March 07, 2023
How this baker was impacted by the sudden sourdough craze admist the global pandemic
▶️ Watch this episode on YouTube
Maurizio Leo is a software engineer-turned-baker who's baked sourdough bread for more than ten years.
Maurizio started a blog called The Perfect Loaf in 2013 to share his passion for baking sourdough bread at home.
Since then, Maurizio’s business has grown a lot. The Perfect Loaf has nearly 100,000 email subscribers with an incredible 72% open rate. He has nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram and a growing YouTube channel as well. Recently, he even published a New York Times best-selling cookbook!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
Full transcript and show notes
Follow Maurizio on Instagram / Youtube / Pinterest
The Perfect Loaf Website / Newsletter / Book
00:00 - Overnight Success Doesn’t Happen Overnight
01:56 - Maurizio’s Slow Beginnings
06:14 - Posting to Nobody for 5 Years
12:11 - Branching Out Into Instagram and YouTube
15:12 - People Start Paying Attention to Maurizio
17:37 - How Maurizio Thinks About SEO
18:46 - Going ALL IN on Content
20:29 - Blowing Up During the Pandemic
24:16 - How to Prepare for Growth
27:39 - Maurizio’s Business Model
31:17 - Chat Vs Forum Based Community Tools
34:24 - The Insane Process of Publishing a Book
40:52 - Preparing for a Book Release
43:50 - Does Email or Instagram Sell Better?
45:09 - What’s Next for Maurizio?
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Jay Clouse 00:00
Every week, there's some new trend taking the internet by storm, van life, pressure washing, even sourdough bread baking. And with those trends, comes the success of creators in that niche seemingly overnight. But when you dig deeper, most overnight successes aren't overnight at all.
Maurizio Leo 00:19
I'm actually a software engineer, you know, I would go to my computer, write some code. I had some dough in the kitchen, I'd go in the kitchen and I would, you know, handle the dough and prepare the, you know, the bread to bake. It was a way for me to kind of engage my hands in something that wasn't just typing on a keyboard.
Jay Clouse 00:35
That's Maurizio Leo, a software engineer turned baker, who's baked sourdough bread for more than 10 years. Maurizio started a blog called The Perfect Loaf in 2013 to share his passion for baking sourdough bread at home.
Maurizio Leo 00:48
Nobody cared. I want to say like maybe five years into consistently writing posts and recipes and guides, I didn't get hardly any traffic like I think most people would have given up kind of at that point just been like it's always the time, whatever.
Jay Clouse 01:04
But Maurizio didn't give up. He continued writing on The Perfect Loaf despite what felt like deafening silence until a global pandemic forced a lot of people to stay at home. Suddenly, baking sourdough bread was the thing to be doing.
Maurizio Leo 01:18
I didn't know what was happening. Like honestly, it was like I woke up one morning and all of a sudden I was like up, you know, 20,000 followers. I'm like what, what is happening here?
Jay Clouse 01:26
Since then, Maurizio's business has grown a lot. The Perfect Loaf has nearly 100,000 email subscribers and an incredible 72% open rate. He's nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram. He even published a New York Times Best Selling cookbook. So in this episode, you'll learn how to be patient with what you're creating, why Maurizio responds to every email he receives, how he makes money from a baking blog, and what do you do differently to better prepare for his website's sudden traffic? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram @jayclouse. Tag me, say hello, let me know that you're listening or leave a comment on YouTube. And now let's talk with Maurizio.
Maurizio Leo 02:18
I was working with a few of my co workers at a defense contractor here in New Mexico. And you know, we're working on a typical software job, you know, in a cubicle kind of thing. And we kind of got turned on to the idea of writing applications for mobile devices. And this was before the App Store. And before any of those things, we created an app, it was a space. Absolutely. Back then this was like super novel, like you hold your phone up to the sky. And it shows you where planets and things are, it was very difficult to write that kind of application. So we we entered it into a Google competition. It was a worldwide Google competition. We got third place. And so we got a little bit of money and it kind of bootstrapped our company, before, you know, startups and bootstrapping and stuff was was around. So we took that and we ported the app to iOS and it, it's still it's still available right now. It's still what I do part time. It's called Sky View. And because of how well the app was doing, we were able to leave our jobs. You know, it was definitely worrisome and very nervous to do so back then. But we did that. And we started basically an app development company and we were working from home since I was at home and I was working, I kind of serendipitously got introduced to baking bread at home. And this was before pandemic baking, of course. So it was way before, you know, the whole kind of fad of baking sourdough bread was was a thing. But I was doing it while I was, you know, I go to my computer, write some code. I had some dough in the kitchen, I go in the kitchen, and I you know, handle the dough and prepare the, you know, the bread to bake. And so I was it was a way for me to kind of engage my hands and something that wasn't just typing on a keyboard. And also a little backstory is I'm an I'm an Italian American and I kind of grew up here in New Mexico. In my dad's restaurant, he came from Italy when he was in his 20s. And he started a restaurant here and I kind of grew up there at the restaurant. So I was always exposed to food and it was very stereotypical Italian household where we would, you know, make food from scratch by hand. And I just had this appreciation for food just kind of innate, you know. And so I think having that time at home being exposed to sourdough and my history with food, I think it was like this perfect storm of just, I found the right things at the right time. And I was able to do the right things at the right time. When I discovered sourdough I literally just got a book on the topic. And I was fascinated by the science of it the craft of like, breadmaking since I started my website, I think and I've heard from a lot of people, I think there's an overlap from engineers who are also interested in breadmaking Which is kind of interesting and strange, but it's, it follows the same kind of algorithmic process. You know, there's, it's a recipe, but it's very precise and you're kind of iteratively working on this craft. Anyways, all that is to say, I started a website around the topic since I was here at home and, you know, writing code and dealing with with dough. So that's, that's how I started it back in 2013.
