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Self-Publishing Moms Series: Interview with Cooking With Trader Joe’s, Wona Miniati

For Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati, co-authors of Cooking With Trader Joe’s, the book was a natural extension of three things they love:  good food, cooking and Trader Joe’s.  While shopping at Trader Joe’s, they often overheard people asking about how to prepare some of the more unusual ingredients. This cookbook was their response. Their advice: don’t self-publish unless you truly love what you’re doing. Both are moms.  Deana has 2 kids, ages 6 and 7 and Wona has 2 kids, ages 3 & 5. As moms, they agree that energy expended often outweighs the financial rewards.


What inspired you to self-publish, and why now?

We knew we had a hot idea on our hands, and we were eager to get our Trader Joe's cookbook on the market before someone else had the same idea.  This urgency to get the book to market quickly was the main reason we decided to self-publish.  Coincidentally, we were both at the stage in our lives where we were seeking more flexibility in our careers, and starting our own publishing business seemed like the perfect fit.

How long was it in the works? How long did it take from start to publication?

At the time we began work on the cookbook, we both had full-time jobs and worked late evenings and solid weekends to get the manuscript done.  It took us 6 months to finish the book, including design, layout, editing, and photography.  We work fast!  To be fair, we had most of the content in our back pockets, since our cooking had naturally evolved to incorporate clever shortcuts from Trader Joe's.  So we had an advantage in that much of the content had already been gathered over time, and it was just a matter of putting it all on paper.


What about the actual printing? How did you handle that?

We found a reputable printing company to print our books internationally.  The first 10,000 books were delivered to Deana's garage.  She had to learn to operate a forklift to maneuver all those pallets of books when they arrived!  Now, 3 years later, we have 100,000 copies of that first book in print, and 30,000 copies in print of our 2nd book.

So you have a printed book, but what happens next?

Getting the printed book is the easy part.  What comes next is the hard part - selling!  The toughest part about self-publishing is getting distribution.  When our book first came out, the only place it was available for sale was our own website, and our first customers were our friends and family.  We worked tirelessly to promote the book and obtain mentions in local newspapers, and this investment in PR paid off.  Our books are now stocked nationally by all major bookstores and top distributors.

What advice would you offer moms who are trying to start their own venture or book project while juggling everything else?

1. Make sure you have a marketable idea before investing time and money into producing a book.  Ask yourself, "Who would buy this book, and why is this concept unique or superior to similar books in the market?"  If you're unsure but are still eager to write a book, test your idea with eBooks and on-demand-printing, so that you're not risking huge sums of money, paying for a large printing.

2. Create a realistic schedule and budget your time.  Break the project down into manageable chunks, and give yourself deadlines for each milestone.  Having attainable goals and deadlines will keep the project from feeling overwhelming.  Carve out specific days or times that you will dedicate to work on your book project.  Otherwise, you'll never find the time to work on your book.

3. Most importantly, don't do it unless you truly love it.  Publishing isn't a very lucrative business, so finances shouldn't be the primary reason you're writing a book.  If you happen to hit editorial gold, hallelujah, but you'll enjoy the process more if you take up the project because you truly love the work.

Is it worth all the work?

Self-publishing is a LOT of work, there's no doubt about it.  On top of constant promotion and marketing (which you'd have to do whether you self-publish or sign up with a large publisher), there are other tasks such as invoicing, customer service, fulfillment, etc. which can distract you from the core function of writing books.  Additionally, self-publishing requires that you put up the upfront investment for book design, layout, and printing.  The advantages are that you have full creative control of the editorial process, can move much more quickly, and enjoy higher margins.  For us, the trade-off has been worthwhile, and it has been an exciting journey striking it out on our own.

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