise, and perfect in your communications with anyone in the industry.

3) Think about marketing. Publishing is a business, and you, as an author, are a potential investment. Your agent, and hopefully your publisher, will want to be confident in your ability to assist with marketing and promoting your book. Do you have a well-read blog, or a significant number of engaged Facebook followers, or a speaking tour in your region, or a reputation as a writer for reputable journals, magazines, and newspapers? Your “platform,” or your marketability, is important to an agent (because they want to make sure they can sell you to a publisher) and your potential publisher (because they want to make sure they will sell the books they produce). Make sure your proposal—if and when appropriate—reflects your marketing savvy and platform.

4) Become an industry insider. The biggest part of finding an agent is knowing who they are, what they represent, who they frequently sell manuscripts to, etc. Online resources like Publishers Weekly, Publishers Marketplace, and others will publicize deals as they happen, so that you can research potential partners for your own project (and have a realistic idea of how similar manuscripts are received and what level of investment they’re receiving in advance/print run).

5) Do your research. I often start my publishing workshops by clearly stating what we do and do not publish (because although it’s truly a 101 workshop dedicated to educating authors about the industry, it often draws writers with manuscripts that are currently looking for publishing partners). If I clearly state that we only publish Ohio non-fiction commercially, sending me your fiction manuscript several weeks later and referencing my workshop and your desire to be traditionally published makes me feel like I either didn’t reach you or you weren’t listening.

6) Proofread. Wait, did I already mention that one? It’s worth saying again. Do not take a casual approach to your manuscript, proposal, emails, letters, cover letters, etc. These make up the first impression of you, your work, and your potential. And, we make a living out of finding typos, so we will notice yours.

Do you have other questions about a traditional publishing path? We would be happy to answer them!

Pitching for Success: Character Lessons, the Joe Nuxhall Way at Joseph-Beth Booksellers

Last night, we celebrated the release of Pitching for Success: Character Lessons, the Joe Nuxhall Way at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, Ohio! It was a wonderful success, with a number of friends, families, and kids out to pick up signed books and learn more about the Miracle League Fields. Here are some snapshots of the event! 

And don't forget! Doug will be at Booksellers on Fountain Square on Monday, March 31 (Opening Day, Reds fans!) from 12pm-2pm. You can pick up a signed copy of the book during the parade!

Pitching for Success: Character Lessons, the Joe Nuxhall Way is NOW AVAILABLE!

Today is the big day! The Nuxhall-inspired book for young readers is now available in stores and online!

“A terrific story matched with a terrific man. Pitching for Success is the perfect book for teaching young boys and girls the character traits Cincinnati Reds pitcher and broadcaster Joe Nuxhall lived by. Young Dominic, like Joe, has a good heart.”

—Sean Casey, former Cincinnati Reds first baseman

“Oh how Dad would have loved this story.”

—Kim Nuxhall


Dominic Perez, lead pitcher for the Firebirds, hasn’t been throwing strikes. In fact, he’s given away a double and a homerun. His confidence is down, and he worries that his father, the team’s head coach, will pull him out of the game…for good. Dominic is about to learn an incredible lesson about hard work, sportsmanship, and the true meaning of baseball. Through his sister’s life-affirming first game at the Miracle League Fields, and his father’s stories about famed Reds pitcher and sports broadcaster, Joe Nuxhall, Dominic discovers that it’s not about the perfect game: it’s about being a good team member, brother, student, and friend—on the field and off.

“His Dad had told him, ‘Don’t close your mind. Keep your options open. Don’t just work for yourself but work to help others less fortunate than you.’ So many possibilities. So many ways to realize a dream.”

Author Doug Coates with his book, Pitching for Success

Make sure you check out Pitching for Success events in your area by liking the Pitching for Success and Orange Frazer Press facebook pages. Here is a snapshot of upcoming book release events:

Thursday, March 27, 7:00pm: Joseph-Beth Booksellers

Opening Day, Monday, March 31, 12:00pm-2:00pm: Booksellers on Fountain Square

AND, check out our giveaway (today and tomorrow only!) on the Orange Frazer Press facebook page. Like and share our post for a chance to win a signed copy and a membership to Reds Heads Kids Club!

Vanity Publishing vs. Self-Publishing: What's Changed?

SONY DSC The term “vanity publishing” can be traced back through the last twenty years or so to the ’90s, when publishing companies started offering publishing services directly to authors. The perception was that these were authors who couldn’t “make it” in traditional publishing and that these companies offered packages and print runs that would make an author look like a published author, but for a price. A large number of these companies offered terrible services, and thus earned the fledgling “self-publishing” industry a terrible reputation. They overcharged for less-than-professional products, and authors who chose these companies were thought of as desperate and unprofessional.

But is vanity publishing still an applicable term for companies operating in today’s robust self-publishing industry? Not really. In order to understand the evolution of the term, it’s important to understand the evolution of traditional publishing in that same time.

Years ago—before, e-readers, and large retail chains—there were fewer books published per year. Fewer books meant less competition for publicity and a more standard discovery process. At that time, a good review in the New York Times Book Review or Publishers Weekly was enough to launch a book onto the bestseller list.

Now, with the availability of publishing and promoting books online and the number of new online marketing channels available to authors, it is both easier than ever to market a book and harder than ever to sell a book. This puts considerable pressure on traditional book publishing companies, whose margins are shrinking just as their competition gains strength. Traditional book publishing (on a large, general scale) has had to become less about publishing good books and more about publishing sell-able books, ones with viral potential or predictable niche audiences (a title like Fifty Shades of Grey never would have found a publisher’s desk in the ’90s, but the internet earned it worldwide fame, and a six-figure advance, today).

When traditional publishing was stable and well-written manuscripts typically found solid publishing homes, self-publishing was mostly unnecessary. Now, it seems, first-rate manuscripts fall through the cracks due to lack of author platform (read: lack of Facebook followers, Twitter followers, trade publications, and blog readers and subscribers) or lack of a “marketable” genre. Self-publishing becomes less a matter of vanity and more a means of rerouting the market.

When traditional publishers struggle for stability, writers lose out. Potential authors struggle to get worthwhile advances or marketing promises; they struggle to find agents. Why shouldn’t they bring their books to market themselves? If they can find companies or individuals offering professional editorial and design services, and honest contracts, why shouldn’t they direct their own success? Self-publishing is no longer a matter of vanity, it’s a matter of independence.

This, of course, is the opinion of this author. What are your thoughts? Is “vanity publishing” still a relevant term?