Orange Frazer custom publishing

How to Promote a Book Without a Killer Marketing Budget

Or, Five Free Ways to Promote Your Book Right Now Independent book publishers have long found their niche in creative, bottom-up approaches to book publicity. Without the deep pockets of mega-conglomerates or the advantage of bestsellers to boost marketing budgets, indies have had to find innovative ways to connect with readers. Luckily, this makes independent publishers like Orange Frazer accessible partners to first-time and custom-published authors wondering how to promote a book. We understand and respect the budget limitations of our clients and help them find innovative ways to get their books to readers.

Here are our top five favorite methods for increasing book discoverability, connecting with readers, and increasing sales.

5. Special offers: In an Amazon-dominated world of steep discounts and free shipping, it can be difficult to add value to your offering and still profit on your book sales (and why shouldn’t you, you have spent an incredible amount of time and energy just to make it a reality!). Help direct readers to ideal retail outlets by adding value in any way you can. One of my favorite ideas, which I have seen authors do time and again, is offer signed copies of their book (sometimes even with a personal note) if it is purchased online or in-person through their favorite independent bookseller. Other authors will highlight independent booksellers and their publisher on their blog or website with clickable links to help direct readers to these retail outlets. Others will host an author event or talk at an independent bookseller, and consider the purchased copy of the book from that bookseller a “ticket” to attend. You are only limited by your own creativity on this one!

4. Smart social media: I preface this with “smart” only because the general din surrounding social media how-to articles offers generalized approaches that are rarely fine-tuned enough to be useful. Start with a good idea of your target audience: age, income, geography, reading preferences, hobbies. Be able to draw a picture of your ideal reader and understand the ideal reader’s needs, desires, and pastimes. Now that you know this reader, think about which social media platform he or she is most likely to flock to. Research Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest, and others to learn more about their user demographics. Only tackle what is necessary. Consider what your strengths are, and only commit to social media platforms that you understand and enjoy. You will be ineffective on Twitter if you struggle to write anything in under one hundred and forty characters.

3. Email marketing: There is no excuse not to be using email to your advantage. Authors with effective email marketing campaigns will generate buzz for their books pre-release, promote events and book signings to their readers, encourage participation in giveaways and contests, drive traffic to their blogs and/or websites, and build a personable and open relationship with their readers and followers. Services like Mailchimp make it easy for first-time authors to build lists and create compelling emails—free of charge*.

*Mailchimp services are free as long as you stay below a certain number of subscribers, and then paid packages are tiered based on how many emails subscribers you have.

2. Giveaways: A well-coordinated giveaway can generate publicity, build your email marketing distribution lists, generate Facebook fans and Twitter followers, and build excitement for your release. People love the opportunity to win free books (which is why Goodreads giveaways often generate hundreds, and even thousands, of entries), and a creative and well-executed giveaway can be more than just a giveaway and a lost profit. Third party apps such as Shortstack and Woobox allow you to create fan-gated contests and sweepstakes through Facebook, allowing you to create a custom entry form that requires your giveaway participants to enter their name and email address and like your page before entering. Advertise this custom app with a Facebook ad to generate entries*, and you will build your fanbase and distribution lists while creating “buzz” for your book. Goodreads giveaways are also an excellent opportunity to build name recognition. While you are not able to fan-gate them or garner email addresses for your lists, you are able to put your giveaway in front of hundreds of thousands of active users.

*Facebook advertising does entail its own cost, so skip this step if your budget doesn’t allow it.

1. Author events: Author events are crucial in today’s fractured publicity world where online media is dominated by big ad money and smaller titles and first-time authors struggle to overcome the din of book discoverability online. Events give authors an opportunity to build on their expertise, share their passion, and connect with readers personally and emotionally. Events can be as creative as the author. Orange Frazer authors have had live falcons in attendance, stuffed buzzards, mini-quiches (for sharing and eating), and ten-foot snakes (for not sharing and not eating). They have held events in museums, bookstores, libraries, garden centers, elementary schools, and farmers markets. They have put on reenactments and book signings, illustrating workshops and rooftop parties. They have found one-of-a-kind ways to connect with potential readers, and they have sold books doing it. It should be the closest thing to a circus act you can imagine.

