By Hope Katz Gibbs, founder, Inkandescent PR + Publishing Co., for the Costco Connection — When Phyllis Pellman Good and Dawn Ranck sat down to assemble the Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook, they had no idea it would hit the New York Times bestseller list. And the Publishers Weekly bestseller list. And the USAToday bestseller list. Ditto for the Book Sense bestseller list, which tracks sales from 350 independent bookstores across the country.
It was the only book that sold more than a million copies last year, outselling the popular Lord of the Rings movie tie-ins by two to one.
It’s not that Good (senior editor and co-owner of the Intercourse, Pennsylvania-based publishing house Good Books) and Ranck (who works in the company’s design department) didn’t think their recipes would be tempting to a time-stretched nation. They just never dreamed a tome featuring 800 feasts you can prepare with your slow cooker would sell 2.5 million copies in a little more than two years.
“Our idea was to highlight recipes from cooks across the country that have made delicious dishes in their slow cookers,” says Good, who, with her husband of 35 years, Merle, founded the publishing house in 1979.
“In the process, we managed to tap into a growing national trend.”
Indeed, Americans are developing a new relationship with the slow cooker, which made its debut in 1971 when cookery manufacturer Rival introduced it under Crock-Pot’s trademarked name. The appliance fell out of favor for a few decades. Still, today, with so many Americans working long hours and coming home to hungry, tired families, the efficient and convenient slow cooker has found its way back to the countertop.
Ironically, the Goods worried that they had mistimed the release of their cookbook, which wasn’t ready to be distributed until just weeks before Christmas.
They didn’t realize that bookstores historically push slow-cooker books in January and February, cold-weather months when hot meals are most appealing to consumers. When Fix-It and Forget-It hit bookstores nationwide, almost every copy sold within weeks. Reorders came pouring in.
However, having a hit on their hands proved to be a mixed blessing. Sure, the Goods have published more than 300 titles, ranging from The Amish Quilt to their latest, The Bible for Children. Still, when bookstores demanded that huge quantities of Fix-It and Forget-It be delivered, it was a bit of a shock to the company’s seven staff.
“It was a little tricky for a few months,” admits Merle, who placed a giant order with his printer, R. R. Donnelly & Sons Co., rented a warehouse and fulfilled thousands of orders in record time.
The Goods then decided to ride the wave of success. Good and Ranck collected nearly 600 more recipes for a sequel: Fix-It and Forget-It Recipes for Entertaining, which Good Books published in late 2002. To date, it has sold more than 825,000 copies.
As for the future, the Goods say they plan to publish more, titles-possibly even a few more, in the Fix-It and Forget-It series. Yet, in the spirit of their huge hit, growth will come slowly.
“The reason we are in the book business is that we love working closely with authors, illustrators, and designers,” says Merle. “If we grow too fast, or too much, we’ll end up being managers of managers. That would be too great a price to pay for success.”
It seems the Goods, and fans across America, can have their slow-cooked Lemon Poppy Seed Upside-Down Cake (page 232) and eat it, too.