Sunday, September 14, 2008

Four ingredients for success

Here's a piece about two people you definitely won't see at Frankfurt even though, based on sales per book, they are arguably two of the most successful publishers in the world.

Rachael Bermingham and Kim McCosker's cookbook 4 Ingredients has so far sold 820,000 copies, primarily in Australia and New Zealand, where it is the biggest selling book of the past year. That means one in 31 people Down Under own a copy of this book, and sales simply continue to roll along. A second book, cannily titled 4 Ingredients 2, is now also high in the charts.

Now for the part that makes it all the more sweet: 4 Ingredients was only the second book either woman had published, and they were forced to self-publish because no publisher would take it on.

'It was out of sheer necessity that we self-published 4 Ingredients,' Rachael and Kim tell me. 'We did call every publisher in Australia with great enthusiasm to tell them about our fabulous book, but no-one wanted to know about it or us. Rachael had self-published before so it was the only direction we knew of on how to release our book.'

How could those publishers know that a book that features 340 recipes made with four ingredients or less would go on to outsell every book they published themselves? There are so many cookbooks published: what turned 4 Ingredients into such a phenomenon?

'There are four ingredients to the success of 4 Ingredients,' say Bermingham and McCosker. 'One - it's a very marketable [and classicially simple - AW] concept. Two - the book came out at the right time. It's a cookbook for busy people who wish to save time and money in the kitchen so they can get out and do the things they want to do rather than have to do. Three - you have two very driven, very passionate and very energetic woman who have remarkable professional skills behind this project. Four - and this is the most important key of all - marketing! Rachael's background is in marketing and it's been invaluable to the success and growth of the '4 Ingredients' books, business and brand.'

It also helps if you get retailer support. 4 Ingredients was taken up by Australian mass market retailers such as Kmart and Big W and started appearing in the Nielsen BookScan bestseller charts. Mainstream booksellers started to take on the book too. The book's small distributor, Gary Allen Pty Ltd, suddenly found itself with a bestseller.

Now Bermingham and McCosker are looking for overseas markets for the books: 'We've had interest from all over the world and are in talks with quite a few interested parties.' Can I suggest you get in touch quickly if you're interested?

And the brand is starting to expand: they recently completed filming of a cooking show for the Lifestyle cable TV station.

'We're not actors and certainly not professional TV talent - we are just busy mums showing ways to save time and money in thekitchen' they say, modestly. 'We have have our fingers and toes crossed that it helps others and that they love it enough for it to be picked up and shown in other countries too.'

With the second book, a gluten-free version and a range of merchandise about to roll out, it seems as though the '4 Ingredients' brand will be around for some time to come.

'Long term we don't know where the '4 Ingredients' journey will lead to. If you had said to us two years ago we'd have our own cooking show, we would have thought you a little mad! What we do know is that we'll keep going and keep growing the brand while we are still enjoying it.'

No comments: