Tips from Bjork and Lindsay
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Welcome to episode 187 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Chelsea Cole from A Duck’s Oven about the process of self-publishing a cookbook.
Last week on the podcast, Alexa chatted with Lindsey Smith, aka the Food Mood Girl, about the traditional publishing process. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
It’s time for part 2 of our two-part publishing series!
This week, we’re chatting with Chelsea Cole, sous vide master, all about the steps she took to self-publish her very own cookbook.
Self-publishing is certainly different from traditional publishing, so this episode focuses on the nuances that make self-publishing so accessible and exciting for bloggers.
You’ll learn how she found her topic, how much you should expect to spend if you’re self-publishing a book, and more. Enjoy!
Thanks to our Reviewer of the Week, Bob! If you’d like to be featured, leave a review for us on iTunes and include your name and blog name in the review.
We’d like to thank our sponsors, WP Tasty! Check out wptasty.com to learn more about their handcrafted WordPress plugins specifically made for food bloggers.
If you'd like to jump to the comments section, click here.
Alexa Peduzzi: In this episode, I chat about a book about Delivering Happiness and then Bjork interviews Chelsea Cole from A Duck’s Oven about the self publishing process. Hey, hey, wonderful listener. You are listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast where we chat about the strategies, tools and mindsets that can help you build a growing profitable blog. This week’s episode is sponsored by WP Tasty our sister site for plugins for food bloggers. If you’re looking for rock solid WordPress plugins to make your blog SEO ready, profitable and optimized, you can learn more at wptasty.com. And for today’s tasty tip. I’d like to talk about Delivering Happiness about the concept and the book by the same title.
Alexa Peduzzi: Delivering Happiness is a book written by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and it’s a fascinating book about his life after college and buildings Zappos an online shoe company. Not only are the stories just interesting, but I actually love the focus of this book aka the title of the book of Delivering Happiness. It’s about going above and beyond to make your customers or in a bloggers case, readers happy, to be so good at what you’re doing that your customers or readers can’t not talk about you and to share their experiences with others. I’m just really loving this book and I’ll put a link to it in the show notes if you’re interested in checking it out. But I thought the takeaways could absolutely be applied to bloggers.
Alexa Peduzzi: Are your posts supremely helpful and valuable for your readers? Do you respond to comments and emails in a timely and helpful manner? Are you making your readers happy? These are the questions that I asked myself as I was reading the book and I think they are great questions to consider as you’re building and growing your blog.
Alexa Peduzzi: And now the interview. This is actually part two of our two part book publishing series. And it comes after our traditional book publishing interview with Lindsay Smith. This week’s interview is with Chelsea coal from the blog A Duck’s Oven. She recently published her first cookbook, but her experience was much different than the traditional publishing route that we talked about last week. Instead of going through a publishing house, she decided to self publish her cookbook. This episode focuses on the self publishing process as a whole, from finding a topic to testing recipes to figuring out a price and so much more. We hope you love this second episode of our book publishing series. So without any further ado, Bjork take it away.
Bjork Ostrom: Chelsea, welcome to the podcast.
Chelsea Cole: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, super excited to talk to you about cookbook publishing. And we actually have a, we’re not sure yet if it’s going to be before or after this yet, but there’s another interview actually that Alexa is doing, everybody that listens to the Food Blogger Pro podcast knows Alexa, did a little conference on traditional publishing. We wanted to do these kind of side by side because we wanted to represent two different sides of the cookbook publishing world traditional and then self publishing and you just went through that process, and as a matter of fact, you’re right in the middle of it. But before we get to talking about that, there’s a couple questions, clarification and just general interest on two different subjects. And one is your blog, and specifically your blogs name. So tell us what your blog’s name is, and a little bit of a background, a little bit of a story of what that’s all about.
Chelsea Cole: Of course, it definitely has a story. My blog is called A Duck’s Oven. When I started my food blog, it was back in 2010, and I was at the University of Oregon and the mascot for the University of Oregon is the Ducks.
Bjork Ostrom: Go Ducks.
Chelsea Cole: Yes, exactly. Go Ducks.
Bjork Ostrom: So this is all coming together for me now.
Chelsea Cole: Yes, yes. My husband, he and I were dating then and I wanted to start this food blog and he was helping me come up with a name. So he actually named it and it’s supposed to be a play on a dutch oven.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Okay. For sure. This is all coming together.
Chelsea Cole: Yes exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: As I was kind of researching for the show I was looking through and saw some of the tweets that you had specifically about Oregon, like the Ducks, and I was like, “Ah.” But I didn’t make the connection until you just said it right there. Which I’ll say, I feel like the Ducks are one of, and I’m not just saying this because you’re on the podcast. I feel like one of the coolest football teams. And that has to do with access to like-
Chelsea Cole: Phil Knight.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, exactly. Essentially anything and everything they want from Nike.
Chelsea Cole: Exactly. Our facilities, they’re kind of ridiculous. Honestly, when I was in college, I was a little resentful of the student athletes but they are beautiful and our uniforms are super cool.