Of course, if you could somehow come upon a bookstore with a giant fishbowl, that would be ideal.

What are your favorite ways to promote your book and connect with readers?

Partner with Book Publishing Services to Stand Out

“Think about it this way. If you had told every museum and law firm in 1995 that they needed a web page, many would have wondered “what for?” If you had told them in 2005 that they needed a Facebook presence or in 2008 that they needed a Twitter stream, they would have wondered why. We’ve reached the moment when they all need a publishing strategy, and that will be as obvious to all these entities in a year or two as web pages, Facebook pages, and Twitter streams look now.” --Mike Shatzkin, Atomization: publishing as a function rather than an industry

Book Publishing Services that Market, Brand, and Inspire

Orange Frazer Press is a publishing partner to a new industry


Wherever you turn these days, you will find another business blogger singing the praises of publishing. And this is not publishing as it once was, a gatekeeper model designed to separate the wheat from the chaff, but an evolving and fluid term applied to individuals, enterprises, nonprofits, and more, which enter the publishing arena with digital or physical books. As publishing becomes a tool accessible to many, the “atomization” of publishing is already happening. Businesses and institutions are now becoming “publishers,” disrupting an industry already in turmoil over e-book self-publishing. However, it is a disruption that Orange Frazer has been prepared for, one that allows us even greater opportunity to embrace custom book publishing partnerships with businesses, institutions, and individuals.

But from many bloggers and thought leaders, the prescribed route has been DIY. Thought leaders generally advise a self-directed approach, suggesting you hire on an editor, designer, etc., start with an e-book, and learn the business yourself. Even in recognizing the pitfalls of this approach, they generally compare DIY to traditional publishing, leaving out the wealth of options in between or generalizing these options, lumping all author services companies together with mega-companies like iUnivere and Xlibris (see our past post about the dangers of these companies and self-publishing models here). Thus, in this line of thought, it’s either go the gatekeeper model or master the details of digital files, print specs, conversions, warehousing, shipping, etc. and distribute your book like a business card.

However, we’ve been in the business long enough (twenty-six years) to see where the DIY approach breaks down, where it becomes cumbersome and upsetting, and where, unfortunately, it leaves many overwhelmed and resigned.

Why even self-publishing needs publishers

What is EPUB? What is your comfort with CSS? What is the primary e-book distribution channel for libraries? What about the proper margins for a print book? Photo resolution? Bindings and paper weights? The publishing and printing industries are fraught with insider jargon and necessary expertise. Publishers are publishers because they have every last detail perfected, the process streamlined, the creative process specialized. We employ the best photographers, writers, editors, printers, proofers, and many, many more. There are a number of seemingly invisible decisions that must be made throughout the process, and frankly, having spent over a quarter century perfecting our process, we know that we do it well. It can be incredibly time-consuming to teach yourself this process, and for many businesses and institutions, it’s just not time you have, as you are too busy being the best in your own industry.

Publishing partners: custom publishing as a solution for forward-thinking businesses

Publishing partnerships are emerging as a progressive, collaborative process that has the ability to bring the best books to market for each business. In fact, The Economist announced last week that it will be partnering with PublicAffairs to publish ten books annually, entering into the publishing world with an experienced partner.

At Orange Frazer, we took note of this industry shift about two decades ago. We were commissioned by the Iams Corporation in the ’90s to create custom materials for veterinarians all over the world. It had a hefty amount of research that needed published, and it needed a small and versatile publisher to take it on, one willing to have a personal relationship with it, that could make the creative process as iterative as possible. We became that company, entering into a world that still lacked a name or definition. Our publisher, Marcy Hawley, decided one day to call it custom publishing, because we felt that the books we were able to create for our clients were truly one-of-a-kind, as template-irreverent and perfect as possible. We knew that as custom book publishers, we could take on the needs of businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions, and others to create professional, branded, and inspiring products for a new generation of businesses.

For those forward-thinking institutions ready to take on publishing, check out our website for custom publishing options, or shoot me an email at [email protected]. And check back here for more in this series.

