Due to my husband's health, we closed our 50+ year old restaurant in January 2013. I have been debating between making a cookbook of the favorite recipes from the restaurant, or hiring a company to make three or four of our most popular and unique items for public sale. Where do I start looking for the companies to help with either project and what are the realities of any success in this next endeavor?
– Sue Kobold, Owner-Operator, Mickel’s Family Restaurant, Harlan, Iowa
This week I’ll tackle the cookbook part of your question and save the food product development question for a future column.
Whether you go with a commercial publisher or a self-publication, the key question any cookbook publisher will ask—and that you should ask yourself—is whether Mickel’s is a sufficient platform to attract sales. With over fifty years of restaurant patrons, is there sufficient community, and a way to reach that community, to make your efforts worthwhile? Similarly, are your recipes or is your approach unique or compelling enough to attract foodies, chefs, or general readers who may not even have heard of your restaurant?
Clare Pelino, a Philadelphia-based cookbook agent says, “There are many variables to think about when deciding to publish a book. If the restaurant is closed, a large publisher will need to know if there is still an audience for the book. To self-publish can be costly, but you will have control of what you make. If there is an audience that you can sell to directly, then self-publishing may be a good way to go. Of course if you do begin a line of products, that will make you more appealing to a publisher (showing you are still in demand) and also will serve as a vehicle to help promote and sell the book if you self-publish.”
To start, draft a brief proposal to run by friends, former guests and potential agents and publishers to see if this is a concept that excites them—and that they would pay for. If it is, flesh it out into a full proposal and decide whether you are going to go this on your own or through a commercial publisher. More on deciding whether to self-publish or go with a traditional publisher here.