Pros and Cons of Crowdfunding a Cookbook

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This article is excerpted from the 2016 IACP Spring Digital Media Newsletter. Read the full newsletter here.

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Last October, with one previous cookbook under my belt (The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook, Harvard Common Press 2013) and a goal to launch both a second book and a whole new food-related publishing company, I hit the “Launch” button and embarked on a 30-day crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.

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After an intense month, I had exceeded my funding goal, raising more than $21,000 from 400 amazing supporters. I officially released The 8×8 Cookbook: Square Meals for Weeknight Family Dinners, Desserts and More—In One Perfect 8×8-Inch Dish on December 1, 2015 on Amazon and other online retailers, and independent bookstores across the country are now stocking it as well. The book recently received the Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book (Nonfiction) at the 2016 Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Benjamin Franklin Awards.

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Launching The 8×8 Cookbook on Kickstarter was, on the whole, a very positive experience for me and one I would venture into again. But there are also a few challenges that I think anyone considering a campaign should think through. Here are what I see as the pros and cons of crowdfunding a cookbook:


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The most obvious benefit to crowdfunding is money. If your campaign is successful you get a bucket of money at the end to put toward your project. I can’t think of too many better ways for a startup business to raise a lot of money in a short period of time without giving away equity (which is actually against Kickstarter’s rules) or going into debt.

Word of Mouth Advertising


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Beyond just a funding source, my Kickstarter also served as a marketing campaign for my new book and business. More importantly, it was a limited-time campaign, which encouraged people to take action. The family and friends who were my initial backers logged on to Facebook, Twitter and other social media and helped me spread the word. Many took “word of mouth” quite literally, cooking my dishes at home for their friends! Seeing support from people who didn’t know me at all yet wanted to see my project come to fruition truly warmed my heart.

Proof of Concept

“Will it sell?” That’s the big question any publisher considers before green-lighting a project. Thanks to crowdfunding, I had affirmation before I went to print.

Nearly 700 copies of the book were in the hands of my supporters by the time The 8×8 Cookbook was officially available for sale. In the course of executing the Kickstarter campaign, I had essentially tested the appetite (pun intended) for a book of family-friendly recipes to make in your “brownie pan.” The concept, it turned out, had an audience. If I had struggled to find support for the book, that would have also been valuable market feedback and likely saved me from furthering my investment.


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It’s All or Nothing

I’d say the biggest downside to attempting to crowdfund through Kickstarter is that, after all of your best efforts, it’s possible you’ll wind up with no money raised at all (you may even lose money, as there are costs associated with running a campaign). With Kickstarter, it’s all or nothing – you need to reach your funding goal in order to receive the pledges.

I thought long and hard about how much money I thought I could raise. The Type A MBA in me modeled a few different scenarios in a spreadsheet, but there was no way to know what would be a realistic goal. I estimated that I needed around $25,000 to break even on my costs (see my cost breakdown here), but I felt more confident that I could reach a goal of $20,000. I guess my spreadsheet came through for me because I ended up clearing my goal with just a few days to spare in my campaign. I was very anxious in those final days, to say the least!

Crowdfunding, to me, is a highly effective way to raise money and to promote and test the market for a cookbook. It’s not without risk, and it’s most definitely a ton of work. Even if the campaign isn’t financially successful, there is still much to learn through the process of building support for your project.

Margaret Crable

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