Finding a balance between cooking and writing

Kevin and I have been talking a lot lately about the best use of my time as a writer / cookbook author, whether it’s worth making and shipping sweets.

I was talking to Chef Roel Estanilla at local Filipino pop-up pig & fire about some of these issues too — he makes these amazing ube cookies, and people have been asking if he’ll ship them. And I know Amanda Daly already has people asking if she’ll ship her delectable bagels (soon to be sold at The Daly Bagel in Oak Park!) But it’s not easy to make the math work out.

For example, hosting a sale like the current Valentine’s sweets sale takes me about, oh, 16 hours of cooking, tracking sales, communicating with people, packing things, actually mailing them.

If I make about $300 profit doing that (after taking out cost of supplies and shipping), that’s about $20 / hr as an hourly rate, which isn’t terrible, but honestly, my writing hourly rate is much higher, generally — somewhere between $50 – $100 / hr.

So holding these sales doesn’t make a lot of sense, money-wise, and of course, one thing we learned from the Kickstarter was that I had *way* too many rewards levels and really underestimated how much time handmade rewards took to make. Slow-roasting and grinding and packaging curry powder takes significant time! We’re pretty committed to not doing that kind of Kickstarter again, now that we have a better understanding of just how much time goes into it — it kind of ate my fall.

But when we were talking about all this yesterday, Kev pointed out that even if it doesn’t make a lot of money, hourly rate-wise, if I actually *enjoy* the cooking experiments and coming up with new recipes and having a quiet Saturday in the kitchen, puttering, that’s worth something too. It’s certainly nice to have something productive to do that doesn’t require staring at a computer screen, as so much of my work does, so the variation is worth something, even if it’s less profitable overall. (The kids like helping sometimes, and consuming the sweet experiments…)

And then I pointed out that it’s also good advertising, of course — posting about the sale gives me a reason to talk about the cookbook again. Any author can tell you that part of the reason there’s so much emphasis on book launch is that after that, it’s much harder to come up with good reasons to talk about your book. “It’s new!” is worth shouting about. “It’s been out a month!” is much less so.

So we have a very tentative plan to keep doing these sales, off and on. Only when I’m not feeling super-pressed for time, probably no more than once a month. Maybe less often this year, once the book tour details get finalized, since for at least some of those events, I’ll be making sweets and such to serve at book tour parties.

I would actually *love* to have some of my sweets out in the world more broadly, and there’s a little dream where I find someone to partner with who actually wants to take my recipes and make them in a more serious production-oriented way as part of a small business. It’d be awesome to sell them in local shops like the Happy Apple Pie ShopSugar Beet Food Co-opCarnivore Oak ParkWise Cup, etc.

The same thing with the curry powder, actually — wouldn’t it be awesome to have the curry powder (and sweets) available in Whole Foods? I’m picturing a Serendib Kitchen line, with pretty packaging and all.

(Oh, dreams of world food domination. You tempt me.)

But that’s definitely a more serious production than I have time for this year, and possibly ever — I’d really need someone else who wanted to do it, someone who was both a good cook and with good business skills, who could be my partner on that. I guess this post is both a warning that I won’t be doing these sales very often, and a little bit of an invitation too — if that business partner is maybe you, we should talk. 🙂

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