Relishing the challenge of publishing
Many in the publishing world would have you believe that the advent of full colour tablet devices like Kindle Fire and Ipad have essentially put an end to the world of paper hard copy publishing. In Northumberland a business which started at the peak of the recent financial crisis has bucked the trend and is already in double figures for publishing top end, mass market recipe and fine dining guides.
Duncan Peters, Managing Director at Relish Publications discusses the fast moving market of the publishing world and how harmony has been struck between traditional printing and online digital publishing.
When Relish Publications launched just 3 years ago, the business model was simple. Create books with high quality contributors (ensuring each edition featured most of the regions top chefs) to build an unique and invaluable recipe book. Added ingredients included stunning food photography and an impressive guide to each participating restaurant, plus a larder of the regions best natural produce suppliers. This would be the ultimate ‘foodies’ guide who liked both eating in great restaurants and creating outstanding recipes.
The timing of the launch of the business was significant, as it came just ahead of the massive drive to tablet platforms with Ipad, Samung Galaxy and Kindle all launching devices which could hold literally an entire library on a single device small enough and light enough to carry in a small bag. The omens would have suggested that Relish Publications could not succeed against such significant electronic advances and a global interest in the digital opportunities.
However, Relish Publications launched its first title with ease, and has never looked back. By January 2013, the 12th book in the regional series was at the printers, with the largest ever print run planned, and 3 new titles were already well under way for publication throughout the rest of the year.
The secret to the success of Relish Publications was conceived in the very initial idea. We knew that people still loved cookery books, and that the growth of celebrity chefs and the sheer volume of broadcast activity around cooking meant that in publishing terms, cookery books and guides were still a solid idea. We wanted to differentiate ourselves in the market by offering a really high quality product, which had a number of uses. The Relish fine dining guides, offer both an invigorating read with some really challenging dishes for aspiring chefs, and also an outstanding guide to the best places to eat. This dual purpose use of the books made them a sure fire winner.
Most chefs work incredibly hard to make their restaurants a success and for those that excel, the Relish series of publications was almost a badge of honour for them, as the best place to be recognised and seen alongside their peers and the many other fine dining establishments in their region.
For chefs who publish their own work, they know the challenge of having a commercial success with a recipe book. For an individual chef the costs are significant and the challenge of building a sales pipeline is immense. The Relish publications were built on not a single chef, but on 25 chefs per edition on average. This volume of knowledge, experience, innovation and quality has made every single book a perfect companion to the true food lover.
The real challenge which came from Kindle, Ipad et al, was not the competition which these mediums pose, but the ability to turn an outstanding hard back book into an equally enjoyable digital edition. If Relish had gone online with e-book versions too early, the brand would have lost one of its key strengths, which was the design standards and beautiful photography which could be captured in a hard back.
The delay in going digital until 2013 was not a fear of lost sales or people switching from books to e-books, but actually the challenge to launch the series of recipe guides on the platform, when the technology was good enough to meet the standards set out in the hard back book.
Added to this, people still love cooking with a real book in front of them. It feels more authentic and natural. The same goes for children’s books. What parent does not enjoy sitting with a child when they are first learning to read, and using a large picture book, with pages you can turn and graphics you can touch. Cookery books, recipes and fine dining guides have exactly the same impact on the user. Our books deserved to be hard backs because that is how people enjoy them.
Relish now have all new book launches available in both hard copy and as a digital edition, and sales in both formats are still increasing and neither has had an impact on the sale of the other. For most of our customers, they still like a book you can pick up off a bookshelf, and leave with other similar titles in a specific area. For those who want to embrace the online opportunity, the technology now exists to produce a high quality online publication which features the visual impact of the original format.
Relish Scotland Second Helpings launched recently in Edinburgh and demonstrated the massive appetite there is for a hard back full colour high quality book, when the content and the contributors are good. The event which was held at award winning Mark Greenaway’s restaurant just off Prince’s Street in the heart of Edinburgh, saw 20 of the best chefs in Scotland gather with friends and other special guests for an entire afternoon. The event was a celebration of the combined effort of a whole region, and with some of the biggest names in the country including Tom Kitchin (who wrote the foreward for the latest book) to help launch the book, it showed the confidence and the respect these chefs have for the publication.
The future looks bright for Relish which sees the next 3 books launch before the Summer, and with digital editions of the books now selling well.
When we set out to create a book, we had a clear vision on content, quality and design. These high standards have definitely served us well, and by maintaining an absolute premium quality our books have the respect of the entire industry. With books now covering territories from Devon and Cornwall to northern Scotland, Relish has established itself as a national brand, and the ability to buck the trend seen by many publishers is testament to the fact that if the product is good, there will always be a market.
To get a copy of any of the Relish Publications visit www.relishpublications.co.uk and the books are also available in leading stockists including Waterstones and Harvey Nichols.
This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Duncan Peters .
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