Interview with Michael P. Burwen

What distinguishes your cookbook from the thousands of others out there?
There are two consistent themes in my books: Frugality and Gourmet. I could also add that almost all of the recipes are easy and fast. I altered those recipes that were originally challenging or expensive so that they could be made by an average American cook and used ingredients that were easy to find and inexpensive. Are there other cookbooks out there that do something similar? I suppose so, but I've yet to run into one that does it as well as mine.
Whatever possessed you to self-publish a cookbook?
I've been a foodie for decades. I used to travel a lot both inside the US and internationally. Whenever I had a meal I really liked, I would try to get the recipe(s). Usually I was successful and over 40+ years I collected nearly 1000 recipes. Since I am retired with nothing better to do, I decided to publish some of my collection. My two books include nearly 400 recipes from my collection together with some old family favorites and a very few of my own invention.

Creating the books was not as difficult as you might imagine because all of my recipes were already captured digitally using recipe management software, so all I had to do was import those recipes into a Word document suitable for publishing.
What else do you consider different about you books?
Most of the recipes include background information such as where the recipe originated, a bit of history and suggestions for accompaniments or ingredient substitutions. Most cookbooks don't do that because it adds to the work and adds to the page count which makes the publishing process more expensive. I thought it was important because it provides a foundation, and, possibly points of departure. I encourage my readers to experiment and make those recipes their own.
Anything else?
IN the print edition each recipe appears on its own page (sometimes two pages). That leaves a lot of white space. I've labeled that white space "My Notes:" and encourage readers to add their own personal notes. That isn't possible in the eBook versions. Instead, I encourage readers to read the books on a tablet or PC that is equipped with a stylus and note-taking software. The reader can then write whatever he/she pleases and save the page together with whatever he/she has written.
What criteria did you use to include any given recipe in your books?
The basic criteria for every recipe is what I have called "Mikey Likes It!" I paid no attention to health or diet claims. If I personally like a recipe a lot, it qualifies for inclusion. If you are an aficionado of steamed broccoli, you will not like my cookbooks; but if braised shortribs turn you on, you are going to be a happy camper.
How do you market your books?
Easy answer - Poorly! I've learned that, if you are not a famous TV chef or obtain the blessing of somebody famous like Oprah, there is no mass market out there for your cookbooks.

I did in fact send my book to the big retailers like Costco and Walmart. They all told me that the book is one of the best they have read, but did not see how they could make enough money to justify shelf space in their stores. I also sent it to Oprah who never acknowledged receiving it. I did "meet & greets" at several local book stores including a couple of Barnes & Noble branches. I sold a few, but not many. Most of the people who frequent book stores have no interest in cooking.

Most of the books I've sold have been purchased by friends and family. I read that TV chef Ina Garten sold 500,000 of her latest cookbook in 6 months last year. I read it, and, frankly, it is nowhere near as good as either of my books although it does have lots of pretty pictures. I have no clue how to compete with that.
Published 2015-11-11.
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Books by This Author

Easy Gourmet Recipes for the Frugal Cook, Volume II
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 86,420. Language: English. Published: October 22, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » General cookbooks
This book contains 217 gourmet recipes culled from well over 1000 that were collected over 40 years by Michael Burwen, an accomplished amateur chef. All of the recipes are easy to make and most are low cost. Although the recipes have roots in many international cuisines, they will all appeal to the average palate and call for ingredients that are readily available in America.
Easy Gourmet Recipes for the Frugal Cook: Mikey Likes it!
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 60,360. Language: American English. Published: October 3, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » Gourmet
This book contains 219 gourmet recipes culled from well over 1000 that were collected over 40 years by Michael Burwen, an accomplished amateur chef. All of the recipes are easy to make and most are low cost. Although the recipes have roots in many international cuisines, they will all appeal to the average palate and call for ingredients that are readily available in America.