Cookbook Author Interview: Digna Cassens: Listen to the experts and ask questions of your POD (print on demand) company

Cookbook Author Interview: Digna Cassens: Listen to the experts and ask questions of your POD (print on demand) company

Digna attended one of my recent teleseminars about writing cookbooks. After hearing the teleseminar she was inspired to follow her dream and write her own cookbook.  Digna embodies what I believe are positive qualities for a cookbook author: enthusiasm, willingness to work hard, and knowing when to ask for help. As a result she partnered with a coauthor and they successfully wrote and independently published their cookbook using CreateSpace. 

What is the name of your cookbook?

Flavorful Fortified Food – Recipes to Enrich Life

Is this your first cookbook?

Yes.

Did you have a food blog prior to writing your cookbook?

No, I did not have any food blogs, although I have 4 blogs they are all personal for family and my genealogy hobby.

What compelled you to write a cookbook?

There were many reasons I wanted to write a cookbook. My mother was my inspiration; she published a popular regional recipe book, Cocinando en San German and she also translated it to English, Cooking in San German. She also hosted one of the first live cooking shows in Puerto Rican television. After I left a long career in the long-term-care corporate world I decided to write about what I know best, food and nutrition and the work I’ve developed during my 50 years as an RD.  My goal was to leave my knowledge behind for others to benefit from it.

For years, I have developed hundreds of institutional and home use recipes and find it a relaxing hobby. I also have written policies and procedures, training, and disaster and emergency management manuals. I intended to start with series of training books for dietary staff and halfway through the project I heard your teleconference about writing a cookbook. That did it for me! That chat ignited my passion for recipe writing all over again and I saw the possibility became a reality.

My career has always been in long-term care and geriatrics and have always used food as the first approach to nutrition, rather than supplements or manufactured medical nutritionals. My collection includes over 200 fortified food recipes that are easy to prepare, inexpensive, and fit into any menu, and have conducted workshops and seminars on the topic. I have tried them all, find them delicious and know they work. This cookbook is only the first in a series, with more coming on other specialty topics.

Tell me more about fortified food and what types of recipes this book might contain?
Many individuals need high calorie and high protein foods due to low body weight, diminished appetites, inability to eat adequate amounts of food, and drink enough fluids. Changes in taste and smell due to illness, side effects of medications or the aging process exacerbate the problems, resulting in decreased intake and subsequent weight loss. By providing comfort foods, caregivers in the home or health care community are able to create meals that satisfy the most demanding palate, resulting in improved intake and cost savings.

Individuals engaging in extreme sports, physical fitness training, body building and long distance events need quick and easy to prepare and eat foods that are high in the most important nutrients to carry them through their training, and most importantly throughout the duration of their event. These easy to prepare and delicious recipes replace commercially manufactured canned or boxed supplements and expensive nutrition bars. Using every day ingredients and foods commonly prepared for the family table eliminates extra work and expense.

Our cookbook then is a collection of 60 well-tried and tested recipes for beverages, breads and cereals, dessert, main dishes, sauces and soups, and side dishes in one and ten portion quantities. The helpful hints with every recipe offer ideas to make changes to the flavors or serving to further expand the variety offered.

What advice do you have for an aspiring cookbook author who wants to self-publish a cookbook?

My advice for anyone aspiring to write is, “you’re not alone”, and “you can do it”! Listen to the experts that have done it before you and know, attend teleconferences, workshops and seminars and read all you can find on the subject. But then, you have to make an appointment with yourself and sit down every single day and DO IT!

What was your biggest challenge in writing your cookbook?

Lack of time and an excessive number of distractions. It was also difficult to find the right focus until I met my co-author, colleague Linda Eck-Mills, MBA, RD, CLD, FADA. She has published extensively, and we shared some of the same background in hospice and home health, so a casual discussion about food fortification, let to an excellent partnership.

What are some advantages of having a co-author?

Linda is experienced as a published author of articles and books, is an international speaker, and coach. Her skills complimented mine in all of these areas, enhancing my drive and ability, establishing firm schedules, providing a sounding board and stating opinions firmly. With her eye for detail, she is an excellent proof-reader and editor, and provided the balance needed to produce an elegant product. When considering a co-author it is essential to spend time discussing your vision, strengths and weaknesses, have a written business agreement, and be sure you both know your strengths and how you complement each other’s skills.

She helped in every step of development, networking with her professional resources as I did with mine, and helping select format, cover, even the fonts used. Having decided to use print-on-demand was an even bigger personal challenge requiring extensive reading and learning to be able to achieve the end result, the PDF version of the book had to be uploaded for printing.

What was your biggest challenge in publishing your cookbook?

Frankly, I did not know where to start. The recipes were tested and written, but without consistency, format or focus. Creating the vision of what the book would look like was the longest process I had to go through, an area in which having a co-author was of  such value.

What did you learn from self-publishing your own cookbook?

I learned a lot about myself, including the fact that I am not a detail person, preferring to focus on the big picture, so I need a meticulous editor that does not miss the details. Great lesson for the next book that’s coming.

What are some questions you would recommend that an aspiring author as a POD (print on demand) company?

  • What are the up-front charges if any. Some require a deposit of quite a few hundred dollars (we did not use those services.)
  • What services do they provide (cover design, convert to PDF &/or upload to their server, marketing, etc.) and what are the fees for each?
  • What % royalty is paid to the authors and if the % is scaled or pro-rated by the number of book sold.
  • What is the frequency of royalty payments, method used for payment, and the accounting/auditing methods to verify sales?
  • Do they have option of overseas/foreign distribution, and if so what countries, and what is the cost?
  • Are internet sales based through them only? What other sales venues will there be available and what is the cost?
  • What are the options for formatting for eBook versions such as the Kindle or other electronic device, eBook, and PDF?  What is the cost for each and what are the requirements for conversion of the file? (How is data is entered, what programs are compatible for uploading, if conversion is needed prior to uploading, what is the fee and using what conversion programs?)
  • What support does the company offer? What are the free or fee-based services? Is this a 24/7 operation? (I personally used CreateSpace 24/7 as I keep erratic hours when working or juggling schedule.)

Any thoughts you’d like to share on the marketing and sales of your cookbook?

Don’t be afraid to talk about it. The more discussion and brainstorming the better the ideas will be developed, but stay true to your concept and initial goal. Start marketing before the book is finished. It’s never too soon to talk about it, and start doing chats and presentations on the topic. Use any venue you can find, including free conference calls, networking, and social media. Any free marketing is great and will definitely increase sales. Use multiple resources, from fliers to emails to business cards in addition to social media. Don’t be afraid to give out complimentary copies, but be selective in doing so. And in the end, volume means profit, and it’s better to receive 50% of many sales, than 80% of none. Book sales so far have exceeded our expectations, and after FNCE will most likely increase. I still have many markets to pursue and slowly I’m doing so. I had to learn not to be afraid to sell a product I created and believe in.

2 Comments
  1. I would like to ask Ms. Cassens whether is possible to find a copy of her mother’s cookbook. I have been looking for it for a while.

    I have three cookbooks: Sabrosuras Boricuas, Homestyle Puerto Rican Cooking, and De la Tierra con Sabor.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi: Let’s see if Digna can answer this. If we don’t hear back, I’ll send her an email.

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