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 best-seller list. And the Publishers Weekly best-seller list. And the USA Today best-seller list. Ditto for the Book Sense best-seller list, which tracks sales from 350 independent bookstores across the country.
In 2002, it was the only book that sold more than I million copies, outselling the popular “Lord of the Rings” movie tie-ins by two to one, according to Publishers Weekly. Now its tally tops 5 million copies.
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 who have made delicious dishes in their slow cookers,” says Good, who with her husband of 35 years, Merle, founded the publishing house back 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 the trademarked name Crock-Pot. The appliance fell out of favor for a few decades, but 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.
What they didn’t realize was 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 across the nation, most every copy sold within weeks. Reorders came pouring in.
Having a hit on their hands proved to be a mixed blessing, however. Even though the Goods have published more than 300 titles — ranging from “The Amish Quilt” to their latest, “The Bible for Children — when bookstores demanded that huge quantities of “Fix-It and Forget-It” be delivered, pronto, it was a bit of a shock to the company’s staff of seven.
“It was a little tricky for a few months,” admits Merle Good, 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 because 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.
This article first appeared in The Costco Connection.