Publishing a book or cookbook is an exciting endeavor that many people aspire to, and we want to share our story of how we landed a cookbook deal with HarperCollins – even though we had zero previous book experience. Of course, everyone’s situation, audience, and market are different, so our experience might not be directly transferable on your book journey. However, we hope to offer some insights, encouragement, and hints for those who aren’t conventional writers, but still dream to publish a book someday.
If you’re not familiar with the publishing world (and we knew nothing of this industry and how it worked before we became involved), there are typically a few key players: the writer, an agent, and the publisher. Most writers will pitch their book ideas to their agent, who, in turn, will submit the book ideas to a publishing house. Both the book agent and the writer are instrumental in securing book deals, and the publisher will publish and back the book. However, we secured our cookbook in a completely non-conventional and unique manner.
In a nutshell, HarperCollins discovered a few of our blog posts related to Ted Lasso and reached out to us. They were looking for author(s) who could create recipes inspired by the show for their book project and asked if we were interested. We said yes without hesitation, and that’s how this journey began. Read on to learn more about our story…
Fell in love with Ted Lasso
It all started with Meg’s husband recommending that we watch Ted Lasso, an Apple TV+ series that started streaming in August 2020. During the pandemic, like everyone else, we were looking for something fun to watch and specifically sought out light-hearted, feel-good shows. (With Covid and wildfires, we had enough drama in our lives and we couldn’t watch anything heavy 😅)
And he was right. Both Meg and Aki instantly became huge fans of the show. By the time we started to watchTed Lasso, Season 1 Episode 2 was already out. We ended up watching the first two episodes repeatedly until Episode 3 came out, then continued to watch episode by episode every week.
Smells like Potential
While watching Ted Lasso episodes on repeat, that mysterious biscuit really piqued our interest – what was it? Rebecca was clearly smitten with it and so were we.
After researching the biscuit, we discovered that Ted’s biscuit is most likely a type of Scottish shortbread, which is typically made with just 3 ingredients – flour, sugar, and butter. Intrigued by the idea of recreating it, we delved deeper into the world of biscuits. While there are many Scottish shortbread recipes available online, no one was talking about Ted’s biscuits and what’s in them or how to make them. Then, it hit us: “We should be the ones to make it. We were sure others would be just as curious as we were. And this could be a potential traffic driver to our website.” Although Ted Lasso wasn’t as well-known as it is now (there were no fan sites or social channels back then), we believed it was such a good show that more and more people would love it as time went on, just like we did.
It smells like potential.
Niche x Potential is the Key
We had just started our hobby cooking website shortly before, and our immediate challenge was gaining traffic. General cooking recipes were already saturated on the internet, and it seemed almost impossible to beat competitors who had been running cooking blogs much longer than us. In order to be ranked high in search results and be discovered by people, we knew that we needed to focus on creating niche content with potential, but most importantly, something we were passionate about. That’s when we stumbled upon the Ted Lasso show and the episode featuring biscuits. The biscuit recipe fit our strategy perfectly – it was niche with potential and something we loved.
Finally Cracked the Recipe!
From there, the recipe creation process began. We wanted to be quick enough to publish our biscuit recipe before anyone else, but we also needed to create one that we felt confident and excited to share. What initially began as a traditional shortbread recipe kept evolving: changing the flour ratio, playing with almond flour (Meg’s mom’s recipe), experimenting with different sugar amounts, trying vanilla extract vs vanilla paste, swapping out different salts (coarse, fine, sea), tested with salted butter instead of unsalted butter, among several different adaptations. We must have tried at least 10 different variations, but finally, we cracked Ted’s biscuits recipe and we were very confident in sharing it with all the Ted Lasso fans. We thought Rebecca would love it too.
“Barbecue Sauce” moment
Within a month of publishing the Ted Lasso post, the website started to gain more traffic – more than 10 times the normal amount of views, compared to the previous month, because our recipe post always showed up at the top of Google search results. To maximize organic inbound traffic, we shared multiple key visuals across various social media channels such as Pinterest (a major traffic driver), Instagram, Facebook, and Ted Lasso fan groups on Facebook. In addition, we thought it would be fun to film shorts revolving around the biscuits, and we posted them on YouTube, which helped drive even more traffic to the page. Meanwhile, we continued to enhance the original post by adding alternative recipe ingredients and instructions, videos, and illustrations, and featured other Ted Lasso fans’ Instagram posts about our recipes. During this time, we noticed the emergence of more Ted Lasso fan groups on Facebook. It was heartwarming to see people sharing our recipe as one of the best biscuit recipes on these channels and leaving thoughtful comments.
