Category Archives: Uncategorized

Building Oneself In The Book Business

Rock 'n' Roll baby
Geoff Castle’s 2013 Celtic Xmas Concert in Anacortes, WA – photo courtesy of Chris Terrell

Lately I focused some of my time on studying how to build oneself in the business of self-publishing books — in other words, marketing.

When it comes to gaining attention, my knowledge-base was born out of the music industry — promoting bands, representing albums, and selling my services as a solo Highland bagpiper for people’s life events ranging from weddings to retirement parties and of course funerals.  I applied this DIY gumption and (albeit subtly) my rock ‘n’ roll marketing approach to period of my business when I was producing baked goods, and I have been continuing this into this new endeavour of writing and self-publishing recipe books.

E-Readers

thumbs up for the e-reader
Thanks Aleta!

As you will recall from my 07Nov2017 blog post, an online friend — Aleta — generously offered to send one of her earlier e-readers to me.  She wanted to support my plan to turn my first recipe book into an e-reader edition, and it helps to have a device to view your work as you are converting your book file into an e-reader file.  As I have been learning about the conversion process I have also started learning about other authors publishing and marketing their e-books.  Much to this voracious reader’s joy I have also learned about free e-books!  Among these I have found books and articles on marketing.  This morning I read a marketing article that enhanced both thoughts and plans I already had…

How to Turn your Book into 18 STREAMS of Income
by Kary Oberbrunner

Kary Oberbrunner
Kary Oberbrunner … we haven’t met.

Go-getters, movers and shakers, creative people, and artist have at least two things in common — we all have great ideas to work from and we all make mistakes.  When we learn from our mistakes or learn about mistakes to avoid and-how we all grow!

Kary Oberbrunner’s article “How to Turn your Book into 18 STREAMS of Income” points out marketing mistakes for writers to avoid (like thinking of books as business cards) along with options and opportunities that they may have not realized.  Some of what Mr. Oberbrunner presents in his article I am already familiar with and is parallel to my direction — other elements have shown me new ideas or ways to think differently about things I already know.

His main focus in this article is for writers to turn their books into an income stream.  One morsel — section 2 on ebooks, suggesting why most (every?) author should turn their printed book into an e-book — particularly resounded with my plans and I had an AH-HA! moment.  The gist of the writing was …

“Ebooks are as close as your smartphone. You can read an ebook while standing on a subway, sitting in a doctor’s office, or waiting in line at the grocery store.”

Relative to my recipe book everything before ‘grocery store’ made sense once I read ‘grocery store.

baking books
Recipe Books — JOY JOY JOY!

Folks haul their phones everywhere, and often folks with e-readers haul them everywhere, too.  They might have 100+ books on their e-reader but they don’t haul 100 books everywhere.  Most of the books I have put on my phone duplicate to my e-reader and vice versa.

While I have queried and found that most people prefer to NOT cook or bake working from recipes on an e-screen, it could still be beneficial to have your recipes — or preferably My Recipes (<– I am not above shameless self promotion) — on your phone or e-reader.   Folks don’t haul all their recipe books to work where they think about what they are going to make for dinner, and then haul those books to the grocery store where they double check ingredients they are going to buy.

The big AH-HA! I had was…

I had already planned to convert my book to an e-book, but now I am thinking — PLEASE put my recipe book on your electronic device.  If you don’t want to work in the kitchen from an electronic screen, I understand — to each their own — but bring it with you when you shop, or when you are going to be thinking about what you’re going to make for your friends or family.  Or what you might make for the hottie  in the accounting department at work whom you just landed a date with!

Does it make sense for me to convert my recipe book to an e-book?

OH YEAH!

All things Kary Oberbrunner

Kitchen Tips – Yours & Mine

Do you ever find yourself in your kitchen making something tasty thinking to yourself “You know, that one thing that I do in my kitchen is a good idea and other people would benefit from knowing about it.”?  Yeah, me too.  Well, here’s your chance!

Over this past weekend while doing a little baking I thought of something I might add to my current in-process baking book — KITCHEN TIPS!  What’s a Kitchen Tip?  Well, one of my ideas — and I would hope this should be obvious — is to always keep your oven mitts or hot pads in a consistent place so you’re not scrambling for them when the timer rings.  I thought up & wrote down about another 5 and then I thought “ENGAGE YOUR PUBLIC” — so……..