Jay Clouse 05:23
Why did you start a website, though? Because a lot of people will start something and it's a hobby, and they enjoy it. But like most people won't say, and now I'm going to make a blog about it.
Maurizio Leo 05:30
Right, I wish I could go back to the exact moment when I was like, you know, I'm gonna, you know, what was what was going through my head when I did it. And I think it goes back to my interest in computers. So I've been writing and creating websites since like, I don't know, 9099 When I was in high school, and it was easy for me to just spin something up super fast and create something online absolutely did not do it with any kind of like monetary intent, like there was no, there were no ad networks back then. There was no member foal, there was no Patreon. There's nothing like that I created the site. Because when I was struggling to learn how to bake bread, sourdough bread, which is actually challenging, if you don't have if you've never had a mentorship or apprenticeship, there was nowhere online really to turn for help. And so I was like, okay, if I'm having trouble with this, there's got to be other people out there who might be able to benefit from the things I'm working on. So I just decided to create a website. I've done many before in the past, and I was like, I'm gonna help some people learn to bake bread and the way that I wish I had I had the same home.
Jay Clouse 06:36
So you start this website, you're sharing how to how to start baking bread. Did anybody care?
Maurizio Leo 06:42
Nobody cared. It's a very important question. Because I want to say like, maybe five years into consistently writing posts and recipes and guides, I didn't get hardly any traffic, like, you know, the graph of visitors is like nothing for a very long time until finally, you start to get some visitors and it it, it creates some excitement, and it gets you excited to write and excited that oh, there's actually people out there listening. But you're right. Nobody cared. There were no newsletters really back then. I mean, there was, I don't even know if MailChimp existed back then. Honestly, it might have but it was like nobody used it except corporations. So I was writing literally to nobody in the beginning.
Jay Clouse 07:24
It will tell me more about that. Because I sorry to make the assumption. But I'm thinking like 2013 blog about baking bread, like how do you get that in front of people? How are people going to find out about this and care, I figured it was probably quiet for a while. So as you're doing this for five years, what kept you going sharing this publicly? Like what didn't What prevented you from saying two years and you know what, I still like baking bread. But this blog is a bust. I'm not going to do it anymore.
Maurizio Leo 07:48
And I think most people would have given up kind of at that point just been like it's a waste of time, you know, whatever. But if you ask anybody, like what's your passion or what's your hobby? You know, sometimes you'll get a reply back, like, oh, I kind of like skiing or something like some people like oh, I absolutely love you know, woodworking, I have all the tools I spend, you know, every hour of every weekend, doing woodworking. And so you're on that spectrum somewhere, and I'm definitely on the ladder, like I'm in bread. And I've always been sourdough especially. It's just something that just captivates me. I think it's, it's seated in that passion that I have to want to like reach out to people and kind of share what I've done. And what I've learned early on, even though I didn't have a lot of traction, and there wasn't a lot of views. And I honestly wasn't even looking at that. Like that wasn't even on my radar. I wasn't, you know, looking at Google Analytics, like, oh, I had 10 hits today. Like that wasn't even what I was doing it for it was just, I want to see if I can help people by doing this. And I would get comments occasionally on the site. And they'd say, you know, this helped me and I think, though, just those little like trickles of attention that came in, were like, oh, man, that's it feels great to help people do something that I love so much. And I think there's another there's also another component to it. And I've always had, I've always loved writing, and I think writing, I should say writing and photography, and I think I have I take pride in like crafting a really nice blog post that has, you know, compelling visuals, you know, clarity, a little bit of humor, you know, all these things just kind of stacked in there. And I think it almost feels like writing a mini book each time I write, you know, read a blog post. And so I think it's both of those things.
Jay Clouse 09:31
Do you know roughly how many posts you have on this website today?
Maurizio Leo 09:36
It's got to be over 200 Maybe somewhere around there. You know, I think a lot of like food bloggers, especially will have many, many posts. And I I feel like 200 is a lot because of the time that I invest in each of them. You know, so it's, I've always seen it as more of like a quality thing than like a you know, I'm going to put a bunch of stuff out there.
Jay Clouse 09:59
Well, I asked because I wanted to get a relative sense of the pace if you work consistent over that period of time. But really my question is, what type of rigor or expectations did you put on yourself for publishing in the beginning? And has that changed over time?
