After traditionally publishing two cookbooks through Rodale and Ten Speed, Hank Shaw wanted a third. But when publishers passed on a cookbook based on “Deer, Elk, Moose, Antelope and Other Antlered Things,” Hank gambled on his readers. He decided to self publish.
He knew there was an audience for Buck, Buck, Moose: 14 million deer hunters in North America, for starters.
Now, as his astonishing book tour around the US begins, he’s setting out to meet his readers on his own dime. He began promotions after Labor Day and will continue into early next year.
I emailed with Hank, whom I’ve known for years, just as his book was coming out.
Here’s how he decided whom to target, why to meet them, and why he self-published a cookbook specifically for deer hunters:
Q. Why are you doing such an extensive book tour? Do you need to see people in person versus online events?
A. Online events don’t do much for me. I already talk with my readers daily online (his Facebook fan page audience alone numbers around 50,000 — DJ). It’s getting to see them, to meet in person, especially people I’ve corresponded with — sometimes for years online –that thrills me.
I do these tours because they help the success of the book. They are news events and generate media, which introduces me to new people all the time. I’ve begun strong friendships this way, and I hope that continues.
Q. What is the benefit of writing to a specific audience versus “everyone?”
A. I am not terribly interested in “everyone.” My world revolves around wild foods, and most people have little connection to that. Sure, I’d love for more people to develop such a connection, and it is indeed part of what I work toward. But let’s face it: No one is buying venison at the grocery store.
This book is for what I call the Venison Diaspora. There are 14 million deer hunters in North America, and three to five times as many people who receive venison from one of those hunters. I mean yeah, you can use lamb or bison or even beef for my recipes in Buck, Buck, Moose, but that’s not the point.
2. Why do you think you raised so much money on Kickstarter? You knew your readers would support you?
I have my friends and Hunter Angler Gardener Cook Nation to thank for it. My readers responded when I needed them. I actually cried a little when I saw them make my initial $30,000 goal in just 19 hours. That support alone has made this project worth it.
3. Would you want to go back to a traditional publisher next time?
Ha! Ask me in March. Right now everything is so hard. So many little crises and fires to put out, I am bleeding cash. It’s overwhelming.
Now is the worst part… I think. I am just now getting to invoicing customers outside of Kickstarter, and everyone who supported me in the Kickstarter is in the process of getting their books. Once it settles down, where I am just dealing with orders, shipping, invoicing and such, that’s the gravy. But I have to get there first.
The reward for all this financially is a lot more money per book sold. I am earning twice as much per book now as I would with a traditional publisher.
5. What was the hardest part of publishing your own book?
The learning curve.
I knew this would be hard. There were a lot of known unknowns, which makes a control freak like me stabby. But it was the unknown unknowns that hit me hardest: logistics, taxes, corporate structure, distribution, the language of the printing business, design, and the agonizing voodoo of how many books to print. All of it gave me agita.
Hell, the book tour, hard as it is, feels like a relief in comparison.
Nice interview Dianne, as always. Hank is a great guy, met and talked with him at a few conferences. Gutsy move on his part but I bet (and hope) it pays off huge for him. He’s definitely got the tribe to make this work. Love that cover photo on the new book. The whole book tour thing is (as you know) one I am wondering about. Does it pay off in more book sales for the time and cost of going? Did it pay off on his other books? Did he do as extensive a tour? Hank, if you read this, please let know your thoughts. Getting out and talking with people fat to face, developing those relationships, is fun, but grueling too I imagine.
I think he’s motivated by the number of books he will sell in these face-to-face meetings. I remember him saying that he was hoping for 35 minimum. We’ll see if that turns out!
Angela Billows says
I hope Hank will think of coming to the UK sometime soon. We have lots of venison and game (squirrel) where I live in Shropshire and we need his inspiration! I’m sure his visit would be a great success!!
Hah. Yes, I didn’t see anything about trips to Canada yet either, where there is a huge hunting culture, especially in British Columbia, where I grew up.