What is a Custom Book and Why Should My Business Care?

The book business can be tricky, and we are the first to admit to its confusion. And in a world of digitization--apps, tablets, smart phones, and more--it's hard to remember sometimes why we still need print, and what it can offer to a business and to a consumer. I thought I would take a minute to reflect on how books are increasingly being used in business plans, and why custom books are especially important in this transition. I put on my business-owner pants and jotted down some of my hypothetical questions. Are other businesses making books?

The long answer: Yes. The short answer: Yes. Just in the niche craft ice cream world there have been two recent book deals in the news:

Jeni's Ice Cream

Big Gay Ice Cream Truck

But these are with big publishers. Why should I self-publish a custom book? Wouldn't I be better off with a book deal from a larger publisher in New York who can get my book national attention?

Unfortunately, in today's book-publishing world, the bigger the publisher, the less likely they are to invest marketing dollars in your book deal (unless you're J.K. Rowling, Michael Chabon, Nora Roberts, Rachael Ray, Jeni Bauer...you get the drift). And for small businesses particularly, that do not have national name recognition or a larger-than-regional-following, the trade world does not have the time to market a book to its appropriate niche market (and often won't pick up these smaller books for the same reason). But that doesn’t mean a book from a small business won’t sell. Quite the opposite. Books can be great brand leverage in your business plan. This article from Business News Daily highlights the advantages to self-publishing a custom book and explains why a book should be part of your plan (and some tips on marketing it once you've got it).

I’m confused. What is the difference between a custom book and a commercial book then? 

Commercial books are the norm in the trade world. You know the story: starving author writes brilliant novel; publishers vie for the chance to publish said novel; winning publisher pays stellar advance to starving author; book sells a billion copies; publisher makes a lot of money; publisher gives author royalties on book; author walks away happy. It's a very reasonable deal, and Orange Frazer has a foot in the trade world still. But for regional authors, business owners, and non-fiction writers interested in branding an idea, history, or story, a different business model is often needed. Larger trade publishers generally pay very small advances and put little to no marketing dollars in smaller, regional books, as they have dozens of books coming out each year and they only need two or three to make it big to bankroll the rest.

But in the custom book business, we put the same amount of energy, love, and time into each book, because in the end, you own it.

See, it goes like this: author/business owner approaches Orange Frazer with brilliant history book/photographic collection/business anniversary edition/memoir/etc.; Orange Frazer embraces it wholeheartedly; author pays Orange Frazer for a variety of services, including (but not limited to) writing, editing, photography, printing, binding; author works with Orange Frazer to make sure her book is a perfect reflection of her intention; Orange Frazer delivers final product to author; author markets and sells book (with the consulting services of Orange Frazer, if so interested); when the book sells, the author makes the big bucks.

We believe that our clients deserve high-quality publishing services to bring their dream of a book to fruition, and we believe such services should be transparent and accessible.

So why should I make a book?

Because a book can tell your story to the customers you haven’t even met yet. A book can find your customer in a bookstore, a grocery store, a gift shop, a travel store, online, on a Kindle. A book can sell your knowledge, your unique expertise, and brand it as your own. A book is a piece of permanence in an ever-shifting market, suggesting to your consumer that you and your service are there to stay. Put professionally, it’s a direct return on investment. Put personally, it’s your story, beautifully told.