Bjork Ostrom: So cool. Yeah, for sure. Have you read Shoe Dog?
Chelsea Cole: No.
Bjork Ostrom: The Phil Knight’s book. Oh my gosh! You need to read it.
Chelsea Cole: I know.
Bjork Ostrom: I would say-
Chelsea Cole: You’re making me feel so bad.
Bjork Ostrom: yes. Yeah, it’s one of my top five books of the past five years. It’s such an incredible story. And I feel like there’s business application, but also just general life application in terms of what he went through in order to build Nike.
Chelsea Cole: Totally.
Bjork Ostrom: For everybody listening, and for you, that’ll be on your reading list for the next month or so.
Chelsea Cole: Absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: So A Duck’s Oven, that makes sense. When you started off, you were in college, you kind of talk about that as part of your story with the blog and kind of that period becoming a time where you’re starting to become really interested in cooking, and that becoming an important thing. The second thing that I wanted to talk about and that some people will know about in the podcast, other people might not, is this idea of sous vide. Can you talk about what what this style of cooking is and when you started to integrate that as kind of one of the the focus areas for your blog.
Chelsea Cole: Yeah, absolutely. I kind of started to hear about sous vide cooking a few years ago, I didn’t totally know what it meant. And I’d seen the immersion circulators come up on Amazon’s what’s the day in July, it’s Amazon’s deal day in July.
Bjork Ostrom: Essentially it’s just like another excuse for them to promote stuff and then everybody buys all these things, yeah.
Chelsea Cole: Exactly. Yep So I had seen it one year about that time but I didn’t buy it, and my birthday is in August and my mom ended up buying it for me for my birthday. So I’m like, “Okay I have this thing now I better figure out how to use it.” So I picked it up and did some research and essentially what it is it’s all about cooking food to a very very precise temperature and keeping it at that temperature. So this is really cool for me because I eat a lot of steak and seafood. I mostly eat a lot of seafood, and seafood is so easy to under or overcook and it’s really expensive. So if you do buy it and you under or overcook it and you ruin it, it really sucks. I was really excited about this for that reason.
Chelsea Cole: The way it works is, the way I explain it, is an immersion circulator, is this cylinder shaped device, it’s about a foot tall, and three inches in diameter. And you put it into just like a stock pot of water, some kind of container of water, and it circulates the water to bring it up to a temperature. I always say, it’s what would make a hot tub a hot tub instead of a mini pool, and it’s the best way to explain it. So the doneness of food is all about temperature. If you say if you go to a restaurant and you order a medium rare steak, that refers to the temperature the center of the steak gets to. I love a medium rare steak and so I can set the water bath to 129 degrees, and it’s going to stay at that perfect temperature. I’ll put steak into this water bath and it’ll cook for two hours, which is way different than the way you’d usually cook steak, and it’ll be perfect from edge to edge, which is amazing.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah and so the idea being that there’s a little bit more, would you say science as opposed to just kind of saying like-
Chelsea Cole: Guessing.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right. Just kind of guessing.
Chelsea Cole: Yes, absolutely. Which I really like too. I grew up eating, steak and seafood and when my husband and I were trying to cook these things ourselves on the grill, it’s such a guessing game, you’re just hoping and you can do the test where you press your thumb to your hand, and say, this right texture that you never really know until you come into it. And so it’d be so many nights where I’d cook the steak, think it was awesome, cut into it, it would be completely wrong and that at all, we’d have to go back on the grill. This just takes the question out of that. So I became obsessed with it pretty quickly and figured out all these other things that I could do too. I also saw that, people were starting to talk more about sous vides and the device you use to do this cooking method is called an immersion circulator and now they’re pretty affordable. They’re as affordable as an instant pot. So it’s gaining traction in that way. And I’m like, “Okay, I think I’m going to start talking about this on my blog.”
Chelsea Cole: One of the first post I did was Sous Vide Tri-tip Steak, and now it’s like my number three posts for bringing in traffic to my blog, which has been awesome.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s interesting. I’ve never in general cooked anything worth eating, but also done sous vide. But I’m really interested in it because I feel in some ways, it almost feels like a good entry point for people who are maybe kind of intimidated by, let’s say cooking a steak. Whereas you can say, "Okay, here are the steps that you want to follow. And for the most part, you’re going to be able to have a consistent result if you go through these certain steps. There’s actually a tech podcast that I listened to, it’s a Mac podcast, and at the end of it, they have it’s called MacBreak Weekly, and they have these … What do they call it? It’s just essentially Tip of the Week or recommendation, Pick of the Week, I think it’s called. And it really consistently, they talk about sous vide cooking. It’s one of the things that comes up all the time.
Bjork Ostrom: I was familiar with it from that, just that podcast and know that it’s something that, like you said is kind of trending. It’s interesting to hear you talk about that and say, “Okay, I’m going to kind of be intentional not only of doing something that I’m interested in. You personally had some interest in this, but it also sounds like there’s a little bit of strategy around, ”Hey, I can kind of see this as being like a general upward trend. Was that part of the decision making process that you had, as you kind of thought about having sous vide cooking as part of your focus?
