Editor-in-Chief Tanya Steel was in town recently to promote Epicurious.com, home of 30,000 recipes, at the farmer’s market at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza. I thought I’d stop in to get her thoughts about today’s food writing scene.
Over spearmint tisane (for me) and coffee (for her) from Blue Bottle, she said she tries to keep her ear to the ground, stay ahead of trends, and innovate. To do so she scans 10 to 12 blogs and aggregate sites from around the country every day, including The Food Section, Cold Mud, and newspaper food section blogs. Her staff scours social networking sites.
It must be working. Her latest accomplishment, the free Epicurious app, available for the iPhone, iPad, Droid and other mobile devices, has more than 2.5 million copies in circulation, making it a leading app.
When asked how today’s food writer could get ahead, she said every writer should be learning “on a parallel track.” You must be “platform agnostic,” she advised.”Think of yourself as a brand and expand your writing into every platform.”
There’s no such thing as enough, she continued. Writers should “have a website and blog every day. Whatever excites them is what they should blog about.” Food writers should also be building up expertise at the same time. So “if you’re passionate about meat, take classes on butchering and grilling.”
Today’s writers have to be tech and social media savvy as well. “Everyone should know what SEO is, how to submit to Digg, how to Twitter when you put something up.”
Steel, a former magazine editor turned website editor and apps developer, walks her talk. She has also pushed into a yet another new area, publishing her first cookbook. For less experienced writers who want to write books, however, she’s big on self publishing because there are “so many ways to sell content online.” “You could bypass any publisher and create an e-book, then sell it on Amazon, and with the right keywords and tags you could be on the front page.” She also suggested food writers explore self publishing through sites like Blurb.
When asked about freelancing possibilities for Epicurious.com, she said the daily online food publication already uses “a ton of freelancers,” who write about restaurants, wine and drinks, travel and health. They include many writers she has known from her print days as an editor at Food & Wine and Bon Appetit. “We try to go with people who are experts in their field, people who have a track record and are well established,” she said. Like other national magazine editors, she rarely takes a chance on a new writer.
Is her advice doable or implausible? Exhausting or exhilarating? Profitable or income-starved?Let me know your thoughts.
p.s. Want to win a copy of my book? Head over to Wasabimon and enter.