WHAT ARE YOUR BAKING-RELATED KITCHEN TIPS?  Comment below ….. yes, I’m actually going to allow comments for once.  These would be suggestions related to setting up your kitchen for baking or around the process of baking (etc).  Write your tips, hints, & ideas here — they might get included in my baking book!

“Collect your cookie crumbs – they go great on top of ice cream! For best results, serve soon.” Marion C. – Milwaukee, WI”.

If I publish your idea I will try to let you know in advance.  Also, I would like to put your name & location as written above.  Now, I should also say — while I like this idea for my book, I’m not sure how I might include them.  My original idea was to disperse these notes throughout my tome but that doesn’t fit with my mental image of the contents – so these might end up as their own section instead.

Submit your ideas & you just might get your name in print!
Enjoy ~ Don

WIBC Change Announcement

Yesterday was a big day, and today has been at least as big.

Around November 2015 I came to realize a number of issues for me/WIBC to continue doing business as it has during the past year+.  To this end, I identified that I wanted to keep going with a baking business in a different form and would need to cease my production of baked goods.  Yesterday & today I informed the managers of the various businesses WIBC sells product through, and today I’ve made my first general-public announcements.  It is my aim to transition (or in business language “pivot”) WIBC into a company that is about baking & other food preparation.

A number of things have gone very well for WIBC as a production baking company – particularly for being in business just over a year.  Of these attributes I have brand & product recognition, a loyal customer base, and the company has broken even.  The challenges, on the other hand, are numerous – and every new business has these – and as a small business owner you keep your chin up, eyes forward, and you constantly exercise your resourcefulness muscle.

In my case & for WIBC, there are a few primary issues and myriad secondary issues.  More than anything, based on hard data & my objective considerations, the company is not making enough money to be able to grow both as a company and to where I can help provide people in my community with much needed employment (these are related).  Additionally I have found the demands of this particular form of business to be very ‘grindstone’ – my passion for cooking lays in creating recipes and sharing the enjoyment of good food with others, and the labour involved in mass production leaves little time for any of this.

As said, I look to turn WIBC into a company ‘about food’ sharing my passion for creating recipes & the enjoyment of good food – but what does this mean & how do I intend to do it?

My plan is to start with producing cookbooks* and grow into presenting cooking videos and classes.  Since my November awareness I have started work on my first cookbook and I am PLEASED to say that this is already going very well!  At present it will feature the recipes for all WIBC products along with the recipes I had intended to bring to market – around 50 or more recipes along with other interesting beverage & cooking to-dos.

Some individuals may view the changes I am making to WIBC as meaning that the company has somehow failed or been unsuccessful – that would be a mistake, short sighted, and even to say dismissive.  In no way do I consider the past year, three months and three days to be in any way bad, in error, or failed – horrendously challenging at times, sure, however never unsuccessful**.  I am glad to have tried my hand at making a production baking company; I believe I have developed as an individual, a professional, and as a business person.  Also important to me, given the ingredients I chose to use and not use in my WIBC products, is having to helped further the local food movement both in content & concept.  From these past 428 days I have many experiences that I am grateful for and will always remember.

In practical terms ceasing production is relatively easy – on the day I determine as my last I will discontinue baking & deliveries, pack up my kitchen supplies and go home.  On a personal level however, while I see ‘brighter horizons’ ahead, stopping what I have been doing is not without difficulty – I have a lot of time invested in WIBC, enthusiasm for the products I have brought to market, and the relationships that I have built with others are significant to me.  While I am not closed to the idea of some day re-launching as a production baking company – it all depends on where my ‘about food’ cookbook-etc approach to WIBC leads and what looks like I will enjoy doing.  In the mean time as an accent to the new direction of WIBC I may consider re-launching as a cottage business – for now, however, my focus is on everything ahead & I am excited however about what I’m going toward.