Chelsea Cole: Absolutely, yeah. I actually kind of tested it out. I’m pretty active on Instagram stories. I hadn’t posted anything on my blog yet, but I would talk about it a lot on my stories and kind of walk people through how I was using the immersion circulator to make dinner and I was doing sous vide pork chops tonight and stuff like that, and people were asking me questions and really interested in it, and I was like, “Okay so that means this has legs in terms of other content.” ’Cause at first I was like, "Is this too weird? Is this too polarizing? But that kind of helped me take the next step into publishing quite a bit about it on my blog.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah that’s interesting and it’s interesting too, one of the things that I like to do is pull up Google Trends which I actually just did. And it provides some kind of cool insight as to … It’s not the number of searches that happen but just the general popularity of a certain term and how that relates to other pieces of content that people are searching for. If you search … And for anybody that wants to do this, you can just go to trends.google.com if you pull up sous vide and then what I did was I did over the past five years and you can look at it you can see, okay from 2013 to let’s say, 2016, it was kind of like, men, there’s some people talking about it, there’s some ups and downs. But now there’s kind of this general trend upward where, you can see that it’s becoming more and more popular and if you compare that to something like, let’s say paleo, it’s actually the opposite where there’s a trend downward other than a peak in January, which makes sense.
Bjork Ostrom: For you, it’s just like, okay, yeah, that’s a really smart decision to say, “Hey, this is something that I can see people are interested in, I’m interested in personally. So I’m going to start pursuing this as something that I think might be a good path to go down.” Were there other things that you did that … Or are there other things that came up that led you to believe like, “Hey, this is a good path to pursue. This is going to be something that I think will kind of generally be trending upwards?”
Chelsea Cole: Yeah. I am a really big fan of Facebook groups. They’re becoming so useful. I use them for everything now. And I joined a couple of sous vide Facebook groups right when I started to get into this, and just watching those communities grow was really interesting, which means, more people are buying these and also, this is a little less strategic and a little more emotional. But the communities involved with sous vide cooking are so wonderful and so empowering and that kind of just made me more excited to continue to be a part of that as well.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure and it’s such a huge part of … I think sometimes people can feel like business is just numbers and decisions around growth. So much of it, though, has to do with, emotionally, what does it feel like to do the thing that you’re doing and to be involved with the community that you’re involved with. So I think that’s a huge part of it, discovering not only something that you’re interested in, passionate about, that may be generally trending upwards. But also that you feel like hey, there’s other good people and I like spending time with these people, what an important thing that is.
Chelsea Cole: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: So you so you get into it, you’re starting to get interest in it, and then you kind of have this idea, “I actually not only want to create content around this for my blog for social media, but I also want to publish a cookbook.” Can you tell me when you started to have some of those really thoughts around publishing a cookbook and what your early thoughts were around the topic?
Chelsea Cole: Yeah, absolutely. So I think for most food bloggers, or at least a lot of food bloggers, it’s kind of like a dream in the back of your head to eventually write a cookbook, ’cause that’s just like the next form of food writing. This has always been the case for me and as I started to get more involved with sous vide, I knew for me, if I wanted to write a cook book I needed to have a really compelling topic. So sous vide is such a niche topic and even better, it’s a growing niche topic. And at that time, I was like, “This is my book. This is what it has to be.” Once that kind of clicked for me, I got a lot of momentum. I reached out to Mel Joulwan, who wrote the all the Well Fed cookbooks, ’cause I had heard that she self published her cookbooks. I learned more from her about that process and she kind of gave me the confidence to go for it.
Chelsea Cole: So I had the topic, I had the right niche and it was something that I’m truly obsessed with. So it just felt like the perfect opportunity.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And so Melissa, the Well Fed series, we’ll link to Melissa’s website to give her a little shout out. What were the things that you learned from her, what was the most helpful advice that she gave you?
Chelsea Cole: Yeah, honestly, I’m hearing she actually chose self publishing over traditional publishing. ’Cause I think there is a little bit of stigma around self publishing, so I wanted to kind of hear from her why she actually chose to do that. And part of that was because traditional publishers take a way bigger cut of your royalties. Whereas when if you self publish, all that money is going to you, it doesn’t have to be split among all these people, for the most part, I mean, you’re paying contractors and things like that. So that was interesting and I actually recently spoke to another cookbook author, her name is Diane Morgan. She’s written 18 cookbooks, which is amazing. She even talks about how if she was going to write a book now, she would probably sell publish, as opposed to traditional publishing, because many publishers require that you do so much of the work now that they used to do with the advent of social media and all these, so you’re asked to do your own PR and build your own following in a lot of ways, and your own marketing.
