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When people think of a successful book they tend to think of a best selling, famous novel like the Harry Potter series or Da Vinci Code. However, there are many ways of defining success for a book, not just in terms of profit made or amount sold.
I refer to cookbooks as a Monetizing cookbook, Marketing cookbook or Viral cookbook, depending on what it is trying to accomplish. These aren't exclusive goals, and I tend to think of them on a spectrum. However, you need to focus on a book goal since there are several mutually exclusive decisions you have to make. Due to these trade-offs inherent in the different goals, how you define success for your cookbook will impact many of your decisions during the book publishing process.
Monetizing cookbooks are all about making money and maximizing the profit they earn. Decisions are made with a mind towards how the bottom line will be affected. If a feature of the book will not increase the bottom line, then it's probably not worth implementing. For example, it might be better to use a slightly lower quality printer if it is less expensive or faster to work with. Maybe a black and white book will suffice instead of cutting your royalty in half with color.
Pricing should be set as high as possible to maximize the royalties, even at the loss of of some customers. I.e. it's better to sell 10 books a month at $50 each than 20 books at $20.
One thing I'd like to strongly state is that publishing a Monetizing cookbook does not mean producing a low quality, shoddy book that readers will not enjoy. I think one key to maximizing the profit of a book is to over-deliver to your customers, leaving them happy and wanting more books from you in the future.
Viral cookbooks have one purpose, to spread an idea into the world. They are designed to sell, or give away, copies and to effectively communicate the ideas inside them. Whether you have a great cooking or health idea, or just a passion you feel needs a champion, a Viral cookbook is all about sharing it.
Similar to a Monetizing cookbook, decisions to reduce the quality, or leave out extraneous features that would increase the cost of the book must be considered. The less you charge for the book the more copies it will sell, (at least within reason, go too low and people may think it is low quality). With a Viral cookbook it's much better to sell 30 books at $10 each than 10 books at $50, even though you're leaving money on the table you are getting your ideas into the hands of more people.
Viral cookbooks can also be easily made into ebooks and sold for $1 or even given away on many devices, further spreading your ideas.
Marketing cookbooks are all about one thing - promotion. Whether the promotion is for you, your blog, or an organization you represent, a Marketing cookbook is designed to wow the readers and showcase your skills.
There are many reasons to create a Marketing cookbook. Some people create a cookbook to attract a traditional publisher. Many recipe developers or food photographers can use a Marketing cookbook as a portfolio to send to clients. Bloggers often work with large brands to promote their products and having a great looking cookbook can do wonders to seal the deal with potential companies.
For Marketing cookbooks, the price of the book isn't nearly as important as ensuring that it is designed to wow the group you are marketing to. Some Marketing cookbooks may never be sold, only sent to prospective clients as marketing material.
As mentioned above, the cookbook goals are more of a spectrum than an absolute definition. You may want to mainly spread your ideas with a Viral cookbook but still want to make money off of it. Or you may want to maximize the profit of a Monetizing book while ensuring you have something worthy to market your skills with as well. The three definitions are really just a way to frame your decision making, and remind you of why you're creating the book.
I find it can be helpful to assign percentages to the goals. For instance, most of my books are 70% Monetizing, 25% Viral, and 5% Marketing. I make most of my decisions around the profit and cost of the book, but I do sacrifice some short-term profit in order to be more viral. Of course, that's mainly because I believe having a wider exposure will lead to more long term sales.