Trade/Commercial Publishing

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.

Five Things You Didn't Know Were Hiding in Orange Frazer Books

It’s not a gimmick when we say that at Orange Frazer, each book is unique. We mean this literally, because every single Orange Frazer book is totally different. Our book design services don't include templates or package-design deals, which means that each image has been individually photo-corrected, each page has been individually formatted, each cover has been individually ushered from concept to bookshelf. Brittany, our lead designer, spends weeks (and sometimes months) drafting, sketching, brainstorming, redoing…and redoing again. We’ve been known—over the course of many weeks or months spent on a particular project—to leave a few “signatures” along the way.  So here they are: the fun (and wacky) things you’ll find hiding in Orange Frazer books:

Orange Frazer PressJust a Car Salesman. Jeff Wyler is known for his numerous successful dealerships over several decades, and the parade of car models across the cover seemed a fitting way to honor that legacy (in both time and diversity). And if you look closely (and know your automobile trivia), you’ll see that our publisher’s very first car, a 1978 Dodge Challenger, made the lineup.







Orange Frazer PressRevealed: Columbus: The Story of Us. In 2012, Columbus celebrated its bicentennial year with all of the celebratory fanfare befitting a prosperous and growing Ohio city. We were commissioned to publish the book honoring this celebration, working with Jamie Greene of ACP Visioning + Planning to make it a reality. Fun fact: Jamie loves bison, and for his Halloween costume that year, dressed as bison for the “bison-tennial.” In honor of Jamie, we included a small bison on the OFP logo on the back cover.







Orange Frazer PressHarriett’s Homecoming: A High-Flying Tour of Cincinnati. This book, by Susan Levine, boasts illustrations by Columbus-area artist, Erin Burchwell. Her layered watercolors lend depth and vibrancy to each page. As a tribute to the Queen City (once the pork capital of the USA), Erin included a pig in every single illustration. Don’t believe us? Try finding all of them (it’s not easy).





Orange Frazer PressChad: I Can’t Be Stopped. Chad Johnson of the Cincinnati Bengals worked with us on his memoir, I Can’t Be Stopped. For the cover, we used a profile shot of Chad, in which you see his chin resting on his hands. After this photo was taken, Sarah (our production manager) noticed that Chad’s fingernails were in terrible shape. She insisted that they be cleaned up for the cover. It was too late to reshoot, however, so our designer went to work trimming—and reshaping—them on Photoshop.






Orange Frazer PressStirrups. It’s not often that you are asked to publish a gynocologist’s memoirs. The cover for this one was particularly challenging. Putting actual stirrups on the cover would be provocative (and off-putting). And no one wants to see a WebMD-style stock photo. A conceptual cover was key. Brittany took a brief field trip to a local jewelry store for inspiration, and came back with photos of charm bracelets and the willpower to design (from scratch) her own symbolic charms. She successfully did this, and I bet you won’t guess which charms are real, and which are her creations (she’s good).

Why "Cheap and Easy" Book Publishing Services Don't Always Cut It

Redefining Publishing In a recent article for TechCrunch, “How to Self-Publish a Bestseller: Publishing 3.0,” James Altucher traces the movement of publishing from the traditional, gatekeeper (or acquisition) model to today’s world of alternative, independent publishing. He also redefines publishing, arguing that it is no longer a difference between  traditional vs. self-publishing, but rather, a difference between professional and unprofessional publishing. A book could be traditionally published and remain unprofessional—with a poor cover or a lackluster marketing effort—or a book could be self-published with an excellent cover designer, editor, copy editor, and publicist and be a top-notch, professional product.

Our editor, John Baskin (right), working with custom book publishing client, Phil Nuxhall (left).

He traces the evolution of publishing through three primary stages: publishing 1.0 is the traditional, gatekeeper model (a system besieged by inefficiency and challenged by digital innovation), publishing 2.0 is the “cheap and easy” online self-publishing boom of 2010, and publishing 3.0 is the movement toward professional, well-orchestrated, self-published books.

At Orange Frazer, we welcome publishing 3.0, and here’s why.

Publishing 3.0 prizes craft, insisting that the best books require compelling and well-designed covers, impeccable editing and proofing, and smart publicity. With over three million books published every year, publishing 3.0 understands that only the professionally published books will stand out, and that traditional, capital-P-Publishers in New York are not necessarily the route to the most professional product. Altucher notes that the best of the best in the industry are moving into this new age of publishing; this is certainly what we have done at Orange Frazer.

Publishing 2.0: Cheap, Easy, Accessible, and Ubiquitous 

At Orange Frazer, we have been helping clients custom publish books for twenty-six years, and our book publishing services have evolved in that time to meet an ever-shifting demand. A few years ago, a parallel industry (publishing 2.0) emerged, an online, self-publishing behemoth with low barriers to entry and unbelievable potential. It seemed like every other week we were hearing about the latest “stars” of self-publishing. The story was always the same: they started off with a few Kindle self-published titles, sold and sold and sold until they hit the tens of thousands, and then the large, deep-pocketed publisher swooped in to pick them up and make them famous (this is the part of the story where they start selling hundreds of thousands of books, and, if you’re Penguin and you happened to pick up Fifty Shades of Grey, you are giving all of your employees $5000 Christmas bonuses, too).