Chelsea Cole: So many people who write cookbooks now are also food photographers, or can do their own food photography. If you want to go the traditional publishing route, you might also be asked to do your own photography, which just makes it all a lot more work and you still don’t get a very big cut. With self publishing, you have to do all that work anyways and you get to take home a bigger piece of the pie.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it? And so I think we’ve talked off and on about publishing and specifically cookbook publishing and kind of royalties and advances and things like that. But I think it’s always good to rehash those things. So when you talk about the royalties and the publisher taking a cut of that, just at a high level, can you talk about how the kind of the relationship in a traditional publishing relationship works? If somebody were to work with a traditional publisher, why is that beneficial to them both from a financial perspective, and then maybe from a resource perspective, and then talked a little bit about the downsides, but you could rehash those as well.
Chelsea Cole: Yeah. So if you work with a traditional publisher, you’re paid in advance and that they … My understanding is that they usually calculate this based on how well they think the book is going to perform and they take into account things like the topic of your book, what your audience size is currently like now, things like that. That advance is really helpful because then you have money coming in while you write this book, so you don’t need to work. For me, I work part time doing marketing, and so I wrote this book while I was working, which you can imagine working ’cause of that and then I retire. If you do get that advance, you don’t have to worry about that it’s a lot more comfortable for you. And you do have resources in that case, while the book is being developed, the publisher also plays a huge project management role, which writing a book of course, I should have guessed this, it’s even more work than I would have ever expected it to be.
Chelsea Cole: Having that kind of oversight, is incredibly helpful and you have people who have access or in theory, you’ve really good PR resources. So people who have access to magazines, TV shows, all those kinds of things that even we have food bloggers are pretty used to marketing ourselves on social media and through email and things like that, but we don’t necessarily have those types of contacts which are really helpful for this type of publishing.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
Chelsea Cole: Then of course if you want to outsource your food, photography, they have those resources as well, but I actually recently learned that a lot of times, you’re asked to help pay for that. So it comes out of your kind of the royalties. Royalties, the way that works is you get a small amount of money from each book you sell. If you do go with the publisher, a lot of that money goes to the publisher, a lot of that money might go to .. That money goes to all the people that helped make your book happen. Whereas if you self publish, a lot of that money goes to you, and some of that money probably goes to other people who helped make that book happen.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. So you look at this, you say, “Okay, I know that these two paths are possible, I’m going to go the self publishing route.” But that means then that you’re taking on a lot of these things that would come with a traditional publisher, that things like the project management which in and of itself is a job, it’s the design and kind of branding and the copywriting and the editing. How did you go about assembling a team for that? And then what advice would you give in regards to managing the project and the timeline?
Chelsea Cole: Totally. One thing that was really helpful, I’m glad that you mentioned branding, is last year at around this time, I actually totally switched up my branding. So if you go to my Instagram account right now for example or my blog, it’s all really brights and fun and pinks and yellows and flowers. I also really niched down on my branding which my audience has responded really well too. That also gave me a ton of clarity for the branding of this book. I went into it immediately knowing this has been so successful to me and my book is going to look exactly the same way, and it looks way different than any other sous vide book on the market right now, because a lot of the other sous vide books are really dark and really masculine. And my book is hot pink, and it’s really feminine and it’s really fun and the writing is really light and playful, and that was really intentional for me.
Chelsea Cole: I knew that I could do the food photography, I knew my day job is marketing. I knew that I could do the marketing and the branding and for example, I’ve got some book signings coming up, which I’m really excited about and tabling events. I knew that I could get those tables together and I knew how to plan for all of that because my background in marketing. I have a friend who is a graphic designer, so I worked with her to do the designing of the book. I can do really basic design, I’m familiar with illustrator and InDesign and all that stuff. So she created a template for me that I was able to then just kind of fill in the pieces of which helped me save a lot of money ’cause it costs a lot less money to get a template than to have somebody design it from scratch. So that’s how I worked with that.
Chelsea Cole: Then for project management, I used Asana to essentially build out a really in depth schedule and I used a Google spreadsheet to map out all of my recipes and kind of helped me visualize where each recipe was in its stages. ’Cause the way the process kind of works for recipe development for a cookbook is it’s develop the recipe, test the recipe yourself, have as many other people as you can test the recipe and give you feedback. Incorporate that feedback, try it again, and then shoot it. So that I had like a huge spreadsheet that showed me where each recipe was in this stage, but I am also a huge fan of spreadsheets and Asana, so those luckily played to my strengths.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about Asana a little bit. We actually use Asana for our businesses as well but I know a lot of people just personally use it for project management. Can you talk about what that is and maybe just in general, how you used it, the parts that you found most helpful.
Chelsea Cole: Totally. I just use the free version, I don’t have the paid version and it’s essentially a task management tool and you can organize things by project, you can have things organized into different boards. It’s a really great organizational tool. So I had my graphic designer friend who was helping me and then I also had another woman who I had hired to edit all of my copy. So they were both able to join my Asana project and I could assign them tasks and they could easily see each other’s deadlines and my deadline so they knew when to expect to get work for me and things like that. One of them lives in Omaha … I’m sorry Lincoln and so that was really helpful because she lives so far away from me here in Portland. So that was honestly crucial for me for getting this thing done, and seeing okay, she’s working on this which means I should be working on this, but it’s an amazing task management tool.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. And the other thing you talked about was the template that you had your designer friend create. Can you talk about what that was and why that was helpful from a cost savings perspective as it relates to design.
