I am sure many of you have had, or still have, ambitions to do something really different. It’s not easy to realise your dreams; there is so much effort between you and the successful outcome.
I would like to share with you how I came to write my first vegetarian cookery book What to Eat if you Don’t have Meat. When my husband and I first came to Australia back in 1976, I was extremely unhappy. I describe leaving ones family as a bereavement – no e-mails, or Skype in those days for instant communication. I started asking myself what I would really like to do to fill the void in my life and that’s when I decided to become a vegetarian, something I had always had a desire to do. Soon the family were trying out my new menu. The dishes they liked I jotted down in a note book and I wrote to my mother on a regular basis telling her of my successes or failures.
In Australia there is a rural journal, The Weekly Times. At that time they had a a page called Dear Miranda which included peoples stories and recipes and items of interest. I used to pull out and send this page to my mum because I knew she would enjoy it. Unbeknown to me she wrote to the Dear Miranda page telling how her daughter was producing vegetarian recipes and her letter featured on the page. Within a few weeks the page received many requests for my recipes and the editor sent the letters on to my mother for forward transmissions to me.
The dream was born. Could I write a cookery book, how could I do that, who would publish it anyway. I had to do something. I was working as a secretary at the time so I asked my boss if I could type up my recipes and print them out on the Gestetner machine (How many of you remember those?). He agreed and said I could have some spare paper not in use which turned out to be pink, not the best but it had to do. I stapled the books together and sent them off to all the people who had written in. I was inspired by how many letters of appreciation I received back but still had no idea of how I was going to get the book published.
I read everything I could on self-publishing. It had become quite the thing in those days. I saved up some of my wages and approached a company in a nearby town who produced text books. They were a bit sceptical but agreed to print 1500 of my books, the minimum run for them. I contacted a local artist to do some line drawings for me and I typed up the pages, again thanks to my boss. Ken, who was a compositor and had the know-how on layout, pasted up the pages at home.
What a day it was when I went to pick up my books. I was so excited. Now I had to sell them; easier said than done. I needed distributors. I started phoning around but because I wasn’t a known publisher most weren’t interested and brushed me off. Anyway persistence paid off and eventually things started to happen very slowly. I also went round Health Food Stores, gift shops, tourist outlets and learned how to become my own representative. My friend Olive visited from Perth, WA, and kindly took back a heap of the books and managed to get a distributor to take them.
The book was of it’s time, small by book standards today, no colour photos or bright cover. It was a time when self-sufficiency and an alternative lifestyle were the buzz words. Over many years I changed the cover and had three re-prints the last being in 1992. Eventually I sold in the region of 10,000 copies which I consider quite an achievement.
Has my enthusiasm for writing gone, no it’s still alive and well. With the arrival of the e-book anyone who wants to publish has the opportunity at their fingertips. It’s a wonderful opportunity which I have taken full advantage of and plan to continue doing so. Of course it’s not possible to compete with celebrity chefs and public figures who sell vast numbers of their titles but you can still take your place in the sun.
You might like to visit my author page at:
What an inspiring story Janice.