Maurizio Leo 10:14
It's a, it's a great question. Because I think there's a lot of a lot of like, sayings and things online that people say, Oh, you need to be consistent, you have to publish x times a month, you know, to meet your audience. I actually don't think that's really true. I think as long as what you're producing is compelling, and provides the information that people are looking for, it doesn't matter if you do one post a month or two a quarter or something like that. It's it's, it's more about the quality of the content. But all that said, I have always tried to kind of stay to about one a month minimum. So I think I've published I want to say I publish one post a month for the past 10 years consistently.
Jay Clouse 10:55
After a quick break, Maurizio and I talk about how The Perfect Loaf has grown and what it was like during the pandemic. And later, we talked about how he's built an income from the blog as well. So stick around, we'll be right back.
Jay Clouse 11:07
Welcome back to my conversation with Maurizio Leo. Maurizio started The Perfect Loaf blog in 2013. But I was curious when he got serious about using Instagram and YouTube too.
Maurizio Leo 11:17
YouTube, not not until recently, I use the years ago as more of just like a host for my videos. You know, I was I wanted to post a short technique video, Oh, where am I going to put this video, I have no idea. YouTube sounds good. Because it was free. You're not going to upload it to your WordPress site, you're going to kill your traffic. But I didn't really take YouTube as a place for me to put a lot of energy and time because I was always so focused on writing, like I loved writing and photography, I would say in the past year, I've taken YouTube a lot more seriously. So I've been putting a lot more of my time into crafting videos. And it's challenging. It's, it takes a completely different skill set to you know, I'm very versed at doing photos and writing recipes, and you know, providing help and those things. But having a persona on a camera is very challenging, especially for someone who's an engineer like me, who's you know, kind of an introvert in a way. So I think it it takes a different skill set. As far as Instagram goes. Since I'm an app developer, I downloaded Instagram, I think when it was first released my intergrade here now. Yeah, no, nobody can have my first name on there. Because I think I created an account on that first week that it was released, because I was developing Skyview. I was, you know, I was I was developing my app. And I was like, What is this Instagram thing? I remember it in terms of bread on Instagram, that really was not a thing. In the early days. It's huge right now. Like if you're in that circle, it's it's very large. And but I was publishing or I was posting on Instagram, just random things like everybody does. If you go back in my you know, my profile, you'll just see random photos, but bread back then. Was it it on Instagram, it was a great place for people to meet and talk about baking sourdough, because it felt like a small corner of the internet where people could share, you know, the visuals of what they were doing that didn't exist anywhere. And it was in real time. So it was a different way to interact with other bakers. And I always, you know, a lot of us like we call ourselves like the OG sourdough bakers on on Instagram, because we've been doing that for 10 years, and there was a small group of people that were really passionate about about it back then it's, I mean, it's wildly different, wildly different now than it was back then.
Jay Clouse 13:37
I was not prepared for just how high quality your entire Instagram looks. I just spent the last like two minutes. As you're explaining this, like scrolling, try to get to the bottom and I find the first bread picture is May 19th 2013. And from that point on, like there's consistent photos of bread here, and they're really high quality. And it wasn't until like near the end of researching for this that he found that you were on Instagram. Like I thought we're talking blogging at only today. And this is huge. So talk to me, you said about 2018, you started to see some change and people paying attention to the blog. Let's just talk at an even higher level on the content business as a whole. What are some of the inflection points in this 10 year journey that stand out to you?
Maurizio Leo 14:24
There's been a couple points along you know, this past decade where I don't remember the year now, but it's it had to be at least five years ago, there was a baking magazine who reached out to me and they wanted to feature me and I was like wow, there's a baking magazine. First off, that's amazing. And second, because I don't read very many magazines honestly. And second, you know, it was an honor to be featured among these incredible like professional bakers. That was one I want to say it was like maybe five six years ago. I won two awards for my website from savour mag Xen, and one of them was in 2016. And I have to say that I think that award was probably the first time that I really got recognition for what I had been doing. And I think that really propelled me and my site kind of to become this pseudo authority back then on sourdough. And then I again, want to kind of this a similar word from that magazine a couple years after that. So those, those three were pretty huge. I can remember in 2018, I took a professional level baking course, at a King Arthur facility, there are a large flour provider here, Miller here in the US, and I went to this course, I didn't know anybody. I knew the instructor, he was like, you know, he's like this huge Baker. And we were doing introductions in the course. And they went around, you know, I'm so and so I'm so and so. And I said, I'm Maritza. Leo, I'm just a home Baker. I'm not a professional baker, like everybody else was, but I run a website called the perfect loaf. And, you know, I write about right, and I started talking, and everybody was like, Whoa, you're, you're that guy. You're, you're the bread dude. And I was like, Okay, wait a minute, like people are actually reading the site. And they're using my recipes. So I think those few events, those were the ones that really kind of like, got me into this mindset that, you know, it can be more than just a blog, it wasn't just me trying to teach, like, there's actually business potential here, I can kind of turn this into something more than just me kind of writing blog posts. It's more about me, helping people learn this crap that I've been learning myself for the past, you know, decade.
Jay Clouse 16:34
When you were writing his initial blog posts trying to help people, how much did you think about search intent or like SEO? Did you, were you constructing these pieces to be searching searchable at all?