Self-Publishing: The Orange Frazer Way

With indie authors and self-publishing making the news quite frequently lately (see: Self-Published Titles Dominate Top of E-book Best-Sellers List), one might be surprised to see that the reception for self-publishing companies and author service companies is already souring. Not me. It was announced last Tuesday that several authors are suing Author Solutions (or iUniverse, Xlibris, Trafford, AuthorHouse, as it is also conjectured they are all different heads of the same beast, see: Self-Publishers Want Millions From Penguin), and this is just one of many publicized complaints. Of the many arguments against self-publishing services and author service companies, here are a few key ones:

1)   These services profit from authors’ wishful thinking, idealism, and industry ignorance, charging thousands for services that don’t deliver and creating products that don’t live up to their promise.

2)   These services employ aggressive sales techniques that corner authors, making it difficult for them to understand their options, making it more likely for authors to accept contract terms that they may not be comfortable with.

3)   They do not provide authors with due royalties, nor do they provide accurate sales statements, if any statements at all.

The Empty Promises and Fraudulent Price Tags of Self-Publishing Services and Author Service Companies

First, the “promises” of worldwide distribution, books with all major retailers, widespread success, and social media prowess should make an author wary. No publisher can promise success, not even a traditional publishing houses with a large(r) marketing budgets and hefty connections. Even incredible books are often not picked up by major retailers, not reviewed by major bloggers, and not given the social media applause that they rightly deserve. Nothing has changed with self-publishing. It is still difficult.

Book reading is a niche market. According to the Pew Research Center, In 2011, almost twenty percent of people over the age of sixteen read no books, and thirty-two percent read less than five (remember, this is number of books read, not number of books purchased—the latter is likely to be smaller). The number of books published, however, has oversaturated this market, far exceeding demand. For example, in 2009, there were about 300,000 books published, and in 2010, when self-published ebooks boomed, there were over three million books published. You do the math. Not every book will be a runaway success; it would be impossible for every book published to have a large readership. Do not believe a publisher who promises, or attaches a price tag to, success.

Aggressive Sales Techniques, the Relentless Cold Call, and Opaque Contract Deals

This is our promise to our authors, clients, would-be authors, and would-be clients: we will not hound you, call you, email you obsessively, sign you up to spam email lists, or seduce you with vague offers and obtuse deals. We will reach out to you if we feel that you have something unique to offer, a story to tell, a legacy to celebrate, but we will always do it professionally and courteously.


When you self- or custom-publish a book, you should keep your rights. You might allow (or ask!) your self-publishing service to help you with distribution. In this case, the company will take a distributor’s cut, and may request terms similar to other distribution models to make it a simpler relationship for both you and the publisher/distributor. The publisher should not, however, require any ownership of the book. The self-publishing service is providing you with excellent (we hope) and professional (we hope) editing, copyediting, proofing, design, research, writing, photography, printing (if applicable), warehousing, and distribution services. Because you are paying for these services (and essentially bearing the “risk” of publishing), you own your book in the end, and therefore any money earned from its sale (aside from that which covers distribution costs).

With that established, you should be earning royalties. Royalties should be the money earned from a sale after retailers and distributors take their cuts. Make sure you can read your contract and understand your royalties before committing to a publisher. We’ve seen contracts given to our clients by other services, and frankly they are unconscionable. You should be able to understand your contract. An Orange Frazer contract is two and a half pages; it is concise, straightforward, and easily understandable. We send royalty reports to all of our authors and clients twice a year, so that we are always held accountable to our contract and to you. After all, self-publishing is a traditional business model. You pay for a service, and you receive a product that you can sell. Luckily for you, though, the product is a beautifully designed and long-lasting book, which makes this business model fun!

Our editor John Baskin talking over a book project with author Phil Nuxhall.

In Conclusion, What is Self-Publishing

There are many arenas of self- and custom-publishing, and those that show up on the e-book bestseller lists are only one portion of them. The grandfather who published an illustrated book of family stories for his friends and family is an indie author, despite the fact that there is no barcode on the book and no retail shelf in its future. The nonprofit community foundation that published a celebration of its home community is a self-published entity. There are many shapes and sizes and formats for self-published books, and we will only further misconstrue the industry (and its exciting potential) if we continue to muddle it with assumptions and generalizations. OFP helps individuals, nonprofits, educational institutions, families, community foundations, businesses, artists, chefs, and many, many others create meaningful and professional books, and we do it every day. This is the self-publishing world that we believe in.

