The little book publisher that can

The little book publisher that can

Orange Frazer Press celebrates 30 years

Story by Tom Barr and John Hamilton


Overlooking Main Street in Wilmington on the second floor of a pre-Civil War building sits a peaceful and quirky Ohio book publishing company that’s survived eBooks, hundreds of bookstore closings, distributors going out of business, and the 2008 recession to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

There’s no sign. There’s no street number.

Scheduled authors and clients are directed to the back door on an alley. “Look for the mural of an Italian villa. Go to the oak door on the left. Come on up.” That’s it.

So what, exactly, are these people doing up there? Well, it appears, a lot.

It seems that local, regional and national authors and clients have been seeking the editing skills of John Baskin, the production skills of Sarah Hawley, the design skills of Aly Rua, the logistic skills of Janice Ellis, and the publishing skills of Marcy Hawley. And while only John and Marcy have been there from the onset, Orange Frazer Press maintains the boutique feel and craftmanship the company was built on when they published their first book in 1987 as writers and editors of Ohio magazine, a Columbus Dispatch enterprise.

With 48 file drawers (no computers back then) of flotsam and jetsam of Ohio minutia, they designed their first book, “Ohio Matters of Fact” by Damaine Vonada, driving to Washington Court House to Hans the Typesetter, bringing the formatted type back to Wilmington to paste onto print boards which went to the printer for making film from which the plates were made to go on the press.

Those books, whose printing was originally paid for by the Dispatch, were bought back to Wilmington by John and Marcy when they were languishing in the newspaper’s basement.

“They ran a few ads and sold a few books, but it was our first baby … ,” so they put them in their car trunks, brought them back, and took them to bookstores across Ohio, selling them by the eight-pack in counter display holders.

The little paperback, Orange Frazer Press’s first book, ended up selling 12,000 copies.

Little by little, the duo learned the squirrelly nature of what they were doing. “This is called book publishing?” You write books or find a good writer to write one for you. You edit it. You proofread. You find beautiful art or photography. You design handsome, detailed pages. You find book manufacturing partners to do the best printing and binding. Then you get bookstores to buy it. You set up book signings. Do marketing and promotion.

High quality (and lots of work) sells.

As years went by, they got noticed by individuals, companies, foundations, universities, cities, theaters, even cemeteries who had stories to tell and wanted them told in their best and most beautiful form … as a book. This niche has become Orange Frazer Press’s niche. It happened naturally, organically, so to speak. And without a sales team, it’s evolved by word-of-mouth.

Orange Frazer Press books can be found around the world. There’s an Orange Frazer Press book (“Entering These Doors of Compassion”) in every Ronald McDonald House around the world. (There are over 305 Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide.)

Their urban art books for Atlanta, San Antonio, Madison (Wisconsin), Washington, D.C., Denver, Baltimore and Boston are collectibles now. Cincinnati’s “Big Pig Gig” sold over 30,000 copies and presently they are madly shipping “Transforming Cincinnati: How a Decade of ArtWorks Murals Changed People and Communities Forever.”

Orange Frazer Press — whose namesake was a literary turn-of-the-20th century world traveler with a fine book collection and a love for photography, bicycling and the local female doctor — has designed and published over 400 titles.

And while they are well-known for their sports books (“Woody’s Boys,” “Brown’s Town,” “1968” and to be released this spring, “Tony Perez”), and have enjoyed meeting the sports figures attached to these names, their favorite part of making books is the friends they’ve made along the way.

“We want to do things not just well, but very well. We take our time. We might spend four years on a book. If somebody comes to us and their idea is good and they’re a good talker, we can help them take their story to another level,” said Hawley.

How do they go about doing it? It usually starts with a simple phone call.

With the Nuxhall book, “Joe: Rounding Third and Heading for Home,” it came from the book’s author Greg Hoard, a journalist and sports broadcaster who had never written a book, according to Hawley.

“He came to us with the idea because he knew the Cincinnati Reds’ sportscaster personally and wrote about sports, suggesting, ‘What if we told Joe’s story?’” Hawley and Baskin met with Nuxhall’s lawyer, Reuven Katz, who was also the lawyer for many of the Big Red Machine players, and they came up with a contract between Orange Frazer Press, Hoard and Nuxhall.

Hoard then spent a year writing the book, following Nuxhall around to get the stories from him. John Baskin then did the heavy lifting of editing the book. Hawley and Baskin went to Nuxhall’s house in Fairfield where they were shown a large room that contained decades of Reds memorabilia.

“’Take whatever you need,’ Joe said,” remembers Hawley. “So, we just pulled things from the room, brought them up here, scanned them, and brought them back to him.”

The book, published in 2004, led to multiple book signings with Nuxhall, including him coming to Wilmington.

In a recent online article from The Verge, Andrew Liptak reports, “… According to Pew, the usage of eBook readers has largely remained the same since 2011, while the ‘share of e-book readers on tablets has more than tripled since 2011 and the number of readers on phones has more than doubled over that time.’ Despite those gains, it does seem that the trusty book is here to stay.”

And by the look of it, Orange Frazer Press will still be here to create them, beautifully.


Visit or call 937-382-3196 to learn more.

Salt Magazine

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