This is part of my Makin' Bacon podcast, you can check out all the episodes or subscribe on your favorite podcast player.
When people sit down to create a cookbook they often make a single mistake that hurts them throughout the entire cookbook process. It's an easy mistake to make and almost everyone makes it. But once you know how to avoid it your chances of success are going to skyrocket.
I'm going to share with you what it is and show you how to avoid it when you put out your next cookbook.
The video of the interview is also available on the Makin' Bacon YouTube Channel.
There's lots of different goals you can have and often times we don't realize the variety that we could have. In our heads we picture these bestsellers like Harry Potter or The DaVinci Code, cookbooks by major chefs like Thomas Keller or the Alinea cookbook. And we have these unrealistic expectations of putting out a cookbook that's going to sell thousands or tens of thousands of copies.
Selling a lot of copies is one way to become really successful but there are many other benefits you can get from publishing a cookbook. And knowing specifically what you're trying to accomplish is going to maximize your odds of success.
So I want to talk about the 3 different goals that I try to keep in mind. The first goal is to make money. The second goal is to spread a message or an idea. The third goal is to market yourself or your website.
Every time I ask somebody what's your goal, which one of these 3 are you trying to accomplish? You know what their answer is? "All 3". That's their answer, every time, and you just can't do that.
If you try to accomplish all 3 goals you're going to fail. It's really hard to make money, spread an idea to as many people as possible, and also make your brand and yourself look as good as you possibly can.
You need to pick one of those. When you publish a book there's always going to be a lot of trade-offs. And if you don't know what you're trying to accomplish, you're not going to be able to make those trade-offs intelligently. While it is really hard to attack all those goals at the same time, you can attack them in more limited manners.
I think it's good to think of your number one goal as your 80% goal. You're going to put 80% of your time and effort into accomplishing this top goal.
Your next goal's a 15 percent goal, you put about 15% of your effort into that.
Your final goal is a five percent goal. You're going to boost that goal up a little bit, but you're not going to spend much time and energy on it.
I think thinking about the goals that way helps a little bit when you make those decisions.
Just because you're trying to spread an idea out there into the world doesn't mean you don't want to make a little bit of money from it. It's not what you want to make all your decisions based off of. But it's good to have in your back of your mind if you want to make some money from a viral cookbook or a marketing cookbook or if you want to put out something that looks nice even though you are making money from it.
So it's good to know what your secondary and tertiary goals are but you have to be very clear about what that top goal is and put most of your decision-making power behind that goal or you're just not going to be successful. I wanted to look a little more deeply into these goals.
The first goal is to make money, I call that a "monetizing" cookbook. With this type of book you want to maximize your profit. You don't care if you sell many copies as long as you're making as much money as you possibly can throughout the process.
I want to be clear that when I'm talking about making money from a cookbook, maximizing your profit and taking in as much as you can, I'm not talking about putting out a shoddy, low-quality book that's going to make your readers feel ripped off. That is not how you make money, especially in the long-term. I found the easiest way to maximize your revenue is to exceed your customers' expectations every single time. This way they also buy from you in the future.
So, don't feel like making money is a bad thing or is putting this bad taste in your mouth. It's all about providing exceptional value to your customers and then making sure that you're getting paid as much as you can for it.
When you make decisions for this type of book, everything should be around "how does this affect my profit?" Would the book look slightly better if it was hardback instead of paperback? Maybe. Would it sell more copies and make more money? Probably not. So, you're not going to do it. If full color glossy photos aren't going to increase your profit, then they don't need to be in this book.
Again, you're going to be honest with your readers. My first 5 cookbooks were black and white. You know how many people complained about it? About 1% of the buyers complained about it being black and white. And those 1% were the ones who didn't read my intro on Amazon that said "hey, this is black and white", because I was up front to everyone.
I'm very clear about what I'm selling and what I'm offering. The people who wanted that type of book, they were excited. Did I lose readers because it was in black and white and not color? Sure. But I was honest about it. I'd rather lose those readers because they might buy one of my books down the road. The one's who did buy, knew what they're getting, and I was maximizing my profit. Putting it out in black and white allowed me to reap double the profits than if I put it out in color. And I definitely would not have sold twice as many books if it was in color.