Chelsea Cole: Yeah. So she theoretically could have designed the entire book from scratch, but what she did is she did a lot of research. She’s never designed a book before, most of her graphic design is signage and things like that, so this was actually a really fun project for her too. She took a ton of online classes on things like Skillshare and stuff like that and taught herself how to design a cookbook. After she did that because there’s a lot of, you rely on … And InDesign is a little technical but on stuff like grids a lot for writing a book because you do have these really tight margins and things like that you need to be aware of. So she did a template for the recipe pages for me and then for the chapter and separate template for the chapter introductions and then I just went in and dropped in all of my copy and photos in the appropriate places myself, which essentially means she did the technical beautiful work and then I was able to do the more grunt work, for lack of a better word of getting this thing built.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. It actually reminds me and I think it’s a good reminder for people to think about, okay, in general, when you are thinking of trying to solve a problem, I think it’s helpful to think about is there some type of structure that already exists out there. The example that I can compare to is we had thought about building an app and app around recipe videos specifically, and we worked with the developer and the designer and we went through this whole design process to customize it and then probably about 75% of the way through I realized that there are kind of these kits that you can buy where somebody has gone through the process of locking all of that stuff in from a structural standpoint and then you go in and essentially you develop around that. And I think there’s lots of different examples of how you can be strategic and smart about not creating something that’s like the ultimate customization but getting something that’s probably 90% of what you want it to be and then going in and then you on your own feeling that in.
Chelsea Cole: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s a great little piece of advice. Where did you find these people? Were they all friends? Were they friends of friends? As you assembled your team, how did you reach out to these people and find who would be good people to work with?
Chelsea Cole: Yeah, so since I was doing this all myself and this was kind of in a way like a pet project and a test because I didn’t really know how lucrative this is going to be until I really got into it. My goal was to keep this as inexpensive as possible, so just kind of going through again, like the phases of the development of the book. My first team of people that I needed was recipe testers and as many of them as I could get. So I posted in some of these sous vide Facebook groups and just said, “Hey, I’m writing up a cookbook, would anybody want to test recipes for me?” And I had so many people volunteer to test recipes for me, which was amazing. I ended up with over 30 recipe testers and they were incredible and so helpful and so supportive. Again, that kind of goes back to the community and they were so encouraging and wonderful and they tested everything and gave me awesome feedback.
Chelsea Cole: A ton of them would even send me photos of their finished dishes, which I didn’t even think to ask for but it was really helpful, so they were incredible and they worked free which was awesome. Then Lauren who did my copy editing I found her through another Facebook group. I actually found her through a Facebook group for my day job to help with copywriting for them and then I really enjoyed working with her and I was like, “Hey, would you want to help me with this other project.” And she was thrilled to do that. And then I found another woman who edited my recipes, because that’s a very different type of editing in yet another Facebook group. The great thing about that is these are just, one off projects, and there’s a lot of people who would like to do these things on the side.
Chelsea Cole: So these are projects that might just take an hour or two and they’re people with all these background in the subject.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great.
Chelsea Cole: That’s great. And the graphic designer was a friend.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. And I feel like the thing that’s nice about the Facebook groups is that you know that within the context of the community that people are going to understand, if you’re in a sous vide Facebook group, you’re not going to have to teach them about sous vide. They’re going to know how to do that already and just the idea of leveraging and being intentional about the communities that you’re part of, not in the sense of trying to get as much as you can out of them but realizing the power of community, I guess is what it is. There are stories of Food Blogger Pro people connecting on the forums. But that’s not because there’s some magical way that we connect people, it’s just the power of community and people that understand a certain niche or industry or genre being able to connect and find ways that are mutually beneficial for them to help each other. So I love that little piece about finding those Facebook groups and becoming a part of them.
Bjork Ostrom: If somebody is interested in doing this, would you have a range that you could say, “Hey, if you’re going to start out … ” Not considering time as a part of it, but let’s just say “Hey, you should plan on, if you’re going to self publish, you could have a range from at the very low end of this amount to the very obviously it could be infinite.” But on the higher end if you wanted to pay people a little bit more or whatever it be. could you provide just kind of a rough estimate of what that range could maybe be of what people could expect to pay if they’re interested in the self publishing route without paying for the books, which we’ll get to.
Chelsea Cole: Right that other part. So it depends on if you count your groceries, we ate a lot of our food or put it in the freezer to eat later. There was very little food waste during my photography process, which was super helpful although I do still include a lot of the grocery expenses for all of those photo shoots. But I think at the low end $600 and at the high end $2,000. And this is if you of course, can find these people who are more affordable and if you can be really efficient about what you take on and what you outsource.