Online self-publishing was, and still is, cheap and easy. You write your book in a Word document, upload the finished manuscript, create a cover using the provided tools, and that’s it. With a few clicks your book is available to the world, and you are an author.

This was an incredible move forward technologically, and it opened up the worlds of reading, writing, and book publishing to thousands that would not otherwise have been privy to them. The industry has employed thousands through various online outlets—Snapfish, Kindle Select, CreateSpace, Lulu, etc.—and it has made writing a viable career for many Americans.

Publishing 3.0: Professional Book Publishing Services

But this route isn’t necessarily for everyone, and it certainly isn’t for every book. Publishing 3.0 is a move toward a high-quality, finished, professional product. Take book covers, for example. An experienced book designer breaks down the elements of a successful book cover—the primary colors, the font, the text size, the image (is it literal or conceptual?), and even its associated genre (does it say mystery, crime, romance, literary fiction?). Book designers spend years perfecting their craft until they can create compelling covers that draw readers in and invite their questions and curiosity. Book covers aren’t just cover pages, they are artistic visualizations of a text or concept, and they tell the reader quite a lot with limited time and space.

And these kinds of book covers take time and talent. Our lead book designer, Brittany, has this graphic by Colin Harman posted next to her computer, and I think it is both humorous and fitting:

Graphic Design Image by Colin Harman

Altucher insists that in publishing 3.0 the author should curate each piece individually—the editor, designer, proofreader, publicist, etc. You can certainly go this route, but it may be time-consuming (you're doing a lot of "shopping around," so to speak). As an alternative, you can allow the publishing house to curate these pieces for you and invest in custom book publishing services. Orange Frazer has spent twenty-six years finding the best writers, editors, designers, photographers, researchers, indexers, and printers, ensuring that every book is a professional and high-quality product that we can put our name on. We insist on publishing 3.0, because we believe that authors and readers deserve the best books possible.

The pages of Revealed: Columbus arranged in our publisher's office. At OFP, each page is designed individually.

When is publishing 3.0 appropriate? Perhaps you are celebrating a milestone for your company, an anniversary, or even a family reunion. You may have a collection of stories to pass down to your grandchildren, or a portfolio of professional photographs that you would like to showcase. Maybe it is the companion piece to a museum exhibit or a novel that you hope to circulate among reviewers. There are times when you need a professional and high-quality product that represents your hard work and talent. And in a world besieged by books, you need to stand out.

What are your thoughts? We love to hear about our readers’ experiences, so share below in the comments if you feel so moved.

Digging into a Natural Spring: Our Newest How-To Book on Landscaping with Native Plants

Back to Eden: Landscaping with Native Plants, by Dr. Frank Porter As the daughter of florist and garden center owners, this is a particularly exciting book release for me. Our newest title, Back to Eden: Landscaping with Native Plants, is available today, and it is a striking, full-color exploration of the native plant world in the Eastern United States.

As with many things—vegetable gardening, seed saving, canning and preserving—utilizing native plants in the home landscape is certainly not a new concept, but one that is again becoming a part of the commercial plant consciousness. Dr. Frank Porter understands the ecological and horticultural needs that have precipitated the return to native plants, and explains the philosophy behind prioritizing these varieties over non-native and often endemic varieties.

While many of us grew up in a world where geraniums and petunias were the ruling flowers in any home garden, we are now encountering the many possibilities of native grasses, sedges, and wildflowers. Native plants provide an alternative to the extra effort—fertilizing, treating, cutting, and controlling—often required to keep a non-native plant alive and well. Dr. Porter shows how remarkable and diverse these varieties can be—and how easily native plants can be utilized in incorrigible garden spots. Whether you have rocky soil, low drainage, hilly property, or full shade, you will be able to identify native plant varieties that will help beautify and protect your home landscape.

Sisyrinchium angustifolium (Narrowleaf Blue-eyed Grass), Photo courtesy of Tom Barnes

Xyris Torta (Slender Yellow-eyed Grass), Photo courtesy of Tom Barnes

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium (Shale or Aromatic Aster), Photo courtesy of Tom Barnes

Back to Eden: Landscaping with Native Plants is the deep breath of spring we have been waiting for. It is the promise of a more ecologically sustainable landscaping practice, the celebration of our most natural treasures, and the loving gift of a man dedicated to the beauty and health of our landscape.

For information on ordering Back to Eden, check out our online store here.

Dr. Frank Porter in our author chair

Sarah and Janice help Dr. Porter load up books for his upcoming conference!

Do you have a favorite native plant? Do you love to garden? Let us know some of your favorite garden plants and tips in the comments! We love hearing from you, and we are daydreaming of the warm, spring planting days to come.

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.