(Disclosure: After working on this post, I bought this cookbook. I love foraging and viewing beautiful images of plants, and these two women impressed me. If you wish to do the same, act now, as time is running out.)
Herbalist Dina Falconi teaches people about plants, herbs and foraging in the wild, and has done so for about 30 years. Now that foraging for edible plants is trendy, she decided the time is right for a cookbook. As the writer of Earthly Bodies & Heavenly Hair, a recipe book for body care products published in 1998 from a small press, Falconi knew about the process.
Her book idea took shape about three years ago, when Wendy Hollender, a professional illustrator, moved to Falconi’s New York neighborhood. Falconi asked Hollender if she wanted to ilustrate a cookbook on foraging and feasting. “With her skills, I could direct her art to be educational for foragers,” she said. Falconi became the concept person and art director, and they started work.
Now she and Wendy are co-publishers of the forthcoming Foraging and Feasting cookbook, which is accepting funds on Kickstarter until March 10, 2013. Currently their project has raised almost $100,000.
Q. Why did you decide to self-publish this gorgeous botanical cookbook, rather than go through traditional publishers?
A. My publisher is not actively promoting my first book, yet it continues to sell. That planted the seed. I realized I’m the one who keeps the momentum going for what I do, and that creates sales.
I had a friend who raised thousands of dollars on Kickstarter early on, to have money to research a book. I supported his project back then. Kickstarter creates momentum, so you create interest and it spreads like wildfire. It’s a great PR tool and a great way to gauge public interest. We are using it to presell the book.
Q. How did you come up with a budget of $25,000? You say it is only for production and printing costs. What about payment for the two of you?
A. Wendy and I have worked for no pay on this book for the last three years. We put a low number on Kickstarter to reduce our risk. You need a low enough amount because if you don’t make it, you don’t get anything at all. The $25,000 is not the cost of the book, but a starting point. We’re still working on the actual budget. Even when we receive the money, we’re going to use it for printing and production, and we probably won’t pay ourselves anything.
Q. Were you surprised that close to 1500 people are willing to pay $38 for a signed copy of your book before it’s even printed?
A. I’m not surprised. I’m thrilled about it and I explained to Wendy that this could become very popular. It’s a peak moment in wild foods so there’s a potential for this book. I’ve felt very optimistic about this project. There’s a sense that we’re riding the waves.
Q. What if a big publisher contacts you now, based on your success?
A. The book is almost ready. It’s laid out, and ready to go to print in April. We put the Kickstarter page up at the tail end. What would a publisher offer us?
The other thing is that there’s something so satisfying about being engaged in the whole journey and not handing it over.
Q. How did people find out about your Kickstarter page?
A. It was a combination of Wendy’s and my contacts through our work. Both of us put out a bulk email of people connected to our world. Then we created a Facebook page and got good momentum going. Our regional community is very supportive, and our regional magazines and newspapers wrote about the book project.
Kickstarter itself has been incredibly effective. They supported our project by making it a Project of the Day and a Staff Pick, which means they sent it to all their people. That day was frickin’ outrageous! The money went up $5,000 in one hour. I thought it was a joke.
Q. What is your message to writers who want to self publish?
A. I’m an educator and I have a wish to share information, so the book came from that. I had a feeling that this book needs to come out. This method felt appropriate, because the book is about grassroots eating, relocalizing and empowering people.
So think about why you want to do it. The project has to have meaning for you whether it sells or not. Self publishing is not easy, but if you have the time to focus on it when no one’s paying you in advance, it’s a great way to go.
(All images appear courtesy of the co-authors.)