Bjork Ostrom: I love that. And what I love about it is I think sometimes we approach a project whether it be a home improvement project or a business project or a personal project and we think, “Okay, what do we need to do to make this happen?” And sometimes we can jump to the most expensive place like, we got to hire the somebody who’s super expensive and we got to, custom create this design. And what you did is you said, “Okay, what do I want to? What is the end product and how can I be really efficient and getting that?” And my guess is that, the final product is probably pretty close to what you would have gotten with, if you went through the process of spending tens of thousands of dollars, but being intentional and methodical with it, you’re able to do it and in an affordable way.
Bjork Ostrom: What about the actual books? It’s expensive to print a book when you approach this or when you think about moving forward and marketing it which is one of the other topics I’m interested to hear you talk about. Do you think of it first and foremost as something that will be a digital book that you’re distributing or physical or kind of 50/50?
Chelsea Cole: That’s a really interesting question. Right now it’s only available as a paperback ’cause I’ll have to completely reformat it for a Kindle book, which is … So I’m like, “Oh man, I need to breath for a sec and then I can go approach the Kindle version or the ebook version.” And I actually pulled my Instagram followers just to kind of get a rough sense if this was going to be a big disappointment for them. It was 2% of people said that they would be interested in an E-book version, and I was like, “Okay, great. I feel good about this then.” But the amazing thing about self publishing now is it’s almost entirely print on demand, which means I don’t have a stock of cookbooks in my house. When somebody orders it, they print it as soon as people order it, and then ship them out. There’s no pile of cookbooks, anywhere.
Chelsea Cole: The expensive thing for me is when I order them for these events that I’m going to or for marketing purposes and things like that. It’s $10 a book for me. So I have to be if I’m giving somebody a book, I’m like, "Okay, I’m giving you $10.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s a gift, it’s not free.
Chelsea Cole: Yeah, and opportunity cost as well. So I try to be really careful about this. For example, I’m really interested in doing giveaways on Instagram just to kind of drum up some excitement. So I want to see how effective this is going to be. One of my friends on Instagram who has a really sizable following and who talks about sous vide, she bought my book the moment it came out, which was so wonderful and supportive. I asked her, "Hey, would you be willing to host a giveaway on your Instagram account, so I can kind of see how how effective that giveaway is going to be before I start reaching out to all these different people on Instagram and sending them all these books?
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Was that something that you did? Or was that in the works?
Chelsea Cole: It’s in the works at this point.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay got it. Cool. It was interesting. I forget exactly what it was. I think maybe Lindsay had published, our post our friend Melissa from the phone Martha had a cookbook it’s called the Minimalist Kitchen and Lindsay had a, I don’t know if it was something on Instagram or is a blog post I don’t remember. But anyway she said it was really interesting to see the correlation in how it was able to … ’Cause you can track where it’s at in terms of the number and the genres and then like sub genres and she said, “When that happened you could see this uptake.” And who knows if that meant 10 books were sold or what the amount is that creates that correlating uptick, but it’s one of the great things about you being a marketer and a publisher is you understand that a little bit.
Bjork Ostrom: I’d be interested to hear you talk a little bit more about your plan from a marketing perspective, as a self published cookbook author, what are the things that you’re thinking about doing and that you’re planning on doing to help get the word out about the book and to and to help increase sales?
Chelsea Cole: Yeah, so the very first thing that I did Luckily, I had spent the past few years building an email list, which, as everybody’s heard, I’m sure many, many times is such an important and effective resource of marketing. Right when the book came out, I had an email completely drafted and ready to go and the moment the book came out, I sent that email. It is actually really funny, I was having kind of a hard time getting the book uploaded and a lot of the emails I would get about its status would come in the middle of the night, and so I was sleeping very well and I would wake up…
Bjork Ostrom: Because you just … Yes, for sure.
Chelsea Cole: In my weird dream conscious state dreamt that the book was live. And so I started to go into MailChimp on my phone to go publish this email, and I was, I actually received that email went back and checked in, no. So thank goodness I didn’t.
Bjork Ostrom: What a terrible stage of sleep that is where it’s like, 80% asleep but 20% not and then you just create these weird stories that are so believable.
Chelsea Cole: Yes, it’s horrible. So once I finally did go live, and I was really, truly able to send the email, these are people who have intentionally chosen to learn more information from me. So I feel a little bit comfortable asking a little bit more from them. So I had, “Hey my cookbook is live. I’m so excited about this, I’d love for you to support me.” And I said, “Here’s how you can support me. One, obviously, you can buy the book. Two, if you feel like going above and beyond … ” The first place my book was published was on Amazon. So I said, “Instead of just buying the book, go on there and search for sous vide cookbook and scroll until you find my book, then buy it.” And the reason being that teaches Amazon’s algorithm that my book is a good search result for that query. And so it’s going to move me further up in the rankings. And tons of people did that and now I’m on page one.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome.
Chelsea Cole: That was that was really successful and effective. And then of course, “Leave a review and tell your friends.” But in my experience marketing when you do launch a product like this, it’s really important to be really explicit with your core fanbase on what they can do to support you. Because usually they’re really excited to support you and they do want to do those things. Of course I said the same things on Instagram and Facebook and it was super effective and helpful. So that was great. And then of course I talked about it a lot on all my social channels. I had gotten a copy of my book that was not quite done copy. It was essentially approved. And so I use that though the cover was final just it was just the interior that wasn’t and I use that to create a ton of content in advance.