Maurizio Leo 16:45
I knew absolutely nothing. Even though I've been working on the web for a long time. I knew nothing about SEO. I wasn't doing I mean, there weren't a lot of tools that there are nowadays back then to but yes, there was I mean, no, there was there was no SEO writing, there was no formatting, nothing. It was just me writing as I would like to write.
Jay Clouse 17:05
Have you gone back and made like, substantial changes to do that better?
Maurizio Leo 17:12
There's been some posts, I've gone back and done, you know, it's 10 years of writing history. So there's a lot of content to go back and kind of refresh. I do plan to do that. Not not really to like Target search. It's more like, you know, you hear about bloggers who have written a long time ago, then they go back and read their first post, and they're like, Oh, my God, it's, it's so cringe worthy. And it's kind of true, like my early writing is really rough. And I need I need to go back just to update it just to just I'm not embarrassed of the content.
Jay Clouse 17:41
So you had this moment where you're you're in this baking class and say, I'm ready to I'm I'm home Baker, when did you really start to take this seriously as a business, because you mentioned earlier, you know, this this app development company that you were running at the time, you said, you're still doing some work on that this has clearly become like your thing. When did that shift happen?
Maurizio Leo 18:01
It's hard to say, because with Skyview, I actually love the app, I still work on it, you know, with my co workers. And we've all kind of each done something different. And I want to say around 2017, what happened was was the app Skyview is at this point where it's really mature. And it can just kind of stay on the App Store. And, you know, we nailed the the UX, we nailed the the user interface, it's at this point where we almost don't want to change it because it has so much lasting appeal. And people have grown to love the way it is. And so I think it was around then that I shifted more towards the perfect loaf and doing, you know, baking stuff, because I could spend less time on maintaining the app. The other reason is, is that not only was our app mature, but specifically with iOS and Apple ecosystem, their APIs and SDK and everything became more mature, as well. And so the things that we were doing in code early on to take advantage of the accelerometers, the magnetometers, all of the hardware components on the phone, nowadays, you can download AR kit on iOS. And you can create an augmented reality app in like a weekend. I mean, you don't even want to know the code we had to write back then to get that to function like it was it was scary. So all that to say is, you know, Sky views mature. So I could kind of shift gears a little bit more towards my bread business.
Jay Clouse 19:25
Well, take me forward from those awards, and it's being taken more seriously. It seems like things definitely accelerated out guests during the pandemic. Was that another big shift for you?
Maurizio Leo 19:37
It was, yeah, I think if I were to add, I think probably my cookbook that I just released is my as another one of those inflection points, but definitely the pandemic just kind of absolutely skyrocketed the website and attention and followers and everything. I had a pretty good following and I had good web traffic before then. But But especially like that early was it 2020. Again, it's all like, weird blur. Honestly, it's crazy, that are those early months in there when people like really turned on to sourdough bread baking my website, like just exploded, like I wasn't able to respond to people respond to emails and comments. And one of the things that I've always really prided myself on with my website is that I am very accessible. So anybody who comes to the site, they can leave a message, they can send me an email, and I'll help them through whatever problem they have, and did the same thing on Instagram for 10 years. But during the pandemic, there was so much traffic, and there was just so many like eyeballs on my site. I just couldn't keep up with it. And it was a I mean, it's a great problem to have, right. But I think a lot of people didn't understand that it was just me kind of helping the ship, you know, so to speak. I mean, it was just me. It's always just been me writing the emails and responding so, but it was, it was huge.
Jay Clouse 21:01
What happened? Like I saw the stories and like I see the news headlines, but like, what was the tipping point that people are like sourdough? Now, now is the time.
Maurizio Leo 21:10
I don't know. I'm not sure what the impetus was. I think it's, it's another one, it was like perfect storms, like people were suddenly at home, you know, more often, like, what are we going to do at home? Like, what can we do? I have no idea. And then there was I think there's also this huge drive to create for yourself like sustenance, you know, do you know this kind of like pioneering attitude that some people have but it really like, you know, propelled people to do this. And I think the huge things were like gardening, and sourdough bread baking, it's like returned back to this like homesteading thing. You know, it's like making yogurt. Kombucha like there was all of these like niches where people were just really interested in it. I also think like, you know, Instagram definitely played a role. I think people were posting a lot of bread, and I think that helped skyrocket it. And so I think it was all these things just kind of swirling around and working together.
Jay Clouse 22:07
Did you see a similar effect on your Instagram account? Like, did you have a correlated spike in following activity?
Maurizio Leo 22:14
Yeah, it really shot up during that time, I didn't know what was happening. Like, honestly, it was like, I woke up one morning, and all of a sudden, I was like, up, you know, 20,000 followers, I'm like, what, what is happening here, my website was going crazy. And I didn't really grasp what was happening. You know, at the time, I wish I could have kind of like, taken advantage of it a little more, you know, in terms of, you know, having things set up a little better to handle this traffic. But it definitely it happened on all of my outlets. It didn't happen quite as much on YouTube, because I didn't have a large catalogue of videos ready. It's funny, because I was, I was talking to my cookbook editor. And she was like, I remember before the pandemic, and I had signed my cookbook, contract, and she was like, You should think about publishing some YouTube videos on breadmaking. Like, I think it could be really great on, you know, in video, and I was like, Oh, I don't have time, you know, I've got so many things, I just can't do it. If I would have just done that. My YouTube following probably would have been a lot a lot higher, too.
Jay Clouse 23:13
I was gonna ask, what what did you do when these things started taking off? Like if there were steps that you then took to try and capture this or take advantage of this opportunity and time? So I'll ask you that question. Did you do anything? If not, what do you think would have been the ideal response?
Maurizio Leo 23:32
I didn't do anything in particular. So I had already had my website set up, you know, I had hosting that was solid, like, the site wasn't going down. I had an Instagram profile. I had Pinterest, I had Twitter. I mean, I had I had YouTube ish, you know. So I had all of the components in place that I would want it to, I think the one thing that I wish I had done was really just build out my YOUTUBE catalogue because I think it's a very valuable platform in terms of a lot of people see it valuable, like in terms of money, but I see it valuable in terms of being able to, like a lot of people just love visual instruction, like they want to see a video like when I when I listened to your podcast, I'm actually I'm watching it on YouTube, you know, your interviews on YouTube, because I like to see people's faces, you know. And so it's, it's something, it's something I wish I had in place. The other thing was when I was doing it, like when it was when the pandemic was happening, and people were coming in, I almost maybe I took the wrong approach because I kind of was like heads down, just trying to like triage my, my inbox like people were emailing me who had never baked sourdough before and they're like, you know, what flour do I use? You know what I use for mixing? And so I was just trying to bang out emails and help as many people as I could. And I just couldn't keep up after like a week or two weeks of the deluge. I just picked like the top ones that I could it goes back to my my statement about accessibility to me trying to be there and be that like person to help. It's it's a pride of mine that I interact with so many people. And you know, people always ask me like, how are you possibly doing this? Like, how are you replying to all these people? It's just a priority. You know, I take it seriously. Like, if somebody takes the time to send me a paragraph question via email, you know, it's much more than just like a tag on Instagram, it's like, you know, they've gone out of their way to send me an email. So I think the least I could do is like, try to reply back and help them.
Jay Clouse 25:26
How do you organize that time? Like, do you set aside time or is it like little bits and pieces?
Maurizio Leo 25:31
I set aside time, if I didn't do that, I think it would just be way too, you know, it's hard to context switch into, like, email support kind of thing. So I usually try to block out, you know, an hour each day to reply to emails, it's, you know, it's a valuable, like an hour a day is a lot for, for people who are running their own business, you know, it, it's a priority of my business. It's like, you know, outreach kind of thing, I spend an hour a day replying to emails, and then if I get a backlog of emails, then I usually spend like, early Sunday morning before my kids get up and before the house gets, you know, gets moving, to just go through and answer as many as I can.
Jay Clouse 26:10
When we come back, Maurizio and I talk about how The Perfect Loaf makes money and how he got the opportunity to create his own cookbook. So don't go anywhere. We'll be right back.
Jay Clouse 26:20
Hey, welcome back. I've done a fair amount of googling for recipes myself, but I always end up finding websites with free instructions. So I asked Maurizio, how he's taking the traffic to his website and turn that into revenue.
Maurizio Leo 26:33
I'm one of the old school internet creators, I guess, who I really don't like advertising. So I'm not a huge fan of on page advertisements, you know, saying that, I admit that I do now have advertisements on my website. And so that is a large component of my income for, let's see, eight years of my website, I didn't have a single ad on any page anywhere. I didn't run ads, I never, I just don't, I don't like it personally, when the pandemic hit, I was getting so much traffic that my hosts, the bill was becoming astronomical, like, I had never before seen charges, like I was seeing. So I was like, Okay, I've got, I've got to put an ad on here to cover these fees, because it's literally gonna, like run the business under because it was crazy. So I reached out to, you know, some ad networks. And now that is a large part of the business. But you know, along with the ads, I have a membership that I run. So I started the membership in 2018. So it's been, you know, four years, it's been a while since I've been running it really my goal for the site is has always been to help people. And behind that ethos, it's like, okay, I'm running a business, but I also want to help as many people as possible. So what's the best way that I can do both of these things to ensure that the business is viable, but also so that I have time to help the people to you know, to write the guides to reply to the emails. And so I think I really think the best way is the membership program, I think that after starting in 2018, you know, it's slowly grown to now I have over 1300 members in there. And I think, you know, that's really the direction that I want to go, you know, for the next 10 years, I just have to make sure that I'm you know, positioning the membership in such a way that people see enough value in it to actually sign up and become, you know, become one of the community that that I'm creating. So, you know, high level, it's advertisements for now. Membership. And then I do do some sponsored work with brands, like I mentioned King Arthur flowers, one, there's a couple other brands that are you know, really large in the bread space and the in the baking space. And so I do sponsorships with them where it makes sense. And I it's usually me approaching them, you know, hey, I've tried this. I've been using this for a couple years. Do you want to work on something with me kind of thing? I think those are really it. And I think really the main driver for me is is the membership.
Jay Clouse 29:03
When somebody signs up for the membership. I know you have several different value propositions on the page or you have like 10 different things that are reasons why you would join, do you have a sense for what the main reason people join is?
Maurizio Leo 29:16
My feeling is the main reason is probably the discord server that I run. And I think the reason is because I'm on that discord, you know, all day every day when I'm working on my site, or whatever my computer and people ask questions. And it's grown into this really cool community where there's a lot of active users on there and we're posting photos of this and that that we're doing. So my feeling is that is probably primary and then secondary might be the spreadsheets and tools that I provide that help people get past the complicated part of bread baking and they can just plug the numbers in for what they want to do it in their kitchen and be good to go.
Jay Clouse 29:56
You're a software engineer, so I'm not surprised that you were drawn to Discord heard my presumption would be a lot of people who are getting into baking might not be consistent Discord users, how has that been? Do you find that you have to do a lot of training to get these people comfortable with how to use Discord?
Maurizio Leo 30:13
Some of them are super savvy, they've got it, you know, but there have been a lot of customer service kind of type emails, it confusion, because I have, you know, Discord hooked up to member fall. So when somebody signs up it, you know, automatically gets them into the server. But it's not as easy as it could be like, I really feel like it should be even easier. And this is one thing I learned from my software business, you know, we created a space app that our kind of byline is, you know, we want to make space as easy and accessible for anybody, like, a lot of people don't know about constellations, they don't know how to find a constellation in the sky. So our whole premise for the app is we want to make it super easy, and user friendly to go out there and find whatever constellation you want to find. And I take that same approach with, you know, breadmaking, like, I want everything to be as easy as possible. And you have to keep your audience in mind. Like, you need to think you need to put yourself in your audience's shoes and say, okay, you know, a baker might not be very experienced with a lot of these, you know, kind of new age, let's say, computer software apps and whatnot. So I'm always trying to like craft little guides for every part of the process to kind of guide them through getting through each step. And I don't think the perfect tool is quite there yet, for the you know, a community like this, I think it's, I think there's still some investigating to do.
Jay Clouse 31:34
Yeah, totally. I mean, I think a lot of these tools are going in the same direction. But generally, I think about community tools on a spectrum of like, chat based versus forum based, and the best tool is trying to meet somewhere in the middle 1300 people and a chat based tool gives me anxiety to think about.
Maurizio Leo 31:52
It's a lot of people, and there's a lot of messages I've thought about changing to more forum based. And I've opened it up to the group, you know, like, do you guys like this real time? Or do you want it to be more, you know, I'm a huge forum fan like I, I, you know, 1989, when I first was using computers back then, actually was before then I was on every forum like I was, that's how I learned stuff back then, you know. So I would love to have a forum. And I liked that Discord is starting to integrate some foreign forum capabilities. But we need an app that kind of has both seamlessly, like you need a chat app, where you can chat with someone, and then you can break out to a forum when you want like lasting conversations.
Jay Clouse 32:33
Yeah, there's some tools that are getting closer, like I'm a big fan of Geneva. Have you played around with that at all?
Maurizio Leo 32:39
I haven't, no.
Jay Clouse 32:40
It's got a very similar UI to Discord and Slack. But it has a really neat forum style. Like you, when you create a room, you can have basically a chat based room or a form based room, and it lives together very nicely. So I think I think things are gonna go in that direction. I'm curious to hear, you know, you have this cookbook. Now, in some ways, like a cookbook is a course in a way, right? You know, in this world, there's, there's another reality where you could be making video recorded courses as part of your product strategy. But a cookbook is like the OG style course. And it lives really nicely and what you're talking about here? So you said you signed that deal, like before the pandemic years ago, can you give us an overview of what that process looked like? Because I don't think people have a good sense for just how long the process of publishing with a publisher takes.
Maurizio Leo 33:40
I very much underestimated the amount of not only the amount of work that it takes, but it consumes you like it is like taking another job, like you've just now signed up for a whole new job. So I had been approached to write cookbooks a few times, you know, throughout the past 10 years. And I've always just kind of been like, No, you know, it's too much of a distraction. You know, I don't want to do it. But I always had this like, idea behind, you know, in the back of my head, like, I want to do it one day, like I want to do it. I remember my let's see, Google was here. So Google sent a film crew out in 2019. And it was 2019, to film me baking bread because they did a like a feature on people who wrote apps for that their Google Play Store. And we're also really intensely passionate about other things. And so I was here filming with Google for a week. And I remember my publisher reached out to me, and they were like, do you want to write a book? And I was gonna just say no, but I took a meeting with them. And you know, they had the same vision that I had for the book all along where these other publishers didn't quite fit it from that moment of signing the you know, the contract. I want to say like six months after signing it, I was, you know, had ideas. I was kind of like writing notes, writing a loose outline. I don't know how other authors do it, but I didn't really start it When I should have started, like I hadn't started making an outline, but I should have like been, this is the start line, they just, you know, fired the gun you need to go like you need to start writing right now. In other words, I was a little bit behind like I had kind of started a little late.
