Thursday, July 12, 2012

With Deepest Regret: My Resignation

I write this with a heavy heart. I cannot take The Pantry Cookbook any farther on my own. Cooking and writing come to me naturally. When I was exhausted from a day filled with working or caring for my family, I could still squeeze in time to write. Cooking was even easier when the cookbook was in that phase, because I had to feed my family regardless.

But marketing? I have no energy for it. I tried, and I failed. If any food banks or other organizations out there have decided to use my book, I am unaware of them.

It kills me to think that I spent more than a year on a perfectly good product, for a good cause, and I can't give it away for free. The Pantry Cookbook needs someone who knows marketing, someone who has an enthusiasm for solving nutrition issues in North America - and that person is not me.

I would like to think that out there, somewhere, is a college student, who has a future in marketing, or in some sort of save-the-world career. This student needs a little something to pad their resume. The Pantry Cookbook could be that Thing. Do good, get the book into the hands of a few food banks; send out a few press releases, get your name in a few newspapers. . . it would look big and shiny on that resume!

Do you know a college student out there who would be remotely interested in doing this? Or a high school student? Or anyone who is interested in issues of food availability or nutrition? If so, I implore you to pass this information along. Have them visit and get in touch with me. I will happily pass over the reigns of this project, because my calling is elsewhere.

I regret that I have nothing left to give to the Pantry Cookbook.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


It turns out I am far better at writing books than I am at promoting them.  Phase one of my "marketing plan" involved leaving messages on the Facebook walls of several hundred food banks.  I got a lot of enthusiastic replies, and a few people who expressed some real interest or requested free copies.  But so far, no one that I know of outside of Franklin is currently using the Pantry Cookbook as a fundraiser or as a textbook for clients.

Then I procrastinated, and hoped that all I needed was time for information about the book to percolate through the requisite board meetings and discussions about funding.  But months have passed, and contacts from interested people have been precious few.  This won't do!  I need to actively market this thing so that the people who need it know it exists.

I flirted with the notion of mailing a copy of the cookbook to one food bank in each state.  I mailed five books to five of the bigger food banks in a test run.  Only one of them got back to me, and I haven't heard back from even that one since.  For such an expensive method of publicity, it didn't work as well as I had hoped.

I did hand-deliver one book to Galveston County Food Bank when I was down there visiting family.  I felt a bit like Santa Clause at the time.  I would like to do more of this, but I am painfully shy in person, and there are only so many food banks within driving distance.

Anyway, I now own a printer, and I am compiling a mailing list of food banks and other organizations.  My plan is to send out a letter explaining the book, and offering to send a free copy to any organization that expresses interest.  I had better get used to the taste of envelope glue.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Review!

"Published in 2012, The Pantry Cookbook is a quick and easy guide for those cooking for their family or just themselves. Author Michelle Clay guides the reader from the basics around the kitchen through to cooking meals from scratch. She begins with an introduction to healthy eating and why cooking meals and snacks from scratch at home are better for the reader. Her focus is on easy and quick recipes using readily available ingredients and cheaper ingredients to provide wholesome, healthy and filling meals. "

The Pantry Cookbook has been reviewed favorably by Recipe Book Reviews .com!  You can view the complete review here.   Scroll down a little to get to the Pantry Cookbook.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

CreateSpace News: Pro Plan is No More

Previously I had suggested that if you publish the Pantry Cookbook through CreateSpace, that you spend the $35 to update to the Pro Plan, to lover the cost per book.  However, it appears now that CreateSpace is doing away with the Pro Plan.  I don't know what the cost will now be per book to publish the Pantry Cookbook.  If you are thinking of publishing through CreateSpace, I suggest giving them a call first.  

Here is their announcement about the end of the Pro Plan.

As always, you don't have to use CreateSpace to publish the Pantry Cookbook.   You may have a local publisher who can give you a better deal.

Errors Fixed

I should have taken the advice of a character in one of Kurt Vonnegut's books, who said "never index your own book."  My grasp of alphabetical order is shoddy at best, and dang it, I let all sorts of errors creep into the index of the Pantry Cookbook.  These errors are now fixed, and the revised file has been uploaded to Google Docs.  If you have not already printed the Pantry Cookbook and intend to do so, make sure you use the files that end in "08", which is the latest version that contains the corrections.

More embarrassingly, it turns out I forgot to include the oven temperature in the recipe for baked chicken.  I'm really kicking myself for this one!  Well, it's fixed now.

To those of you who have already printed the cookbook, please accept my sincere apologies for the mistakes and omissions.  Please contact me if you find any other mistakes in the Pantry Cookbook, and I will fix them as soon as possible.

And if anybody out there has designs of being an editor someday, and wants to practice and/or wants to donate their time to the greater good, the Pantry Cookbook could use you!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Marketing is a lot of work. . .

