Annabel Langbein – early to the international market
“An overnight success – 20 years in the making!” laughs Annabel Langbein about the big impact her Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook television series and accompanying book had on the local and international markets in 2010 and 2011.
“The Free Range Cookbook was a dream, an idea, and it took so much thinking and being really focussed to bring it together,” says Annabel. “Then it was just serendipity that it came at the right time when people wanted fresh to the table ingredients and produce.”
For those who have followed her book publishing career, the payoff is not surprising. Annabel started with taking a stand at Frankfurt in 1995. It wasn’t easy – she recalls locking herself in a bathroom at the Fair and having to psych herself into carrying on, and then she lost a very necessary credit card. When her perseverance and the investment in going to Frankfurt paid off with her first international sale deal three years later in 1998, it was for half a million copies of Best of Annabel Langbein.
The elation of success then gave way to the concern of “How the heck am I going to deliver on this?” says Annabel. But she coped with the big step up in scale, and even found she enjoyed distribution and marketing.
She has represented her company, Annabel Langbein Media, at every subsequent Fair.
The years of development have been rewarded with relationships with publishing partners Octopus in the UK, Graefe Und Unzer in Germany, Larousse in France (Annabel au naturel), and Unieboek in the Netherlands. HarperCollins is her Australian publisher.
Recently she has not needed to take a stand at Frankfurt Book Fair because of the strong publishing relationships that exist, but she does attend each year to maintain current contacts and make new ones.
Becoming her own publisher came about first “because I was born with a wooden spoon in my hand and a need to cook.” Followed by: “I’m such a control freak I wasn’t going to have someone else tell me how many pages I could have or how many illustrations.” Her 2007 book Eat Fresh was produced just by Annabel, her PA and a contract designer and photographer.
Early in the company’s development, Annabel embraced new media, with recipe demonstrations available on YouTube, and eventually a full scale accompanying TV series tie in with Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook.
Today, her team is around eight people with an in-house designer, project manager and others, plus a sales manager based in the UK. Annabel Langbein Media was ahead of most others in establishing a website, which is constantly refreshed with Annabel’s blog and other updates.
Given the importance the Frankfurt Book Fair has had in the growth of Annabel Langbein Media, plus the fact that it is New Zealand’s Guest of Honour year, it is appropriate that she will have a strong presence as part of the New Zealand contingent at this year’s fair. The October event also coincides with the launch of the German edition of The Free Range Cook, entitled Naturlich Kochen.
Following Frankfurt, she has author tours lined up for Germany and Poland, a new market where the Polish edition of The Free Range Cook will be launched later this year.
This activity builds on the recent launch of De Free Range Cook – Pure Gerechten Uit Nieuw-Zeeland on the Dutch market with a big event in Amsterdam. “There’s a big understanding in Europe of the philosophy of what I do,” she explains. The lengthy build up of her profile and brand in those markets also supports the growth in sales of her cook books.
The second season of her TV show debuts on New Zealand television later this year, and an accompanying cookbook will be released in New Zealand and Australia.
If you think the book side of Annabel Langbein Media is big, the reach of the TV series is still greater – 83 territories have bought the first series at last count.
There’s something about being a Kiwi, says Annabel, that means you can go out and tackle the world. “I was a very anarchic teenager, but the freedom of living so close to our physical environment centred me.”
She describes the work of creating cook books as “culinary anthropology” and finds it rewarding. “When someone comes up to me and says ‘Omigod I love your cooking’ it is great. I feel lucky to do something I love.”
For other Kiwi publishers about to tackle Frankfurt and the world, she has good advice:
- Be brave about business, act with intent and integrity
- Always look forward
- Be focussed
- Believe in your ideas
- Make sure you have got enough money
- Learn from your mistakes – learning is stimulating.