Books are Progressive: Self-Publish a Book to Build Your Brand

These days the word “progressive” often connotes sleek tablets, mobile apps, tech start-ups, and the like. I bet you don’t hear book and progressive in the same sentence very often. But let me tell you why you should. Why your business should custom publish a book

self-publish a book, build your brand

Books are brand-builders:

Books breathe life into your brand. They suggest permanence, professionalism, authority, and expertise. The digital world can, at times, feel fleeting. Facebook posts travel the length of your newsfeed in a matter of hours; tweets have a window of opportunity lasting mere minutes; emails are read, responded to, and disposed of. We are entering an era where content is king, and the art of discoverability rests on a business’s ability to get the right content in front of the right people, again and again. Books are trusted, established content. A book communicates time and attention to detail while it reinforces a content message that sells not just you, but your brand, your history, and most important, your legacy.

Jennie Jones, an esteemed Cleveland photographer, has completed two book projects with us, and each is an excellent example of brand-building. Her photography is featured alongside Ian Adams’s in a photographic exploration of the Cleveland Botanical Garden— A Paradise in the City. She also did a book that exclusively showcased her own photography, called Cleveland Inside Outside. It is a gorgeous, full-color coffee-table book that she can hand to potential clients, long-time friends, and community organizations to show off her skill and diversity and to build her individual brand.

Because of her success with these books, the Cleveland Museum of Art has commissioned her to photograph its newly renovated museum to be showcased in its new book.

Books are profitable:

If you’re thinking about creating a book for your business, it is important to think about its intended audience and purpose. Is this a book to give to associates, employees, and loyal partners as a show of gratitude? Is this a book to give to all of your salaried employees as a Christmas gift? Or is this a book that leverages your unique expertise and history to sell your brand?

If it is the latter, you can think about return on investment, or ROI. Focus on profitable distribution channels—speaking events, conferences, festivals, independent booksellers, online retailers, your own bricks-and-mortar establishment—and make a plan that you feel would work best for you. Understand that you will have to sell the book all the way through, particularly if you want to sell in traditional book retail locations, so it may not be easy. But, if that is where you intend to be, have a plan ready. Orange Frazer Press assists interested custom publishing clients with warehousing and distribution, making this step in the process easier and more accessible.

Books can be profitable when they are specifically written and conceptualized to meet an audience’s need, and professionally edited, designed, and printed. A custom publisher like Orange Frazer can give you the edge on your self-published and big-house-published competition, creating a book that looks like it came from New York, but costs like it came from friendly Midwesterners.

Our cookbook project with Cameron Mitchell of Cameron Mitchell restaurants is a great example. It was titled, The Art of the Meal, and it displayed in beautiful, full-color format many of his beloved recipes. The book was only sold in his own stores, and still went into four printings. It had a specific audience and a precise purpose, and it sold beyond expectations.

Books are memorable:

A book can be a wonderful way to leave an impression on those within your organization or company. Books tell stories, affirm dreams, and celebrate accomplishments. One of our clients created a book that celebrated the history and legacy of Ronald McDonald House Charities titled Entering These Doors of Compassion. It was a full-color, intricately designed coffee-table book showcasing each and every Ronald McDonald House in the world, and it was given to each and every Ronald McDonald House in the world. It isn’t sold in stores or online, making it an exclusive, valuable, and memorable item that reminds each house why it is a home.

So, should my business self-publish a book?

We have a long history of working with individuals and businesses, and we have seen tremendous success with these projects. No book is a guarantee, no profit is written in stone, and no benefit—sentimental or otherwise—can be quantified to the decimal, but, with hard work, precision, focus, and determination, you can custom publish a book that will stand out in today’s content-driven world, and succeed.

Has your business self-published a book? We would love to hear about your experience! You can comment on this article, or visit our Google+ self-publishing custom publishing community page here.

You’ve self-published a book? Congratulations, you are now a small-business owner!

stock photo by christgr stock.xchng A Hybrid Publisher in a Hybrid Author World

As one who is constantly monitoring the worlds of traditional publishing and self-publishing (from here on out referred to as custom publishing, which is more indicative of Orange Frazer’s belief in full-service customization), I’ve had a harder and harder time being patient with articles comparing these various forms. Obviously, the comparison/contrast must be done; it’s helpful to potential authors and writers, and helps a changing publishing landscape define itself. But the manner in which it’s often done seems to help no one. Each article has its own bias, its own particular underlying argument. You’ll notice that the bylines are typically writers/publishers representing one house or another; they’ve already staked out their respective sides in the fight.

