Learning from a Cookbook Author who has Self-published with Amazon and Recently Published with Countryman Press

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I met Craig Fear in a business networking group, and after we became housemates, we also became great friends. While we no longer even live in the same state, we remain close. Craig was a skilled nutritional therapist when I met him, and he transitioned into food writing and blogging. He now has three cookbook titles to his name, the most recent being New England Soups from the Sea, published by Countryman Press. Craig is meticulous. His recipes are delicious and promote good health. I was pleased to be a taste tester for many of the recipes in the latest book. And while I did not help Craig with his manuscript, I did edit the impressive proposal that got him the agent who connected him with Countryman Press. In last week’s blog, Craig talks about how he became an author, and he tells us about his new book. In this second blog, he discusses the differences between self-publishing with Amazon and having a publisher now. (Food photos in this blog are by Lynne Graves.)

You used Amazon to publish your first two books, and you had a publisher this time. What were the pros and cons of each process?

The pros of self-publishing are that you get to keep all the profits. You don’t have to split with a publisher or book agent. I wanted a traditional publisher on this one, obviously because they have a lot more reach. You can get your book into bookstores a lot easier. Hopefully, you get a good publisher—and mine has been very good so far—so hopefully you get someone who is good with the marketing promotions as opposed to it being all on you. Generally speaking, the production was much more professional. I had a team of people putting it all together. They had the knowledge and experience on how to do all the pieces involved, such as designing the cover. There is a certain kind of respect when you go into a traditional publishing contract.

Tell us about the creation of photography for the book. How did that work?

I hired a local photographer and stylist to do the photography. The photographer was Lynne Graves, and the stylist was Ann Lewis. We did all of the photography over a three-day period at Ann’s house in Westhampton. That was a big project; I prepared two weeks ahead of time, planning which recipes I was going to make and actually making them—and making sure they were photogenic. With a soup especially, some of the ingredients will sink in and won’t be presented well.

When was your book launch, and how did you prepare for it?

The book came out on March 8. I prepared for it by doing as much as I could on my end to get the word out about the book. I’ve been doing national podcasts, looking into a few publications, and I have been blogging and working on some SEO—search engine optimization—so my recipes will show up higher in a Google search to get the word out. I had to do a sales page for my book, which I think turned out well. I did a little bit of Facebook advertising before the book was launched just to make people aware of it. Newsletters in my newsletter list. As much as I could do on my end. 

You already had a very strong online presence with your website and social media platforms. Do you think that was appealing to your agent when he read your proposal?

Agents and publishers certainly want to know your website traffic stats, newsletter size, and social media follower numbers. They also look to see how often you engage with your followers. By no means do I have a massive following, but the fact that I regularly post blogs, write newsletters, and engage on social media was certainly appealing.

How much is the publisher helping you with marketing? What is the breakdown of who does what?

They are getting the book into physical bookstores, which is not something I can do on my own. And they are finding booksellers to stock the book. They also did all the work to get the book listed on online sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and to do all that is required to stand out on those sites. They have done some online marketing as well. Also, they reach out to some podcasts and publications in the New England area to get the book featured. 

What else would you like readers of Janice’s blog to know about you and your book?

My big message in my book is that it is much more than just about soups. I’m very proud of the soup recipes. I love them. For anybody who loves seafood soups, chowders, bisques, and stews there is a little something for everyone. There is also the message of sustainability and that is important to me—to educate people on where their food is coming from.

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