self-publishing

Count the Seven Fruits of Israel: Before and After

One of our favorite parts of the publishing process is the joy of bringing a client's project to life. When our custom book client, Polly Jordan, came to us with her fun idea for a lift-the-flap children's board book, we were excited to do just that. In order to better explain her vision, Polly showed us her mock-up of Count the Seven Fruits of Israel, which she delicately made by hand out of cut paper. Working with her unique concept and colorful paper-cut illustrations, we were able to make her idea into a reality. Along with the creation of die-cut flaps, the client also desired the addition of a handle that would allow small children to carry the book along more easily. The following before and after images highlight this transformation process. 

Here you can see the mock-up cover on the left beside the final cover on the right. 


One can compare an interior spread from the initial mock-up with the finished product below. We take pride in quality manufacturing and materials, which were especially crucial in the function of the flaps, handles, and rounded corners. 


Here is a more detailed look at a flap, which opens to reveal the inside of the pomegranate.


This is another before-and-after look at a different spread. The integration of the glossary directly onto the background and the addition of a scroll behind the verse added interest to these pages. 

You can purchase Count the Seven Fruits of Israel on our store. Have a book idea you would like to make tangible? Learn more about our work, and we would love to help you create a professional, quality product that stands the test of time.   

Why do we have suggested minimums for your print run?

This post answers two questions about our quoting process for custom book publishing:

1. Why do we recommend minimum print runs?

2. Why don’t we use print-on-demand services for smaller print runs?

If you’ve ever requested a quote for custom book publishing services from Orange Frazer, you know that we request five primary pieces of information: hardcover or softcover, word count, black and white or full color, book size (dimensions), and quantity (or print run). When a client discusses a project with us for the first time, he/she often has no idea how many books to print, so we offer suggestions based on unique retail goals, the targeted audience, and cost. We want a client’s book to be successful, and we do not profit by upselling clients to thousands of books: often, we find ourselves convincing clients to print fewer books when we know that the investment in a larger print run may never see its return in sales.

We also have recommended “minimums” that vary based on the other manufacturing aspects of a book project. For example, if a client is printing a book in black and white, we suggest printing at least 250 copies, whereas for a full-color book, we would recommend starting out at 500 copies. This is often to keep unit prices low. A full-color book requires special paper that is more expensive, so printing more of these books will drive down the unit cost. These are suggestions—one can print any number of books from one to one million, but we do know what does, and doesn’t, make sense, so we try to offer recommendations for minimum print runs based on our experience.

So why isn’t it cost-effective to print less than 250 books?

Over the course of twenty-seven years, we have chosen the best book manufacturers in the industry to create our books. We rigorously judge the final product, and settle for nothing less than excellence in manufacturing. We want Orange Frazer books to last lifetimes. Books of this printing caliber are not at all cost effective when printed one-at-a-time, or even in quantities of less than several hundred. Unit costs of books in a short print run—e.g. of a full-color, hardcover book—through one of our book manufacturers would be exorbitantly expensive. It isn’t until the print run reaches several hundred that you see a unit cost that offers a client any potential profit margin. We know that because we have quoted thousands of book projects (and will quote thousands more) and so, to save the client time, we recommend minimums that we know will produce a more cost-effective quote.

To answer the second question, why don’t we transition our services to digital, print-on-demand publishing? The self-publishing industry has been trending toward small print runs (or no print runs) and higher unit costs. Print on demand is very cost-effective for beginning authors because books are only printed at the time of purchase. It’s better to spend $10 per book and ensure that every book printed is sold (as it is only printed once it is sold) than spend $5 per book and never sell 500 of them.

We believe that there is a great future for print-on-demand publishing (we recommend it to a lot of potential clients that request quotes from us), but for the clients that choose Orange Frazer, it doesn’t yet make sense.

Because we work with book manufacturers, rather than commercial printers or print-on-demand digital printers, we are able to do projects that many other companies can’t—coffee table books, specialty bindings and interiors, lay-flat books with glossy pages, and so on. Quality and unit cost are chief concerns. We are able to produce books of high quality (in both manufacturing and design) and deliver unit costs below that of print-on-demand alternatives.

But this is a lot to put into an email, so often, when a potential client requests a quote for a print run of twenty-five books, I point him/her toward a print-on-demand service, such as CreateSpace. If he/she requests one hundred books, I generally suggest considering a larger print run, to make the books more cost-effective. And if a client approaches us requesting a quote for ten thousand copies of his/her first novel, I generally say, “Hold up, and let’s first talk about your goal.”