It can be hard making these trade-offs, but you need to be sure that every decision is about how it's going to impact the bottom line. And again, if I put out a crappy book, it's not maximizing my profit because none of those people would ever buy for me again. You're putting out a great product, but every decision is about how it affects the bottom line.
When you price a book like this, you're all about trying to maximize the overall income that you're getting in. So selling for copies at $25 each is just as valuable as selling 10 copies at $10 a piece. That's not true for some of the other goals, but for maximizing your profit, it doesn't matter how many you sell as long as you're maximizing the overall intake of money.
Next goal I want to talk about is getting the message out there. I call that a "viral" goal. Now this can take many different levels. Maybe you're trying to expand your brand, so you want to get it out there, but you still want to make a little bit of money. Or maybe this is a cause that's dear to your heart and all you care about is spreading the word and getting in front of people's hands.
You can approach those differently, but a lot of the trade-offs will be the same so I lumped them into the same category. The biggest way to spread your idea is usually to reduce the price as much as possible. So ironically a lot of the decisions that you'll make for a successful viral cookbook are the same as you would make for a monetizing cookbook.
But for monetizing cookbook, you're going to be increasing that price as much as you can to make a profit. For a viral one you're going to be lowering that price to get the book into as many people's hands as possible.
As I said, this might be something you're trying to get your brand out there and still make a little bit of money. So maybe you set yourself a profit per book that you're looking at. Maybe $2 a book profit and you know that if you're really trying to push it with a monetizing cookbook, you can make $6 or $7, but you know, you want to get this into as many people's hands as possible.
So you set it at $2 and everything else goes to lowering the price. Or maybe this is just something that you really believe in and you don't care about financial gains at all. The more work you can do to lower those printing costs means the cheaper you can sell the book for and the more people's hands you can get it into.
You might even want to explore a free downloadable PDF or free Kindle version. Those are ways to really get your word out there very fast and very effectively. When you're talking about pricing a viral book you want to get it into as many people's hands as possible. And so with our previous example of whether or not you should charge $25 and only get 4 sales or $10 for 10 sales either way you get $100 in. For viral cookbook you want those 10 people to get it because you want more people to find out about what you're doing and the message that you're spreading.
The third goal is marketing yourself and your brand. This all about "promotion" goals. Sales don't matter, nor does getting it into a lot of people's hands. The only important thing is that the right people are seeing this and it's making you look good to them.
There are many different reasons to create a marketing cookbook. Maybe you're a food photographer and you want clients to see what you can do. You can send them this book and say "here's my portfolio and it's an entire cookbook". It's going to set you apart from other food photographers trying to get similar jobs.
Maybe you'd like to sell a book that's going to be traditionally published. Putting out one as a marketing tool is going to show the type of things you can do. It's going to make you stand out from all the other food bloggers. It will show them you know what goes into a book, your photography is solid, your writing is strong so working with you is going to be different than working with someone who's never gone through this process before.
Maybe you want to work with different companies as a brand ambassador and being really the face of their company. Putting out a cookbook shows a type of quality work you do and says this is something I could do for you that other bloggers can't. This is what sets me apart.
All the decisions that go into a marketing cookbook are all about "how is this going to make me look to the group of people I'm trying to impress?". Profit doesn't matter and spreading your word doesn't really matter. All that matters is getting your cookbook into the right people's hands. Many marketing cookbooks are never even sold to the general public. They're just used as a portfolio or something you could either hand or mail to people that's going to impress them and get business out of them.
As I mentioned earlier, deciding on your goal is super important. You can't do all three. It is good to keep the secondary and tertiary goals in mind. Just because you're trying to make money doesn't mean you might not want to use this as a marketing book or you might not want to spread your word.
You need to be clear about what your overall goal is, because if you are, your chances of success are going to be much better.
If you are interested in more information about cookbooks: