Have you ever thought of self-publishing your own book? It can be a daunting prospect to write, edit, print, market, distribute and sell your book. However, two savvy Australian women have done just that with their debut book 4 Ingredients. In the first 18 months since its release, the book has sold 720,000 copies in Australia alone. The pair now has their own television show and plan to launch the book around the world. So what’s the secret to their self-publishing success?
Rachael Bermingham and Kim McCosker have turned a simple recipe book into a brand that’s expanding around the world. Based on the premise that every recipe only contains four ingredients, it is aimed at busy people who want quick meals. Unlike many cookbooks these days, there are no artfully shot pictures – each recipe is just a list of four ingredients and a few lines about how to throw them together.Rachael talks to us at the Sydney Writers’ Centre about how they have created the self-publishing phenomenon.
It’s all in the marketing
I can be summed up in one word: marketing. Although the duo freely admits they are not chefs, they are clearly savvy marketers. In the 18 months after the book’s release, Rachael says they have spent 80 per cent of their time marketing it. This includes appearing at book signing and contacting journalists to try to get them interested in the story. These days, Rachael says they do around four press interviews per day. “Take one work-from-home mum who is a power planner with a degree in Finance – who isn’t a chef – and then take another mum who works from home, who’s a marketing strategist and motivational speaker,” starts Rachael. “Both have no cooking capabilities whatsoever and of course they go on to write Australia’s number one cookbook. It makes complete sense, doesn’t it?”
Mainstream publishers weren’t interested
Although Kim came up with the initial idea for the book, Rachael says she motivated her into action. However, they found it impossible to get mainstream publishers interested in the idea. “We just jumped on the phone and rang every publisher in Australia,” says Rachael. “They weren’t interested at all. I remember [with one publisher] I didn’t even get my full name out, they just hung up on me so it was just really disheartening to start with. “We did try to get a publisher but nobody wanted to know us so we went down the self-publishing route.” Eighteen months after the book’s release, they have sold 720,000 books – and counting. Rachael says they have been blown away by the popularity of the book. As a result, they have released a sequel: 4 Ingredients 2. “Marketing’s a powerful thing,” says Rachael. “We still market today. 80% of our business is always marketing.”
The press release that started it all
This marketing began with a press release to their local newspaper, who printed an article on the authors. “This article went into the paper and then all of a sudden, all these book stores in Brisbane had everybody coming in with this article underneath their arm saying, ‘I want this book. Can I buy this book?’ And we had calls and internet inquiries. “Marketing is the oxygen to any success in anything that you do. So I say to all your writers, if they don’t know marketing, learn it. Because it’s really important learn. If you don’t tell anybody about your good idea or your book it’s not going to happen; it’s going to sit there and just be that, a good idea. So it’s not going to be anywhere near successful.”
Following the article, the pair was soon invited on to radio and the phenomenon snowballed from there. In 2008, six television production companies knocked on their door to woo them into starring in their own show. 4 Ingredients – the TV show – ultimately screened in Australia on the Lifestyle Channel.
Book signings, travelling and promotion
The two have been hands-on in promoting their book. In 2007, they attended over 325 book signings all around Australia. “We paid and we self-funded all of our own flights, we self-funded all of our accommodation, all of our transfers, all of our car hire just to get to one book signing,” says Rachael. “And that’s before all the other expenses and all the other things that we need to do.” Although Rachael and Kim self-published in Australia, they are now fielding offers from mainstream publishers around the world. They have launched the book in New Zealand and plan to take it to the UK.
Ultimately, their success has had a lot to do with their single-minded dedication to their goal. “As they say: ‘If you shoot for the moon, you’ll still land in the stars.’ So you just need to be focused and take action into whatever dream or goal you have.”