This is where Orange Frazer actually has a unique, and potentially helpful, perspective: we’ve done, and continue to do, both traditional and custom publishing. In a world where the hybrid author is getting increasing recognition (authors who have had books self-published and traditionally published, at different points in their careers), the hybrid publisher is often overlooked (potentially because there are very few of us). As a hybrid publisher, we are distinctly aware of the remarkable differences between the two publishing tracks, the benefits and drawbacks of each, and the very different authors, audiences, and markets each track serves.

I was reading an internet post from a regional writers group the other day that was answering a submitted question on self-publishing, and frankly, though the writer clearly knew his stuff (the dollars and cents of publishing, that is), the answer felt misframed. He begins his response by detailing everything a self-publishing service won’t do: market your book, publicize your book, visit bookstores to get them hooked on your book, print advance review copies and send them to thousands of retail outlets, etc. As the list grows, an uninformed reader is probably thinking, man, what DO they do then? But this is exactly the problem. Why would a custom-publishing company do any of these things in the first place? Comparing traditional publishing to a custom publishing service is like comparing apples to oranges. It only misrepresents the fundamental difference between these two publishing tracks by describing one as a stripped-down version of the other. When treated this way, self-publishing loses its essential, entrepreneurial spirit, and this is the spirit that makes self-publishing such an innovative alternative to traditional publishing.

Traditional Publishing vs. Custom Publishing: Apples vs. Oranges

Both forms of publishing can be understood as investments. In traditional publishing, the publisher invests in the author and her work. Because of this investment, it is in the best interest of the publishing house to work as hard as it possibly can to sell the book to retail outlets, pitch it to reviewers, buy publicity spots and advertisements, etc. Traditional publishers shoulder the burden of cost in production and publicity because they are making money from the book: once they invest in it, they have rights to it, meaning that when it sells, they profit. In custom publishing (or in self-publishing) the investment scenario is flipped: the author/writer/client is investing in the production of her book by paying the publishing service to produce the book (and/or design, edit, copyedit, etc.). The publishing house is not earning any money on this book when it sells; it is simply producing a product for a client, and allowing that client the freedom to sell it as she so chooses. In this sense, it doesn't make sense for the publisher to shoulder the burden of publicity. The publishing house is not earning any money from that publicity, nor is it investing in the outcome of the book; it is providing professional services to a client and allowing the client to keep all of the rights of sale. It is the client's responsibility to market and publicize this book, as it is her investment that will be recouped. In a very real sense, the author has become her own independent business.

Imagine if this were a coffee shop. Perhaps the owner of the coffee shop doesn’t have the time to grow, harvest, and roast all of her own coffee beans. She may not have the skillset to do so (or the climate!), and she may have decided that it's not profitable for her to stretch herself this thin. She should do what she is best at: making fantastic coffee and selling it to caffeine-loving customers. The company that takes care of the production of these coffee beans is providing her a service, working within its skillset with its specialized resources to give her the product she needs for her business. Should the coffee bean company market her coffee shop? Send samples of her coffee to connoisseurs and food reviewers across the country? Foot the bill for coffee machines and espresso machines and cappuccino machines? No, it wouldn't really make sense. It would be inappropriate for the production and growing company to assume ownership over her product when it hasn't invested in it. It's her coffee shop, after all, her time and love and investment.

Promoting Your Book: The Business of Books

The book business has always been confusing simply because it is both a business and an art. It is a romanticized business, rightfully so in many ways (I am a lifelong book lover, buyer, and critic), but it is also a business. When books are bought by publishing companies, it is often because the editor has fallen in love—with the story, the characters, the setting—but it is also because the editor knows that there is an audience for this book, that this book could sell well in its established market, and that other people will buy, love, and recommend the book. As romantic as we make the book business, it will always be a business. When it is done right, self-publishing is no different. It is this balance of love and logic, heart and good planning, that makes the book business, any book business, sing.