Iconic Pink Box and More
As we continued to build on the post, we realized that there was one more important component needed to fully recreate Ted’s biscuit: the cute and iconic pink box. While pink boxes are now widely available on marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy due to Ted Lasso’s popularity, back then, there was nothing out there. So, we decided to create an at-home printable box template shortly after posting the original Ted’s biscuit recipe. In order to make sure the box was as accurate as possible, we paused the episode and enlarged the image to closely investigate its shape, size, and how Ted fits biscuits in the box. Additionally, since our biscuit recipe uses an 8×8 square pan, we wanted the biscuit to fit perfectly in the pink box without leaving any leftovers. Just like this, the simple pink box template was created through extensive research and numerous trial-and-error. It’s dedicated to all the Ted Lasso fans who want to share some positivity and love. Thanks to those posts, our traffic received a significant boost of nearly 10k views/mo. by the end of December 2020.
As we continued to watch the episodes, we found even more inspiration from the show and found we could have even more Ted Lasso love and recipes. We even created Higgins’ mini cupcake recipe from one of the subtle scenes in S1E9. Just before season 2 started in July 2021, we posted more Ted lasso content, such as Ted Lasso rewatch party ideas. These included: Ted Lasso Bingo, “Who Am I?”, Trivia Quiz Games, and even more food ideas for any Ted Lasso themed parties. The traffic to our website continued to grow. Once Ted Lasso won the first Emmy Awards in September 2021, our posts were reaching over 40k views/mo. This was the “Barbecue Sauce” moment for us – almost a year after we posted the original biscuit recipe.
Surprise Email from Harvest
Once Ted Lasso Season 2 ended, the two of us were busy with full-time work and juggling kids, so we took a break from our blog. In September 2022, almost 2 years after we published our original biscuit post, and coincidentally around the same time when Ted Lasso earned record-breaking Emmy nominations and the 2022 Emmy Awards winner announcement was imminent, we received a surprising email from Emma and Deb, editors at Harvest, a lifestyle imprint of HarperCollins. In the email, they mentioned wanting to collaborate on building a Ted Lasso Cookbook and had come across our blog posts during their research. They loved and were impressed with our ideas for the biscuits, the box, and watch party posts, and asked if we were interested in discussing a potential Ted Lasso cookbook project. Overjoyed by this opportunity, we responded positively to the email and expressed our eagerness to learn more. However, despite our excitement, we were also apprehensive about believing that this was actually going to work out – it seemed too good to be true! 🙈
A couple of days later, we were invited to a video chat with the Harvest team. To our surprise, Emma and Deb were the sweetest people we’d met, and helped alleviate our cookbook jitters. They shared the project details, including the target audience, expected volume of recipes, and a schedule/timeline of what was expected. Additionally, they asked if we would like to be recipe contributors with several other authors, or if we would like to be responsible for the whole book ourselves. One of the reasons they asked was because of the very tight timeline. Normally, it takes over two years to create a book, but for this particular book project, they were targeting to sell it as a holiday gift item for Fall-Winter 2023, barely one year from their first email. This meant we had less than four to six months to submit finalized recipes, other written content such as introduction and recipe headers, and photographs for the book. A schedule this tight would be definitely a challenge, especially with a full-time job and kids, but since this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we were up for the challenge and thrilled to join the team as authors.
Harvest already had a brief concept but asked us for more recipe ideas. So, we proposed that we would get back to them with 50 recipes within a few days and ended the call. As you can imagine, we were both screaming with excitement.
Act Fast to Seize the Opportunity
After the call, we were extremely thrilled, but at the same time, we were also ready to act promptly to secure this unique and exceptional opportunity. To prepare for our pitch, we both re-watched Ted Lasso again (and again and again) and collaboratively brainstormed a plethora of recipe and party ideas. Instead of sending just a list of recipes, we wanted to make them feel confident enough to choose us as authors. So, we created a slide deck showcasing over 100 recipes. These recipes were organized by the character which inspired the recipe, several different chapter suggestions, and our suggested outline of how we could manage the project schedule. To further streamline our efforts, we created GSheets to organize all the recipes, characters, inspiration for each season/episode, timelines, and the status of each recipe in a comprehensive pivot table. This way, it’s easy to sort and count recipes for each character and food category as well as to ensure the visibility of the project progress with the Harvest team. Though we probably didn’t have to present as much as we did, our intention was to showcase how we could manage the project efficiently to meet the tight schedule and wholeheartedly dedicate ourselves to this project from start to finish.