Jay Clouse 35:16
Let me let me unravel that real quick. So you said you signed the contract? And they basically what did they give you in terms of direction? Like, here's the time that you need to finish the manuscripts. And that was a big period of time.
Maurizio Leo 35:27
Exactly. Yeah, they they lay out kind of a loose structure. So they give you okay, you know, you sign here manuscript, the first actually with them, they wanted the first 10 recipes. And the introduction was the first deliverable. And I want to say that was like a year after signing, and then I think six period, six months after that, it was, you know, the manuscript was due after that, I forgot what the next phase was. But the reason I forgotten is because the pandemic happened, like shortly after I signed it, and it like threw everything into like this whirlwind, we didn't cancel the contract for sure, like, I just kept working on it, and I had everything ready to go when they needed it. But me turning in the manuscript was delayed, because I just couldn't homeschool my kids, you know, right at the same pace and test and bake and photograph and do all that. That's kind of the overarching like timeline, you sign the contract. In a lot of cases, you just deliver a manuscript, which could be a year or two years, three years, whatever it is, after you sign it. And once you deliver the manuscript, you may not hear back from your editor for a while, then they come back with edits, then you have a short time to turn those edits around back to them. And then it's like after that, you have to submit all your photographs and the final kind of submission.
Jay Clouse 36:43
It looks like a really thick book, and I'm reading the the about page here, you have 60 recipes in there, it looks really big. So there must be a lot of photography in here.
Maurizio Leo 36:53
It's bigger. It's not only like, longer, it's 432 pages, which is super long for a cookbook these days, but it's also wider, taller and just thicker. It's because it sounds funny, but you know, if you think about, you know, book books from a business perspective, right, they probably have like set limits that you can do based on how much each page costs, or, you know, whatever the printing costs are. So we're literally at 432 pages was the maximum we could write like, I couldn't write another page. They couldn't do one more page. And I actually wanted one more page that couldn't fit one more page in the book I wrote so much. And it's not because I'm verbose, right? It's because sourdough, and bread baking is really a deep topic, like it really is. There's a lot of science that goes into it, if you're interested in it. There's a lot of craft, and then there's recipes. And then there's photographs, we ended up cutting enough for a second book, let's just say that, like I could have done to wow, it's crazy.
Jay Clouse 37:52
Really, so and that's because you're diving into a lot of the science to help people like really understand the science of this not just like, here's your the ingredients that you need. And here's the order you put them together. And here's what the final love looks like you're you're going in depth.
Maurizio Leo 38:04
Yes. And the other kind of selling point was, and I think one of the reasons why my publisher kind of reached out to me was that I've been helping people for 10 years, you know, bake bread at home, like because of my accessibility and like interacting with people. I don't want to say like, every question, but I've heard 99% of the questions people have at home on the topic. And so I have like this huge wealth of information, not only in my head, but in emails. And you know, I have notes and blog posts that hadn't even been published. And so I have a lot of back content. And I kind of, you know, it goes back to me, about you know, talking about putting yourself kind of in your audience's shoes. Like, I've literally been in the kitchen with these people for 10 years, living and breathing their problems and with things that they've had trouble with. So I put that all in the book, and I had even more than that I could have put so in this just released like two days ago. Yeah, yeah, this is the release week.
Jay Clouse 39:00
What's that feel like?
Maurizio Leo 39:01
I may look tired, because I'm actually very tired. It's I thought it was gonna be easy. After a you know, release was here. I was just gonna get to sit back. And, you know, watch Amazon reviews come in. But no, it's been it's been crazy. I've been you know, people have been emailing and you know, congrats. And I've been talking to people and doing, you know, interviews with, you know, magazines, and there have been features and you know, it's tiring, but it's also like adrenaline is at, you know, top level. It's exciting. I absolutely love it.
Jay Clouse 39:31
What have you had to do to prepare for the release of this because I've been tuning into this world a little bit more and more lately, and people describe the lead up to the release as like almost writing the book, again, in terms of level of work, and it's also this window of time, it seems where you have an opportunity to do the most you can now because three months from now, it won't be the same opportunity necessarily. So talk to me about how you've been approaching the release of this thing.