As I worked toward launching WIBC I referred to the Journey song “Don’t Stop Believin’”.  I had a dream of launching a baking business – and I’ve done it!  Now it’s just changing.  I am thankful for the support I have received from my customers – individuals who I share the view with that food should be tasty, healthy, and made locally – and I am grateful for the loving support my friends & family gave me when I started this venture and that they continued to give me when I said that I am looking to modify WIBC.  I will be pleased to have each of you join me as WIBC grows in this new direction.

Don’t Stop Believing – I still do!

All the Best, Don
Whidbey Island Baking Company – Owner & Soon-To-Be Author

* Before anyone (else) says something about the amount of effort and the years of work it takes for a company to begin to see a profit OR that you don’t make any money off of writing – trust me, I know already.

** Consider what I have done leading up to and during this production period of my business…

  • Founded a business with name, logo, and image
  • Developed & brought to market an array of original products
  • Established brand & product recognition in the market
  • Website development & online marketing
  • Managed all financial aspects of the company including purchasing, accounting, and taxes
  • Cultivated personal business relations with outside companies
  • Lead my business & support staff to markets & sales events
  • Contributed to local food banks & connected with military service personnel & their families by offering a military discount

Transparency (Ltd.)

(21March2015)

Transparency – more & more this seems to becoming a popular word. For me it came to mind in the wake of my recent meeting Tom Trimbath – a local writer & good character I have been getting to know more and more. I mentioned a few things going with my baking, business, and ideas and Tom – being an ideas-guy like me – kept on saying “There’s a good topic for a blog!” So let’s give “transparency” a go here…

What follows really isn’t anything new – these are things I talk about having to do with my business plans and products, just in one spot. I’ll add that these are things I’m pleased to talk about – and this, for me, is an especially good time to get into it with expanding my product line and as I’m just starting to see signs of my company taking a foothold.

Expanding Product Line
In the past months I’ve talked & written online about expanding my product line. Largely this has come from learning more about biscotti. Prior to going into business making a couple of batches at home was no big deal, but when you’re making a dozen or more in a day commercially you become distinctly aware of how labor-intensive big-scale biscotti is by comparison to many (or ‘most’) other cookies. Biscotti remains a joy for me to make and I predict it will continue as my ‘hood ornament’ product, however I need my company to be effective and prosperous so I’ve needed to find & expand into products that are more efficient to produce. Just before getting my business license nearly a year ago I had to decide on a name. I knew I wanted to have a local reference and be clear in the title what it is that I do. For a short amount of time that was Whidbey Island Biscotti Company, until a friend and I identified that I shouldn’t limit myself and that ‘Baking’ would be wiser. This fit too because I always figured I would eventually expand into other products – just not quite this soon.

Character Of WIBC Products
I consider my baked goods to be ‘real food’. What I mean by that is I am making what you would make at home, just in a commercial setting and in larger supply. If you want to understand this further, please look at the ingredients found on my labels – I’m additionally pleased to list these on this site. While you will find listings of some preservatives &/or flavor enhancers, these are in the original ingredients – I do not, however, add artificial preservatives or flavor enhancers. The preservatives I do use – in a manner of speaking – are butter and sugar. As for flavor enhancers, only pure extracts. Given my recipes, I will not tell you that I am making health food, but I believe I am making healthier food. As my company and product line grows it is my intention to keep this standard of quality & characteristics. Also, my products are hand-made and will be until I have to go mechanized.

Future Product Exploration
For a number of weeks now I have been brainstorming and talking about ideas of new products. In some cases I’m already exploring these.

  • Monster Cookies – I have thoughts around three similar but different large cookies. So far these are based around peanut butter and oats. I’m working on my oat options. Supply isn’t a problem. If possible and as needed I get two supplies including one that is prepared without flour giving a Gluten Free option.
  • Brownies – Who doesn’t like a good brownie? Originally I thought of these because I have a recipe that is flour, nut, and diary free, which I might also be able to produce as soy free. This one is going to take more work and time. I am thinking though of making regular brownies with the addition of flavor combinations.
  • I have other cookies I’m thinking of doing … I can’t really talk further about these now because that will totally give things away. As some of you know much of my acumen comes from my professional music experience. One of the things I’ve learned is to not tell all of your plans as to not get scooped by one of my peers.
  • Muffins – You just can’t go wrong with muffins. I have two in mind with more to come. One I won’t talk about, but I will say it’s based on something many people enjoy but I think I can make it healthier. The other, a pumpkin puree muffin.
  • Biscotti – As said, I am not abandoning biscotti. I have ideas for about 30 flavors, including taking biscotti (in Star Trek terms) where no biscotto has gone before. Earlier this month I experimented with an Irish Cream biscotti recipe. It was a big flop but it was good to do. I want to keep doing R&D on my many biscotti ideas.