Then, the magical thing happened: Ted Lasso won big at the 74th Emmy Awards once again. This was perfect timing and made us all even more excited!
A few days later, once we completed our proposal, we sent it back to the Harvest team and anxiously awaited their response. The next day, we received an email from them saying they were impressed with our creativity again and would love to make the book deal official. We scheduled a follow up video call where they officially offered us a book deal and provided additional information to help us get started on the project. Working with the Harvest team has been an incredible experience, and one of the best aspects was their transparency. They shared realistic estimates of their book sales, explained the step-by-step process of a book deal, and outlined what we would need to make this collaboration successful. They introduced us to the talented art director Tai, who is also a Ted Lasso fan (and coincidentally happened to be traveling in England at that time), and our sweet book agent Nora from The Gernert Company who would help us navigate the book deal negotiation.
After reviewing the contract with legal professionals, we finally secured a formal book deal at the end of September 2022. Our Ted Lasso book project officially launched. 🚀
There is a Japanese saying – “Three years on a stone”（or better to say “Even a stone will get warm if a person sits on it for three years.”) which explains our situation well. The seeded plant took two years to sprout, but once it began to grow, it flourished rapidly within a month. Here is a summary of the timeline for your reference:
- August 14, 2020: Ted Lasso Season 1 started. Biscuit with Boss episode is streamed on 8/21.
- October 1, 2020: Our Ted Lasso biscuits recipe is posted.
- October 19, 2020: Pink biscuit box template is posted. Traffic boosted by x10 times by the end of October.
- January 11, 2021: Higgins’ mini cupcake recipe is posted. By January, traffic boosted to 10k views per month.
- July 20, 2021: Ted Lasso Watch Party Idea is posted along with 3 different game templates
- July 23, 2021: Ted Lasso Season 2 premiered.
- September 19, 2021: Ted Lasso won 73rd Emmy Awards! Posts got another boost with traffic over 40k/mo. by the end of October 2021.
• • • a little break • • •
- September 7, 2022: Surprise email from Harvest, a lifestyle imprint at HarperCollins
- September 9, 2022: First video meeting with Harvest team.
- September 12, 2022: Ted Lasso won big at 74th Emmy Awards again!
- September 13, 2022: Submitted our proposal with over 100 recipe ideas +α.
- September 15, 2022: Got official book deal over 2nd video call.
- September 27, 2022: Legal review cleared – official book deal contract is secured.
- October 2022: Book project officially launched.
Just for fun, I created a rough infographic of our cookbook journey until we got a book deal (2020 – 2022) 😃
Large Audience v.s. Power of Creativity
We want to emphasize that we’re not famous bloggers with millions of followers when we received the cookbook deal – just a little over 1.8k followers, not even close to 10k. Nora, our book agent, told us that if we aspire to have our own cookbook featuring our style and brand, we definitely need our own audience – at least 10k followers, which is ironic and unique for the cookbook world. However, publishers do value great ideas and creativity, so while we didn’t have a large enough audience, we were able to rely on our creativity and passion and that is exactly why we received a cookbook offer this time. She encouraged us to keep believing in ourselves and to continue coming up with innovative ideas. One day we might be able to publish our own cookbook that features dishes that are inspired by who we are and our culture. But until then, we will find different ways and methods to challenge ourselves.
Our message is this:
If you have great ideas and you believe in your potential, don’t stress out over numbers too much. There’s no need to wait until you have a larger audience or more followers. You will be surprised how the power of creativity (in the right market and target audience) sometimes goes beyond social media popularity. Also, don’t rush and look for shortcuts, but rather, take one step at a time. Remember, while it’s difficult not to compare yourself to all the other Influencers and bloggers in the world, everyone has their own pace and timing – it took our website 2 years to be found. Believe in yourself, keep delivering what you are passionate about and patiently wait for your chance. Once a chance comes along, do everything you can to seize it. Remember: “Even a stone will get warm if a person sits on it for three years.”
We want to mention that we had an incredible support team helping us – from the wonderful team at Harvest to all our friends and family that advised us. We are grateful to our spouses and friends who have already navigated the literary world and thankful for children’s author, Emma Otheguy, for her sage advice. Having guidance from people with knowledge and expertise was invaluable when making such important decisions.
What’s next for us? Though we’re not sure where this journey will take us, stay tuned for more Ted Lasso cookbook adventures! Next we’ll write about the process of the book release, and marketing and promotion campaigns for our books.
Check out our upcoming cookbook here 👉 The Unofficial Ted Lasso Cookbook