Chelsea Cole: I had a bunch of videos ready, a bunch of posts, a bunch of blog posts, all the stuff ready to go and I spent the first three days just kind of blitzing on that front. And I did some things that I hadn’t done before, like IGTD and I explained, “Hey, this is what sous vide is in case you’re curious.” And then I opened up my Instagram and said, “Hey if you have questions about sous vide, ask away.” And a ton of people had questions and I took the opportunity to clarify and for some people once I did kind of teach them more about it they felt more comfortable taking the plunge and investing in immersion circulator themselves and then they also bought my book which was great.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting it seems like a lot of it is and this is the sweet science of marketing which is, it’s promotion but promotion through education. So it’s not necessarily saying, “Here’s my book go buy it.” But saying, “Hey here’s sous vide, here’s what’s great about it. What questions do you have about it?” It’s having conversations around the thing as opposed to directly about the thing. Maybe another example is this podcast, we mention Food Blogger Pro, we mention our plugins WP Tasty but it’s not like we’re getting on every time and just talking about those. It’s like education, it’s promotion through education, what it says sounds like a lot of that was what you’re doing especially in those for a few days.
Chelsea Cole: Yeah exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. So I actually went through the process right now I’m on Amazon, I’m going to click the yellow, ‘place your order’, I followed your instructions. I have placed the order and it says, “Thank you your order has been placed.” What happens on your side now? Is there anything that you’re doing? Do you get a little notification that says Bjork and St. Paul has bought your book?
Chelsea Cole: I wish it’s actually … For me like I need immediate gratification and with marketing now I’m kind of used to that. I do something and I see I have a new follower or I do something and I see I have a new email subscriber. With this you only see once the order has shipped which for Amazon for example, that could be the next day, because so many defer right now. Or somebody could have chosen that little deferred thing when you-
Bjork Ostrom: Which is what I did cause I get a $1 extra digital spend or something like that.
Chelsea Cole: Yeah, so then you don’t see that for five days. And you don’t know who bought it. For example, I saw the other day that somebody had bought one in Germany. And I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting.” Then a couple days later, one of the people who had tested recipes … Had volunteered to test recipes for me, who is in Germany, said, “I got your book.” And I’m like, “Oh, that makes sense of that.”
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. So for me, purchase price, $23 and 12 cents. You’d said the book costs $10 to actually create when you’re shipping it out, is there also costs that then you have to pay Amazon? When it breaks down, what do the numbers look like in terms of as a self published author? You’re getting all of it which doesn’t mean literally getting $23 and 12 cents but what does that actually look like? So for every cookbook that you sell, how much of that are you actually able to get back?
Chelsea Cole: This was a really good learning experience for me, because in my dream world, I would have priced my book more in the late teens, but I couldn’t. Once I had my book up … So as you are designing your book, they have a royalties calculator on Amazon. You can go in and say “My book is full color, it has bleed.” Which means there’s photos in it that go off the page, which is more expensive to print. And you can add your page numbers and see exactly what your royalties are going to be.
Bjork Ostrom: Where is that on Amazon?
Chelsea Cole: If you just Google it’s KDP, Amazon, KDP is their self publishing network royalty calculator, you can find it.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
Chelsea Cole: And so literally, every page that I added to my book made my royalties go down. It was like, we need to be efficient about our page space here I’m learning this now. Therefore if my royalties go down, that means I may need to make the price if the book go up. And another thing that I learned is Amazon sets a minimum price that you can charge if you want to include an expanded distribution. Which means theoretically, a bookstore could buy your books through Amazon and stock them in their store. And I wanted that to be an option for my book. My price is actually the minimum price for expanded distribution right now. It wasn’t the royalties that, if that expanded distribution piece hadn’t been part of the equation, my book would be a price lower. But right now I get about $5 per book that sold which means Amazon is taking the other 20 and that has to do with obviously production and shipping and all those other costs.
Chelsea Cole: But from people I’ve talked to, which I mean, this is just a hearsay, but you usually get around $1, a book for traditional publishing so I’m still pretty happy with that.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yep. And in a lot of times, with traditional publishing, what will happen is you don’t get any of that until you pay back the advance that you have. Obviously, a lot of kind of number crunching and calculating goes into that but the advantage in this case like you said, is like right from the start, you’re able to start getting all of that. Obviously, it’s not like we said the $23 ’cause there’s a lot that goes into the shipping and distribution and the channel and all of that stuff. But it’s really helpful for people listening to say, “Okay.” Let’s say on the high end, I go into it, and I’m going to be efficient, but we’re going to say, “We’re going to spend $2500 on this.” You can start to crunch those numbers and say, “How many of these would I have to sell before I earn back my initial investment?” And then it can become part of …
Bjork Ostrom: There’s a podcast that we did a while ago on a blog post I published called the egg carton method and just this idea of like, “Hey, as you’re thinking about building a business there’s going to be multiple ways that you’re creating an income. In this category there’s going to be ads sponsored partnerships, potentially, maybe you have a product that you’re selling, digital product and this can be another piece of that puzzle. And so you can start to layer that in and say, ”Okay, I know that every month, if I get, let’s say, 100,000 people that come to my website, all have 20 cookbook sales, or 100 cookbook sales or X number." And you start to learn that and you can kind of layer that in as a snowball.