A Guide to Book Printing: offset printing, short-run printing, and print-on-demand

This post defines three very different categories of book printing: offset printing, short-run printing, and print-on-demand. Offset printing: Offset printing is done by machines the size of ballrooms. These machines are ideal for high-quality printing because they offer the most versatility in paper type, cover type, ink type, colors, etc. They are built to produce thousands of books quickly and cost-effectively. Book manufacturers work primarily in offset printing because it allows them to create detailed and unique products—books with sewn bindings, nontraditional cover materials, custom paper, full-color artwork and photography, etc.

Pros:

  • Cost-effective for larger print runs
  • Any dimension, paper type, cover type is available
  • High-quality product with long lifetime
  • All books available up-front

Cons:

  • Investing in print run before sales
  • Only cost-effective for larger print runs

Ideal for:

  • Companies, nonprofits, and other large organizations
  • Clients who wish to use books as professional portfolios
  • Clients who wish to use books as marketing/branding collateral

Does Orange Frazer use offset printing for clients? Yes

Short-run printing: Short-run printing is often done digitally and typically limits the author/client to predetermined sizes and paper types. Short-run books are most cost-effective as softcover 6x9 or 7x10. Because these books are printed digitally, and not by large offset presses, they can be done cost-effectively in smaller quantities. This printing route does not make sense for larger quantities, simply because offset can deliver better unit prices for larger print runs. Like offset, however, a short-run project means that you will have your entire print run up-front. If you want additional books after doing a short-run project, you can choose to reprint and invest in a second print run.

Pros:

  • Smaller quantities
  • All books available up-front

Cons:

  • Higher unit costs than offset printing
  • Limited size, paper, and specialty options
  • Investing in print run before sales

Ideal for:

  • First-time authors
  • Small organizations with limited potential readers
  • Writers groups that publish yearly anthologies of members’ work

Does Orange Frazer use short-run digital printing for clients? Yes

Print-on-demand: Like short-run printing, print-on-demand is done digitally and typically only in a few sizes and paper types. Unlike a short-run project, print-on-demand books are only printed once they are sold, so the author/client does not have the entire print run up front. For a print-on-demand project, the author/client is told how much each book will cost him/her to produce, and the author can list the book on Amazon, paying for its production only when it’s purchased.

Pros:

  • Books are not printed until sold
  • No print run waste

Cons:

  • Higher unit costs than both offset printing and digital, short-run printing
  • Limited size and paper options
  • Final product is often lower quality (cheaper binding, ink, and pages)

Ideal for:

  • First-time authors

Does Orange Frazer use print-on-demand services for clients? No

Promoting a Book: It’s a Lot More Like Writing Than You Think

Book publishing workshop at Milton-Union Public Library.
Book publishing workshop at Milton-Union Public Library.

As part of Orange Frazer’s educational outreach, I regularly conduct workshops and sessions on book publishing for aspiring authors. Not surprisingly, a number of their questions revolve around book marketing and promotion. Typically, authors will point out that they don’t enjoy marketing, and that they publish books because they enjoy writing. I can empathize with this. I love writing as well, and book promotion and marketing (after the emotional rollercoaster of writing, editing, and publishing a book) can seem that much more exhausting, intimidating, and frankly, boring. But the more I work to promote and market our own books at OFP, the more I recognize that book promotion is not so unlike writing as we often assume it is: the two are, actually, quite similar.

1. Tell a Story Promoting and marketing a book—like writing—is all about telling a story. People buy products because of compelling narratives. For those who watched the Super Bowl on Sunday, this is particularly poignant. Budweiser won our hearts not because it laid out the facts: Budweiser is a cheaper, more cost-effective beer that provides the same taste quality, value, and availability as its more expensive alternatives. I’d guess no one would be running out the door for a Budweiser after that bore of a message. Instead it told us a story: the story of a puppy and a Clydesdale, of friendship, loyalty, companionship, of the potential for dreams to become reality. They told us a story that we wanted to believe, that made us feel good, that appealed not to our needs, but to our wants.

2. Consumers buy based on wants, not needs This strikes at the second crucial part of book promotion and marketing: forget about what people need and start showing them what they want. Oftentimes, marketers will expound on the needs of consumers: show them why they need this product and then why your product is their best available option. This seems like it will be effective; we assume that our target audience makes logical, fact-based decisions about which products to buy. But think of yourself, and you realize that this is hardly ever the case. While we would like to think we buy based solely on need, we almost exclusively buy products based solely on our wants. Right now I need a new clothes iron, but instead, I bought a pair of overpriced yoga socks. Why? I liked the idea of yoga socks, I liked their bright colors (especially in a winter that seems neverending), and I liked how comfy they looked. An iron, while necessary, did not invoke any of these feelings, and so, I essentially forgot about it.

Similarly, people will not buy your book because they need it. They don’t need it. At all. Book buyers are a niche audience, and they are not reading voraciously because their life depends on it. They read books because they want to, because they want to be involved in your story, swept up in it, transformed by it.

So stop thinking about book promotion like a formula, where well-placed ad + reputable book review + in-store displays + radio interview = bestseller. Start thinking about book promotion like your own writing. Tell your readers a story. Will your book sing them to sleep, remind them of their first love, suspend them breathlessly from chapter to chapter, revolutionize their understanding of the past? Marketing, after all, is plot, with all of the characterization and emotional integrity of a well-written book.

Should I Pay for Book Reviews?

Let me start this post by stating: this is not a discussion of whether or not you should pay for a favorable book review, as that is, obviously, unethical. This is a discussion of whether or not indie and self-published authors should pay for reviews from reputable sources (Publishers Weekly and others offer such programs). SONY DSCSelf-published authors still exist in a divided space. Most review publications will specify that books be “traditionally” published, many author fairs explicitly exclude “author-financed” books, and several industry observers have questioned whether or not we should separate books online by their path to publication—traditionally published books in one section, self-published in another.

As an industry, we still don’t know what to do with the hundreds of thousands of self-published titles coming out every year, and our systems for reviewing, featuring, and selling these titles is disjointed at best (and marginalizing at worst).

Book reviews are at the nexus of this issue, as they have long been heralded as the make-or-break moment for an author. A favorable review in the New York Times book review—at one time—could catapult an author to fame, whereas a negative review could leave an author moaning helplessly on his couch for days on end (this is a true story, best left for another time).

Before diving into the question of paid reviews for self-published authors, it’s crucial to notice two trends in the industry as a whole:

1) Review blogs and websites have proliferated, whereas almost every print newspaper in the country has cut its book review section entirely. 2) The book reviewers of yesteryear have lost some of their weight in the book discoverability formula (fewer people read traditional, print book reviews, making them a less significant predictor of a book’s success or failure).

Given these trends, how crucial is it for your self-published book to be reviewed? And, subsequently, should you pay for a review? Here are three things to consider as you make your decision:

1) How often do you read book reviews? Book reviews should target either booksellers and librarians or book consumers in general. You would fall into that second category, so if you, as an aspiring author (and an assumed book reader), aren’t reading book reviews to discover new titles, then you might question whether or not other consumers are. 2) And for the first target audience: what book reviews do your local booksellers and librarians read? Head to your local indie and ask them how they discover new books. Ask the same of the collection development librarian in your community. They probably learn about books from a variety of sources, so take note of which ones they turn to when they are choosing which titles to stock. 3) Certain review sites are aggregated into a bookseller or librarian’s ordering system. For example, Baker & Taylor, the number one book distributor for libraries, pulls the relevant Publishers Weekly and Library Journal reviews for each title into its system. This means that a librarian doesn’t even have to leave her ordering system to read reviews from these sources, making these review sources invaluable. 4) The almighty Amazon. Consider whether or not a traditional book review in a reputable periodical or on a well-read and respected blog will outweigh a hefty number of Amazon reviews. If you are focusing primarily on selling to retailers and librarians, perhaps focus on more traditional review sources (as most indie booksellers won’t care about how many five-star reviews your book has on Amazon). If you’re selling independently, though, and maybe even exclusively online, a thorough—and diverse—stock of Amazon reviews can go a long way. Give free copies of your book to those you think would have an interesting and relevant critique, and ask them to give you an honest and unbiased review on Amazon. A few negative reviews are great—they show a consumer that you didn’t just pay off your friends and family to sing your praises.

At this point, you’re probably realizing that I won’t answer this post’s primary question: should you pay for a book review? I honestly don’t know. I do think, though, that every single book has a unique trajectory, and as such, should be handled and promoted individually. What’s right for your book won’t be right for anyone else in your writer’s group, so think critically about whom you are selling to, what they read and share, and how a review will positively—or negatively—impact your goals.

Paid book review resources for self-published authors:

Publishers Weekly Select

Kirkus Author Services for Indie Authors

Unpaid book review resources for self-published authors:

Book review blogs (this list from Goodreads highlights independent book bloggers):

Library Journal