The Lulu community forums are a place for authors to ask questions, share experiences, and meet people with similar interests. Occasionally, a community forum member has expertise in a specific area or an author shares a success story that piques our interest. When this occurs, we invite the writer to contribute an article for the Lulu blog.
Following the announcement in the forums that his cookbook Beyond Soul Food: Modern American Heritage Cuisine was under consideration for an Eric Hoffer First Horizon Award for excellence, I asked the author to share some of his self-publishing experiences with the Lulu community. We hope you enjoy this author-to-author advice.
-Glenn, Lulu Community Forum Manager
How I Rediscovered Myself through Self-Publishing by Richard Petty
Writing a good cookbook can be a daunting endeavor, even for a seasoned pro. My name is Richard Petty. I am a successful chef and now the author of Beyond Soul Food: Modern American Heritage Cuisine, which was recently awarded an honorable mention as a finalist for the 2012 Eric Hoffer First Horizon Award for excellence in publishing. This recognition is a high distinction for first-time authors and publishers.
Like most people, writing a book was always a dream of mine. Since I was between jobs I had the time, but the challenge was how to do it. For my book, I chose some of my favorite recipes from my long career as a chef, included a little history about the origins of each dish, and presented it in an easy-to-read format suitable for both experienced and novice cooks.
After about 36 months of hard work, I decided to use the technology and services offered by Lulu to publish the finished product. I worked closely with the Lulu team to create a clean professional look, but that was the easy part. Once I had my completed book, I began thinking “How do I market a cookbook?”
I needed help, so I enrolled in courses. One that stood out from the crowd was Inktree Marketing. They specialize in small press book marketing and have a downloadable course including step-by-step plans for retail readiness, formatting, and tips on proven marketing techniques. From that course, I learned that self-publishing is a business. You are not just an author – you must also be a marketer and salesperson. You must also be willing to invest time and money publicizing your work. In order to reach a broader audience, I invested in a marketing campaign by purchasing the Lulu Marketing Pack that included the US Review of Books, which resulted in a very positive review.
With a great review in hand, the decision was made to submit the book for any awards and reviews for which it qualified. Lots of complimentary copies of the book were also given away to the media. There were book signings and silent auctions for charity events where attendees could bid on a four-course dinner with wine pairings prepared by the author that included a copy of the book and an eReader.
I also enlisted the assistance of Steve Harrison, a publishing coach, who made it all happen. Without his guidance and direction my team and I would not have been able to do all the things required for success.
Sales were achieved by focusing on exposure rather than direct book sales. To spread the word, I did Internet radio shows, and I was invited back twice for two different shows. This strategy paid off in that the media are always looking for good stories and sometimes they have deadlines to meet, so reporters’ connections were used to pitch my cookbook – including a recent pitch to the Dr. Oz show for a healthy cooking challenge.
These are some of the techniques used to gain exposure for Beyond Soul Food: Modern American Heritage Cuisine. One of the most important things I’ve learned is that you really need a business plan. Without it you will not reach your goals. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and build a team around yourself. As a result, my cookbook has been on the Amazon Best Sellers List – Kindle Edition for over 21 weeks.
Happy publishing and good luck on your projects!
About the Author
Richard Petty was fortunate to be born into a family of great cooks in the American Midwest. Later in life, he discovered a passion for cooking while traveling in the South that eventually lead him to the California Culinary Academy. Following his studies he worked at One Market Restaurant (San Francisco), Pinot Bistro (Los Angeles), the Beverly Hills Inn, and Wolfgang Puck’s Café. Prior to authoring his first cookbook, Petty was Executive Chef at Reign Restaurant in Beverly Hills. For more information about the author, go to http://www.beyondsoulfood.com.
To get your own copy of his award-winning cookbook, check out Chef Petty’s Author’s Spotlight page on Lulu.com.