Maurizio Leo 39:56
I think I've been modeling it after other authors that I I can remember doing releases, you know, back in the day, you can't see, but I have like, hundreds of cookbooks over here. Because I love cookbooks like I, I read cookbooks, like I read, you know, a fiction story or something like, I just love flipping through them. And so I've been following authors for a long time and things that they've done kind of on their release. But you're right, like, it's, it really does feel like this limited window where you, you have everybody's attention, and you need to really maximize it as much as possible. And it's not just about, oh, I want to sell the most amount of books like, of course, yeah, of course, that number is important. But it's like, I want people to see the book, buy the book. And, you know, I want to transmit that feeling to them when they get home with something that they've been wanting for a long time. And it's like everything they expected it to be. So I've been, you know, trying to like build up the anticipation because I know that when people have this literally massive book, like in their hands, they'll understand kind of the struggles that I went through to write this thing like it took forever, and I want them to really enjoy the book. So you know, I've been doing, I've been trying to do promotions, as much as I can, like I've done, I created a bunch of like all the spreadsheets for the recipes in my book, you know, if you're not familiar with breadmaking, like having a spreadsheet to kind of lay out your ingredients, it really helps because you can organize everything by percentages. And so spreadsheets are critical. But a lot of people don't like spreadsheets, they don't want to create spreadsheets, nobody wants to get in there and write formulas in a spreadsheet. So I bundled all those up and released it along with my book is kind of a preorder bonus, and I thought maybe I'd get you know, a couple 100 people would be interested in that. It was like 3000 people wanted those spreadsheets. And so I'm like, okay, these are better be polished, right? And I'm releasing a piece of software here like this needs to be bulletproof. So I spent, I want to say a month, like, just cleaning up my spreadsheets, every number is extremely precise to what's in the book. That's one of the things I did a couple other things. I did some extra recipes. And then I've done some interviews. And yeah, it's it's a whirlwind. Like you really, you know, your publisher sets things up for you. And people come, they kind of come out of the woodwork like businesses when they come out. And they say, Oh, he's releasing a book, like, let's do a promo with you kind of thing. So it's, it's almost like this thing where you have to really say no to certain things. Otherwise, you can kind of drown yourself.
Jay Clouse 42:30
Have you found that your email list or your Instagram have been more effective in selling the book?
Maurizio Leo 42:35
I see both as extremely valuable assets. I think. I think my email list is my number one most valuable asset to my business. I'm gonna be honest, like, I think I've been growing it for probably eight or nine years. So it's at, you know, 80,000 subscribers at this point. And it's an engaged, you know, readership. I think I have like a 72% open rate.
Jay Clouse 42:56
Maurizio Leo 42:57
Jay Clouse 42:59
Maurizio Leo 43:00
Yeah, I mean, I'm looking, I'm looking at the metrics right now. Because I love oh, 76% average open rate. Yeah.
Jay Clouse 43:07
Maurizio Leo 43:09
Because I, I go through, and I call out people that are, you know, cold subscribers frequently, because, in my opinion, if they're not opening, then they don't, they don't care about being on the list. So I, I've been doing that for years. And so I've just built up this really core email list. And it's super valuable. I love Instagram, because I get to chat with so many bakers and I have a lot of amazing connections on Instagram. I mean, Hilary Duff, I think follows me on Instagram, which is insane. I would just name dropping right now. But I think their books. I think they're both very valuable. But I have to say, I think my email list is probably number one.
Jay Clouse 43:49
What's the typical content in a newsletter that I get from you?
Maurizio Leo 43:52
It's going to be a baking tip or advice on you know, the best way I've found in the past decade to do X in the home kitchen for your bread kind of thing. I do a lot of those. And then I do once a month when I have you know, I try to publish as a few times a month, you know, posts. So I'll round those up as well. So it's a mix between, you know, my best advice, my best baking advice and you know, the newest things that are coming out at the site.
Jay Clouse 44:19
Incredible. Well, congratulations on being the number one new release in cooking encyclopedias on Amazon is cooking encyclopedias the Amazon term for cookbook or is that a different thing?
Maurizio Leo 44:29
I think it's like a subsect. It's for books that are probably longer than most other book or maybe it's books that weigh a certain amount. I have no idea.
Jay Clouse 44:38
It almost seems like a diss. It does feel that way.
Maurizio Leo 44:41
But I have to tell you, if you look on Amazon the categories that they put you in It's weird though. They'll change me from bread baking to cooking encyclopedia to like how to I don't know who knows what kind of algorithm they've got running back there.
Jay Clouse 44:54
So I imagine this is a big bit of time that you get to reallocate once the book is done. Where are you going to put that time?
Maurizio Leo 45:02
It feels liberating. I have to say, it's amazing. I woke up, you know, this morning and I was, you know, tired, but I'm like, Okay, now I get to actually really put my focus back again on the site. So it's going to be, I'm going to try to publish as much as I can. And then YouTube is a huge kind of driving force for me. So I'm putting a lot of time and effort there. And then you mentioned courses and I've been working on you know, video courses, because I think wrapping that up with my membership is like a no brainer, like I should be providing all that material for my members, you know, included in the membership fee so those are the things.
Jay Clouse 45:44
I love to hear stories from creators like Maurizio, who start from a place of passion and what would seem like a small niche, but eventually find a massive success. Maurizio may have had a lot of his success come suddenly, it was the direct result of years of hard work and preparation. That's something that I find inspirational and I hope you remember too during the times when no one seems to care. If you want to learn more about Maurizio, you can visit his website at theperfectloaf.com or @maurizio on Instagram. Links to all that are in the shownotes. Thanks to Maurizio for being on the show. Thank you to Connor Conaboy for editing the video for this episode. Thanks to Emily Clouse for making the artwork for this episode. Thanks to Nathan Todhunter for mixing the show and to Brian Skeel for creating our music. If you'd like this episode, you can tweet @jayclouse and let me know. And if you really want to say thank you, please leave a review on Apple podcasts or Spotify. Thanks for listening and I'll talk to you next week.
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