Bjork Ostrom: And the great thing is that you’ll have it forever, now it is forever, something that you’ll be able to offer to your people. And it’s not like tech blog or something where it very quickly goes out and becomes irrelevant. These will always be things that you’ll be able to do and to use. So coming to the end here, really fun to jump in and talk about the process of what’s involved with it. If you were to go back and do it again, what are some of the things that you would do differently now that you’ve been through the entire process? And the cookbook itself is actually out and published within the week, at least when we’re recording this. Looking back at the process what are some of the things you’d do differently?
Chelsea Cole: Yeah, that is a great question. I would have definitely given myself more time. So I really started this in earnest in May and I had a deadline for myself of November 1st. And I was about two weeks late on that deadline.
Bjork Ostrom: Which is pretty impressive.
Chelsea Cole: Obviously I’m pretty okay with it, but the last couple weeks to get it done, were so stressful and that’s in part because I totally underestimated this. This is the biggest takeaway or thing I can tell anybody who wants to self publish their own book. Amazon makes it look like the process for … And I’m sure this is true I’m looking into there’s other self publishing websites like IngramSpark and I’m looking into this as well. I’m sure it’s the case but it looks like it’s this like instant thing and approval is going to take less than 72 hours and it’s going to be no big deal. But it isn’t true. And the process of getting my book live took about a week and I thought it would take maybe two days, and I ended up being really stressful for me because I wanted it to be launched during or before Black Friday weekend cause it’s such a buying weekend and because I have an event this weekend that I need physical copies of the book for myself and I was really nervous I wouldn’t have them in time.
Chelsea Cole: So just give yourself a lot of time at the very end to make sure that the book is perfect and that you have all this time to get it uploaded. That would be one thing for sure. Honestly, I’m so happy with everything else in part because of the opportunity to work with so many amazing people and I had so much fun during the process and I think if you can have fun that’s super helpful. My mom was my “photography assistant” during this whole process. She came over and hung out with me all day and did dishes for me. Well, I did all my photo shoots and I think if you can …. There was definitely moments where I had a lot of stress but if you can have fun during the process it could be such a cool experience.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, if you can align the enjoyment of the thing that you’re doing as well as a hustle with the thing that you’re doing. I feel like that is kind of the ultimate project or the ultimate business or the ultimate blog where, let’s say, even if everything crashes and burns there are probably will be those points or stressful or felt like you were working hard when you could have been relaxing. But if you can look back on and say, “Throughout the process, it was fun. I enjoyed it. I was able to spend time with people that I enjoyed.” It’s still a win and it’s still a beneficial thing which I think is a great note and a great concept to wrap up on. So we’ve talked about the book, but we’ve talked about your blog. Chelsea if people want to follow along with what you’re up to, where can they do that?
Bjork Ostrom: I’ll say this before I forget if … I’ll make the plug. If people are interested. They should all go out and buy the book. But buy it by going to Amazon don’t click on the link in the show notes. Go to Amazon. Search sous vide and it’s spelt not how you think it would be. S-O-U-S V-I-D-E sous vide and then find the book and then buy it there. But in terms of following along with you online, where can people check out what you’re up to both on social and your blog?
Chelsea Cole: Awesome. I love that plug. My blog is aducksoven.com. And my Instagram is aducksoven. And then if you want to pick up my book, and if you’re interested in sous vide, it’s Everyday Sous Vide. It’s all French to me. And that’s currently available on Amazon.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome, Chelsea thanks so much for sharing your story in the podcast today.
Chelsea Cole: Thank you.
Alexa Peduzzi: Thanks so much for joining us and for tuning in this week, friend. We hope that you enjoyed this episode. And that inspired you to look into self publishing if writing your own book is one of your goals. But before we sign off, we’d like to take a second to thank our iTunes reviewer of the week, Bob. His review says, “This podcast is everything you need to know about food blogging. I’m working on launching a new food blog and would be lost without this podcast and all of the great resources from Food Blogger Pro and Pinch of Yum. What I love about the podcast is that you could listen to it while running errands, getting ready in the morning, et cetera. When you don’t have time to sit at your computer, give it a try.”
Alexa Peduzzi: Thanks so much Bob. We appreciate you tuning in and learning alongside us and we hear that a lot, that people like to multitask whenever they’re listening to the podcast so that they can learn and grow and get stuff done all at the same time. So that does it for us this week, friend, we appreciate you and we’ll see you next Tuesday. So from all of us here at FBP HQ. Make it a great week.
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