(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 crowd funded 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.
After receiving an email from Jenny McGruther alerting me to their successful Kickstarter project, I interviewed Falconi about self-publishing and raising money:
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.)
I heard about this project weeks ago and I am so excited about it. Both women are so talented and they’re from my area. Thanks for writing about this inspiring Kickstarter success story!
Me too! My proofreader husband got so excited he made me buy the book immediately, which I was procrastinating about.
Love this use of Kickstarter! Of course, I wish they’d paid themselves with the fundraising, but this certainly offers a new model for publishing. Wishing them much success — with lots of copies signed and sold so that they can get a generous cut, too!
Yes, it remains to be seen whether they raise enough to pay themselves something. I read somewhere that the average book takes about $250k to publish through traditional channels. I hope that’s not true in their case.
Jennifer Cockrall-King says
Thanks so much for posting this. Jennifer Schell, an Okanagan writer, has done the same in Kelowna, albeit on a smaller scale. I think this might be a new bright spot of hope in publishing. Good for these two. And yes, I’m completely in love with the look of this book already. I think I need to ante up and hopefully get a copy.
I imagine these two are not the first, but they seem to have done it right. I just tried to Google Jennifer and couldn’t find the book. If you have a link, let me know. Thanks Jennifer.
Nicole Hunn says
I hadn’t hear a whisper of this, Dianne. I’m so glad to see someone doing Kickstarter in an ethical way – it is clear that their main focus is preselling their book. The proliferation of Kickstarter campaigns that are barely accountable to their supporters had soured me on the whole thing (which is a severe understatement in an effort to be polite). I’m really glad to see this project and its runaway success – and I do think they should pay themselves! I’m sure they’ll be able to, though, in time. Innovation at its best! This will be my very first time supporting anything at all on Kickstarter. Thanks, Dianne.
Me too, Nicole. I am skeptical of Kickstarter too, but now I feel a little better about it. What helps is that the co-authors had solid offerings for your money. I know that for $38 I will get a book sent to me. It’s not much of a risk at that level. It’s different than people who want to open a store or start a company.
Nicole Hunn says
Exactly, Dianne! And much different from people who ask you to give money purely for the pleasure of seeing them create something like a book, without offering anything much more than a pat on the back in return – unless you give them very large sums.
Jayne Georgette says
Thanks Dianne for the info. And now I am too, the proud owner of the signed book. Back in my pharmaceutical years, I was the ghostwriter of a herbal book. It was a dry listing of over 200 plants and the emphasis was on therapeutic effects; no comparison to this, what appears to be a beautiful, educational and useful cookbook.
I believe that it will be highly successful. We are all seeking “going back to nature” after all these years of chemicals, imitations and unpronounceable ingredients.
I am so excited, can’t wait for June.
Thanks Dianne, Jayne
Wonderful, Jayne! Good for you for chipping in. I always learn something new when you post — I had no idea you ghostwrote a book on herbs.
Lisa Waldschmidt says
What a beautiful book. The illustrations are wonderful. I love to hear these kind of success stories.
It is inspiring, isn’t it? Makes you think about your own dreams and whether they are possible.
Martha Hopkins says
Power to the foragers! Love this post! And man, what a talented illustrator. You appear to have already kicked it out of the ballpark, and I’m so very, very happy for you.
This book’s success is another example of good idea, good timing, boatloads of hard work, and healthy dose of good luck. (Being Kickstarter of the Day and a Staff pick added a level of discoverability that may have made The Difference in this book succeeding and failing.)
I wish you well!
What a lovely message, Martha. Dina called me today and said they’re up over $100K now, so I agree, more power to them.
What a beautiful project both physically and literally. I supported the project and am very excited to receive a signed copy of the book in June. I love to take foraging adventures and can’t wait to bring this book on the next one ~ after June of course. Thank you for sharing!
My pleasure. I too look forward to perusing the book and taking in all the gorgeous drawings. It’s pretty big – might be a bit unwieldy on foraging trips.
Maureen C. Berry says
Foraging & Feasting looks amazing! I want!
I went to Kickstarter a few weeks ago to see what types of publishing opportunities are there and was impressed by some of the non-book successes. I love the idea and the creativity Kickstarter offers.
I agree with you about the possibly of fulfilling my dreams in a nontraditional approach. I have to believe it can happen. And I do.
Thank you for sharing this info.
Sure, Maureen. Maybe there’s a Kickstarter project in your future.
Maureen C. Berry says
I’m so excited! I just funded the F & F project for the first edition signed book. This is also the first time I backed at Kickstarter project. Can’t wait until June.
Yay! Wonderful, Maureen. I’m sure they appreciate it.
Susan Cooper says
WOW, I love the story she paints about this project. It gives me hope that I just might have a chance at publishing my illustrated short story collection. They are the most popular of all my blog posts.
Could be. Now you’ve got a template to see how it’s done…successfully.
I have been searching for just such a book! Thank you for this post – it has made my day. I am now a proud Kickstarter supporter for this beautiful book. I can’t wait to see mine in the mail. And I can’t wait to start eating my Daylilies!
Oh how wonderful, Karen. Eating day lilies seems weird, but I know I have eaten lily buds in Chinese food, and they were good. I’d eat the ones in my garden if they were grown from organic seeds.
This looks like a fascinating and beautiful book and now I have to go over and check it out! Thanks for sharing, Dianne. I am curious to know what the authors think about whether or not having a first book out before undertaking the kickstarter and self-publishing adventure was an advantage? Would this work for a first time author? I know a well-published and well-known chef/author used Kickstarter to finance a reprint of one of his books that his publisher apparently couldn’t afford to republish. I find this concept fascinating and I love that it really does put the buyer in a special position of actually being a part of the project.
Dina Falconi says
Thanks for you kind words about the book.
I think the experience of having already written a book (Earthly Bodies & Heavenly Hair) gave me the confidence to write “Foraging & Feasting”. The territory was familiar. Although the scope of this new book brought me to new ground.
Having a published book also lends more credence to this new book. Folks are more likely to pre-buy a book knowing I’ve succeeded once before.
Self-publishing is a whole other adventure. Wendy and I are co-publishers of “Foraging & Feasting” and this requires another set of skills: business, marketing, production coordination (design, layout. etc.), and distribution (which we continue to learn about).
So would this work for a first time author? For sure. The learning curve will be steep but worth it.
I too love how the Kickstarter backers hold a special position, helping actualize the project with their support.
La Torontoise says
Dianne, so inspirational…
Thank you! So glad you enjoyed the post.
What a great story – and what a gorgeous book! I’m tempted to order it & I’m not even from North America, so the plants won’t be relevant to where I live! I have only just heard about Kickstarter (my daughter was speaking about it yesterday) – it certainly looks like a game-changer for some.
It is, isn’t it? Perhaps you have many of the same plant in Australia?
You’ll have to enquire if there’s a method for shipping books internationally. I didn’t see one on the site.
Re Kickstarter, I don’t know if non-US people can start a campaign. Probably not. You’ll have to look for the Australian version, or start one, Amanda!