I can't say I'm pouring my time into marketing into the Pantry Cookbook with the same gusto as writing it, but I have been plodding along with my efforts, because if I do nothing to draw attention to the book, it'll just sit there, a lonely lump in the ether.  So!  What have I been up to?

First of all, there is the Facebook page.  What can I say, it's free.  I've been using it as a place to stockpile links to articles and websites that might be of interest to food banks.

I have also been using Facebook to get in touch with food banks.  It turns out a search for the term "food bank" yields a list of about three hundred.  I have left greetings on all of their walls once, and I am now going back for a second round.  It's tedious, but like I said, free.

I cringe that my messages on their walls might be seen as spam, but so far the only responses I have seen have been positive.  Most of the feedback is of the "wow, thanks for doing this!" variety, but I did get one food pantry state outright that they will make the Pantry Cookbook available free-of-charge to their clients.  Hooray!

The representative from that particular food bank described some of her food bank's patrons as "second generation non-cooks."  That phrase has really stuck with me.

Closer to home, my neighborhood food pantry, the Franklin Food Pantry, found two businesses willing to cover the printing costs for a first run of 300 books.  These will be made available to clients, and this gave me the opportunity to see what difficulties people are likely to have when attempting to do their own publishing.  Most notably, I need to make it clear that if a program wants to add some simple benefactor information into the cookbook, there are two pages I strategically left blank just for that purpose.  Not that I mind if anyone wants to get out their digital tools and really monkey with the book!  It just happens that changing the number of pages can have unintended consequences, such as causing everything previously on a left-hand page to end up on the right, and vice-versa.

On the non-digital front, I picked out five big-looking food banks and mailed them each a copy.  This afternoon, I heard back from one of them:

"On behalf of the nutrition education staff at the Capital Area Food Bank of Washington, DC, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude for sending us a copy of The Pantry Cookbook.  In our department we are dedicated to carrying out the mission of the food bank, that is, providing the underserved communities of our nation’s capital with sufficient, nutritious food while simultaneously offering education around the food we distribute.   This book will no doubt serve as a valuable tool for more fully carrying out that mission."

Well!  It's not an absolute yes-we-will-print-your-book-right-away, but someone there is excited about what I have done!  I will put on my patient optimism hat, and imagine that the Pantry Cookbook is being handed around, discussed, and perhaps salivated over.  Just a little

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Welcome to the home of the Pantry Cookbook!

The Pantry Cookbook is a free cookbook that teaches how to cook nutritious meals, from scratch, on a budget, when time is short. The Pantry Cookbook has over 130 recipes, including basics like hard-boiled eggs, baked chicken, boiled beans, boiled grain, and sautéed vegetables; classics like beef stew, borscht, and pulled pork; and “Quick Recipes” that can be put together in thirty minutes on a weeknight using ingredients prepared on a weekend. Additional features include shopping lists and menus for a week's worth of meals, an extensive list of substitutions, boxed lunch suggestions, kitchen safety information, money-saving tips, spice mix recipes, ideas for feeding toddlers and other picky eaters, and a complete Thanksgiving menu.

The Pantry Cookbook is freely available as a printable .PDF file, and is intended for use as a fund raiser and as a teaching tool. The book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribute which allows non-profit organizations - like yours! - to publish, sell, and collect royalties on the book, so long as the profits are used to support programs that address hunger or nutrition issues.

Would you like to read the Pantry Cookbook on your computer right now? It's free.  Click here!

Would you like to print copies of the Pantry Cookbook? You will have to pay the printer, but the files themselves are free to use and ready to print.   For basic printing, you will need two: the all-text black-and-white book interior, and the full-color cover.  Those files can be taken to a local or an online ("print on demand") printer to create a 7 x 10 inch book.  If you wish to print only a few copies, I recommend  For larger print runs, you may get a better deal with a local printer.

Would you like to sell copies of the Pantry Cookbook to raise funds for a non-profit organization that addresses hunger or nutrition issues? You can!  The Pantry Cookbook is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribute which allows non-profit organizations - like yours! - to publish, sell, and collect royalties on the book, so long as the profits are used to support programs that address hunger or nutrition issues.

Do you want to just purchase a copy for yourself? You can do that, too! Click here.  These copies of the cookbook are printed through and sold through Amazon.  I get a few dollars per book sold this way, which is nice.

You might be wondering how I am making any money if I am giving away this book. The answer is this: I'm not, with the slight exception of the sales through The Pantry Cookbook was conceived as a means to help the patrons of my local food pantry. This book represents a year of volunteer work, and I don't expect to make any serious money from it. The Pantry Cookbook is my gift to the world. Please enjoy it, and if you find it useful, please share it and promote it. Send your local food bank a link to this page, “like” the Pantry Cookbook on Facebook, or be spectacularly awesome by purchasing a copy and passing it along to an organization or individual that needs it.