Making Money from Cook Books

Over 1,000 words detailing the 7 steps to successfully make money from cook books. #PTA

If you have read my prediction of the printed books place in the world you will know I have a soft spot for cookbooks, if not and you would like to hear the future according to me then click here. This article is a compilation of emails I have sent and received over the last two years answering questions and offering suggestions to people thinking about producing a cookbook, whether it be a personal endeavour or a fundraising activity – both follow a similar path… fundraising just has more sympathy buyers!

In publishing (which is what you are doing) there are 7 basic steps you can read about them here, but in summary:

  1. Research.
  2. Writing/ creating content.
  3. Editing.
  4. Design.
  5. Proof reading.
  6. Printing.
  7. Promotions, Marketing and Sales.

We printed a nice book for Conifer Grove School last year and they had a successful fundraising campaign. After it was all said and done they had raised approximately $10,000. That is enough to buy approximately a classroom of iPads, a helluva lot of pencils, or a reasonable school dinghy… What would you spend ten thousand dollars on?

Don’t build a million dollar house on a $300,000 street. Don’t build a $300,000 house on a million dollar street. If we apply that same logic to cookbooks, if your audience has a shelf filled with $60-$80 books in their kitchen that is probably because that is what they like… so give them what they want. 

When doing the research you need to discover two things:

  1. What sort of book will sell best to your audience, do they want to buy a $15 cheap, cheerful and useful cookbook or would they prefer to spend $60+ for a cookbook filled with full-page images on heavy paper stocks.
  2. What area would they like help or have a problem with? It could be as simple as feeling uninspired, or more specific like wanting to learn how to cook healthy Mexican food or what style of cooking is in fashion.

So we now have an understanding of your audience’s expectations and a rough market price or a target selling price so from here we can work back through some figures to see how to make your venture work. The rest of the article runs with the assumption that you have answered the audience’s question or filled a need.

Lets work out some numbers with an example.

A decile 10 School with 900 students is fundraising for new sports equipment. In research they discovered:

  • parents prefer purchasing something to help the school rather than straight donating.
  • there is a lot of interest in healthy desserts
  • most bookshelves at home include several cookbooks around the $45 mark.

They estimate they can sell approximately 900 to parents, extended family, and the community at the school gala.

First up what quality is expected from a $45 book? Potentially something like 120+ pages, 120gsm premium uncoated stock, some full-page images. Good cover printed in colour with laminate and embellishments like a silver foil. Let’s say the cost from BookPrint for this would be $12.60 (including GST) per book if ordering 500+.

I know you’re a writer so you love words… but writing is business so please make sure you appreciate the numbers. Let’s dive into the numbers.

Total sales: 2,000 * $47 = $94,000

Cost 1.            Print. $22,000

Cost 2.            Photography. $8,000.

Cost 3.            Writing. Probably completed by volunteers/you.

Cost 4.            Editing. Many levels of service available lets call it $1750.

Cost 5.             Design. Approximately $680 for the cover, $4,250 for 150 pages = $4,930.

Cost 6.            Proof reading. Many levels of service available lets call it $1000.

Total costs to having a finished product is $37,680.

Potential profits is $94,000 – $37,680 = $56,320. Random side note… if this project takes you 400 hours (that is 10 weeks!) you will have earned over $140 per hour.

Wow gold… I’m in and rich… I should sign you up right here to print your book but I couldn’t sleep at night if I sold a dream that was really only a fantasy.

Before you spend the money lets talk through a few extra points.

  1. If this is fundraising: many businesses, families, etc like to support schools through sponsorship. So set yourself a sponsorship goal of half of or all of the production costs, in our case roughly $18,840 or the whole kit and caboodle of $37,680 if you have a good network. This does two things. One… you make an extra $18,840 dollars which is… well nice. Two… It halves the risk, which is a good thing.
  2. Even if you are not fundraising you can potentially get sponsorship… you are miles ahead of someone who hasn’t done the planning. Take a look at your audience and think of a company that has a similar audience, approach them, and ask. Ask? Yes. Don’t be scared, and don’t be a dick about it either. Just go and have the conversation – be open to ideas and see what may come of it. It could be anything from them paying to advertise, buying the book off you to rebrand as their own, or perhaps they have a database of 15,000 and would love to promote it to them in a competition if you give them 10 copies to give away as prizes.
  3. You need to allow some costs of selling, whether it be advertising, Eftpos or credit card processing fees, etc.
  4. You will also need to give some copies away to a few contributors, famous people, the school principal, etc.

Okay lets rework the figures.

Lets plan on selling 1,900 books, we will give 100 away to major sponsors and significant contributors. So our new sales total is $89,300.

Sponsorship would increase this.

Lets be realistic so we will add in a selling cost of $5 per book so $10,000. Our new costs are $47,680.

So all in all we subtract $47,680 from $89,300 to end up with a profit of $41,620. I’m sure that will be appreciated… (and if it still took you 400 hours you are at an hourly rate of $104).

Warning if your book sucks you won’t be able to sell them. Then you will end up with boxes of books in the garage and be a few thousand dollars out of pocket. Don’t worry about it… just don’t produce a suck book. Get some feedback before you spend thousands of dollars – I love your mum, but don’t trust her. Ask around, ask some people that don’t really like you, strangers even. Remember though the people whose opinion matters the most are those in the ‘target audience’.

SPR: second print run or… sweeter print run.

When you sell the first 2,000, if it went well and you’re in the position to sell another 2000 the numbers get a LOT better.

New costs are:

  • printing $20,900 (at BookPrint we offer a 5% discount for reprints within 12 months)
  • selling $8000 ($4 per book as you have increased momentum)
  • design, photography, proof reading, editing… $250 to fix a few mistakes.
  • Total costs $29,150

Total sales for 2nd print run 1900*47=$89,300.

Profit from 2nd print run = $60,150 (without any sponsorship/advertising)

Total profit from print runs 1 & 2 = $101,770

I recommend you plan on doing it again and again. It gets easier each time as you develop systems and a network of people. If you are going to do this make a plan: 1st edition is Indian Kiwi Fusion, 2nd edition is Mexican Kiwi Fusion, and so on. Or 1st edition is “Example School Name Champagne Breakfasts”, 2nd edition is “Example School Name Celebratory Lunches”….

I hope this leaves you inspired, equipped with some rough example costs, and aware of the steps and calculations to work out a budget/plan and potential profit you could make.

If you have any questions or would like to have a chat please get in touch.

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