Growth, Employment, & Giving Back
If someone were to ask “Why did you start this company?” I think the most accurate answer ‘in a nutshell’ I could give would be this: I saw an opportunity to bring quality, pleasing products to people while making work for myself when I was struggling to gain employment and get out of poverty. That last bit is just crazy, I know … selfish me – but then I lost count how many years I was looking for work (8?). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t state that as some sort of badge, it’s just the fact of the matter. Now in its fourth month I’m seeing hints that WIBC is taking a foothold, and I’ve been told that once tourist season hits my company is likely to see an explosion of business. I could use an explosion of business, and while it may be a scramble I have faith that my resourcefulness, among other things, will guide me. At minimum I have no shortage of learning to experience – and I have that old swing in my step from having work.

With the growth of my business will come opportunities I’ve envisioned for my WIBC. As I needed employment, my company will need employees – over these past years the workforce has needed positions and I’ll be happy to see people get back to work.

The first act of my company was to contribute to a soup kitchen. This was a serendipitous blessing – as I formed my company I knew that one of the things I wanted to do was to get involved in fighting hunger. I recently watched “A Place At The Table”, a documentary by the same people as “Food, Inc.” One of the things the film pointed out well was the ‘give a man verses teach a man to fish’ adage. In America, leastwise, it’s not a problem of having enough food – the problem are the pieces of the equation that keep people from being able to get food for themselves and food that is healthy. I don’t know what my & WIBC’s involvement is going to look like, all I know is that more will be revealed.

Last and very not least, I believe in supporting the people who support us. From the inception of my company I’ve wanted to offer a military discount and find ways to support our soldiers. I’m not sure how to do this yet, but as said – more will be revealed.

Don’t Stop Believin’,
Don

M33ting

(30January2015)

Late this morning I had a meeting with … well, before I get to that, let me say this – my meeting was both expected and unexpected, and it was GREAT!

So what does that mean?

I had a meeting scheduled with the Island County Commissioner and the head of the Economic Development Counsel (for a lack of better terms the Whidbey Island small business association) – what I didn’t know was that I was also getting two additional EDC members – it was a committee!

While I planned to meet in the front of the bakery where there’s a nice room, they came right in to the bakery and we started talking. They were interested in what I do & how I do it, how I got to where I’m at with my baking company, what I want to do with it, and most importantly what I need for my company to grow and be successful. Meeting in the bakery was great, I was finishing up a batch of Lemon Cake and Chocolate Citrus Biscotti for my guests – talking here instead of the fancy front room felt like they joined me in my trench. More than that was not only what they had to say but what they want to do. Not only do they serve as an information source for a small business person like me, but they want to get involved. Frankly, I can use and will take the help and be grateful for it.

They want me to send them some of the information I have built for my company up to this point. They want to assess aspects of my production for efficiency. They want to meet with business people carrying my product to get their perspective of carrying my product. They want to see if there are meetings they can help facilitate with other businesses and better align my business with beneficial opportunities.

I have a lot of ideas and a lot that I’m working on for my company, and I’m glad to be doing it. I don’t admit to know or see everything about what I’m doing with my company, and frankly there are things that are working and things that need to be working better. These kind folks are willing to apply their experience to my efforts, and if it will help the question-marks that exist with WIBC and help bring my product to people, I’ll do everything I can to receive and apply all that they have to offer.

So I knew that I was going to have a meet with two great people, and I was given the gift of four great people who genuinely want to help my company to grow in the way it needs. I’m grateful.

Thanks, Don

PS — That “M33ting” title was not me trying to be hip, that was a typeo … I meant to hit “ee” but working fast hit a couple of 3s, and I liked the look of it so I left it.