Orange Frazer Press was launched almost 25 years ago when its three cofounders produced a paperback, thinking at the time this would be their sole foray into book publishing. Since then, the Wilmington, Ohio, family-owned and operated company has been successful by specializing in two lucrative niches: regional nonfiction with a national reach and custom publishing for both companies and individuals.
"We're kind of a microversion of Chronicle Books," said Marcy Hawley, publisher and an Orange Frazer cofounder. She described Orange Frazer, which does about 15 to 20 books annually, as being Ohio's "largest small regional book publisher"; 85%–90% of its commercial releases relate to Ohio's sports, personalities, history, and travel. Its books are sold to the trade by an in-house sales team and are distributed by Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and Partners.
Books by and about sports heroes have been especially well received: the company's first bestseller, Woody's Boys: 20 Famous Buckeyes Talk Amongst Themselves, a 1995 release about the legendary football coach Woody Hayes, has sold 25,000 copies, and, more recently, biographies of baseball's Johnny Bench, Chad Johnson of the Cincinnati Bengals, and Joe Nuxhall of the Cincinnati Reds each sold upwards of 20,000 copies.
Orange Frazer's custom publications involve a huge range of subjects, from corporate histories to art books. While print runs for the commercial projects average 3,000–5,000 copies, commissioned print runs range anywhere from 250 to 30,000 copies. Recent projects include The Big Pig Gig, an urban art book of photographs of decorated pig statues set up on downtown Cincinnati streets commissioned by a local organization, Artworks. It sold more than 30,000 copies. On October 1, the company will release a coffee-table book of photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright houses, Wright Panorama, commissioned by the well-known photographer Thomas Schiff, which will be sold at Frank Lloyd Wright houses with gift shops and at Barnes & Noble stores nationally. A first printing of 10,000 copies is planned.
Hawley explained that Orange Frazer's seven employees will do "as much or as little" as the client wishes, from editing to marketing and fulfillment. "Some of the [custom] publications take two or three years to do," she said.
Orange Frazer was launched, not because its cofounders wanted to start a press but because they wanted to find some use for 48 file drawers of "bizarre and quirky" minutiae about the Buckeye State that the two writers and an editor at Ohio Magazine had accumulated over the years.
The company released a book a year for the first five years, upping its output in 1992, after two things happened: the owners obtained a computer, and they were commissioned by the Iams Corp. to produce 10,000 copies of Recent Advances in Canine and Feline Nutritional Research: Proceedings of the Iams International Nutrition Symposium, the book that got them into the custom publishing field.
While not making a profit until 1995, the company has averaged $800,000 in sales annually since 2000 and posted a record $1.26 million in sales in 2004. As Orange Frazer approaches its quarter-century milestone in 2012, company personnel anticipate growing the custom publishing arm while continuing to publish a few commercial titles. This year, for instance, of its 13 releases, 10 were commissioned. It's all a matter of control in a volatile industry, with Hawley preferring not to be hit with bookstore returns as well as not having to deal with difficult authors. "Businessmen don't have the writer's ego," Hawley said. "They just want an excellent product."