Beyond the #Girlbossmoment: Kendra Aronson self-publishes a super successful cookbook!
“My name is Kendra Aronson and I’m the writer, photographer, designer, and self-publisher of The San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market Cookbook. When I started this personal passion project (now a profitable book business!) I couldn’t claim those creative titles as my own.
When it came to cooking, I had no formal culinary training. When it came to writing, I had never been formally published in print anywhere. When it came to photography, I wasn’t familiar with most of the settings on my camera. When it came to design, I didn’t own a single Adobe program—hell, I didn’t even know how to import an image into Photoshop, let alone lay out an entire book in InDesign! This just goes to show you, if you have an idea and the grit to make that idea happen, you really can do anything you set your mind to.
With a Bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages & Literature (Spanish, French, and Italian) and a Master’s in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), how did I end up producing a cookbook from scratch? I did it the way any big idea comes to fruition: a lot of late nights and early mornings, learn-by-doing, and Googling—all while holding down a day job to pay the bills. I started in April 2013 by shopping at farmers markets, interviewing farmers, going to farms, testing recipes contributed by local chefs from farm-to-table restaurants, researching food photography and food styling, taking courses on Skillshare, educating myself on editorial design and negotiating with printers. Then came the scary part: creating a crowdfunding campaign with a solid marketing plan and social media strategy.
On July 27, 2015, I launched my Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the up-front printing costs to make my cookbook a tangible reality for the 2015 holidays. To my wild surprise, I ended up hitting my asking goal of 12k in just 10 days, and my project was chosen—out of thousands of live campaigns—to be featured on the homepage of Kickstarter. A huge #girlbossmoment!
On December 1, 2015 four huge pallets carrying 2,000 copies of my cookbook fresh off the press were delivered to my driveway. Words truly cannot describe what it felt like to hold the cookbook in my hands for the first time! Then I blinked, and 3 weeks went by: all 2,000 copies were gone in just 20 days. The inventory I purchased (which I thought would realistically last 5 years, ha!) was completely sold out and all my retailers sold out before Christmas, too. I had absolutely no idea the response would be so overwhelmingly positive!
In March 2016 I was able to fund a second print run of 6,000 copies and this December I will be getting another 6,000. The book is now available at 70+ retailers and all the California locations of Barnes & Noble. It’s garnered the attention of farm-to-table goddess Alice Waters, Food52, and now Girlboss! It’s been an amazing journey thus far, and I’m already working on my next cookbook—stay tuned!”
Three pieces of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and creatives:
1. Be enthusiastic; your energy and excitement will attract others. Being a go-getter with a great attitude will draw in crowds, promise!
2. Share your acquired expertise with others. I’m always learning and sharing my resources with others. Since the launch of the book, I’ve taught in-person workshops on food photography, Kickstarter, and self-publishing.
3. Trust your personal path. Like most gals in their mid-twenties, I felt lost and worked a string of jobs until I found the one that stuck. Trust that you will find the career that will make you thrive, and if you can’t find it, create it like I did.