Australians Rosie Percival and Ruth Friedlander’s cookbook, Martha Goes Green, is a vegetarian cookbook printed on recycled paper with vegetable-based inks—and a happy success story from the world of self-publishing. After printing 70 copies as a trial run in late 2008 to give to friends and family, Percival, 24, and Friedlander, 25, went on to sell almost 3,000 more. The book has been covered in the international media, and the authors are in the midst of putting out a revised fourth edition, which will be available in late November.
Do you have a writing background, a food background, or both?
RP: I studied media arts and majored in film, hence why I have experience with producing “work” from pre-production to post-production to marketing. I always loved cooking, so when I graduated I started a little vegan catering company with a friend in New Zealand. Once I moved to Melbourne, Australia, I became friends with Ruth. We used to cook together in the same share house, and our love of food flourished and the cookbook began.
Ruth, how did your degree in digital media design help you create this book?
RF: It gave me the necessary skills to design and layout the cookbook myself (with valuable input and ideas from Rosie). Therefore we were saved the expense of paying a freelance designer to do it for us. I also was able to design and code our Web site, which has been an amazing sales tool. We've been able to [mail] books around the world as well as concentrate on local [sales].
Why did you decide to self-publish the book instead of going with a traditional publisher?
RP: We didn't want to have to cater to a specific audience or adhere to someone else's vision. Initially the project was very small; just something small to give to friends and family. It snowballed into a large(ish) production and we just decided to go with it. We emailed our earlier manuscript to some publishers but we were denied.
What has the self-publishing experience been like?
RP: It has been tough but it's also meant we've been involved in every step of the way and had 100% creative control, direct contact with publicists and bookstores.
Tell me about the book’s green aspects.
RP: We got the books printed at one of Australia's only green printers, Print Together. They only print on recycled paper with vegetable based inks and don't use anything that is bad for the environment.
Have you done any publicity/marketing for the book, either in Australia or internationally?
RF: Once we got a print run of 500 books done and decided to make a go of selling them Rosie and I (with the help of our photographer, Jess Symonds) put together a small press kit which contained a copy of the book, a DVD of images and a small press release and mailed them to about 10 publications in Australia and NZ that we thought would be interested in the cookbook. Most of those publications then featured a small write up on Martha Goes Green. We are now lucky enough to have had some great incidental marketing (such as being featured on 101cookbooks) which has led to further marketing opportunities. It seems that once you make the first step and people like what you've created it tends to have a bit of a snowball effect from there, which has been really exciting for us.
Have you had significant interest from U.S. readers?
RP: It's amazing just how many people buy it through Web sites such as Etsy or even just stumbling upon our site. We were VERY excited when Heidi [Swanson, who writes the popular blog 101cookbooks.com and wrote about the book recently] found us!
I assume the bulk of your sales have been in Australia, but what other countries are you getting orders from?
RF: Our sales have been mainly coming from Australia and NZ, but since being featured on 101 cookbooks we've had a lot of orders coming out of the States, as well as Europe and even a few from Asia. It's really exciting to be sending books around the world, and Rosie and I have joked about putting a world map up on the wall with pins representing all the different places we've sent Martha to.