Five Good Ideas for a Cookbook/Classes Coming Up

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Last week I started teaching a class on cookbook writing at Book Passage bookstore. I begin by browsing the cookbook section (not that I need prompting), picking up books to show the class that fit my criteria of great ideas. Here are five:

1. The subject is timely and capitalizes on a trend. For this criteria I foundĀ the new Twitter cookbook, with an introduction by former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni.

Author Maureen Edwards set up a twitter account, @cookbooks, to attract recipes, and published hundreds of them in this playful book.

Yes, it’s a gimmick. Gimmicks often work.

2. It’s about your area of expertise. D-I-Y Delicious capitalizes on the trend to make your own foods from scratch, with recipes for everything from cheese to sodas to ketchup. Written by chef Vanessa Barrington, it’s aimed at people who are into urban homesteading and crafty projects.

3. You are passionate about the subject. Pastry chef Fany Gerson spent years traveling around her native Mexico and sampling sweets to produce the scholarly and beautifully photographed My Sweet Mexico.

4. It has something new to say, or a new approach. Did you know that food blogger Bakerella’s new Cake Pops cookbook was the number one pre-ordered book on Amazon recently? This food blogger has an amazing following.

Her thing is labor-intensive cakes on a stick. They’re adorable. Only 40 recipes, but I bet she got a 6-figure advance.

5. It reaches a large, well-defined audience. Recipes from an Italian Summer, in addition to its evocative cover, reaches those of us who love to cook Italian food, and we are legion. Apparently you can rarely go wrong with an Italian cookbook.

One thing you’ll notice: In the best circumstances, the ideas overlap.

For more on this subject, read p. 181-192 of Will Write for Food, or read Ten Great Ideas for a Non-Fiction Book on my website. Scroll down to Feature Article No. 2.

* * *

Speaking of classes, I’ll be in Cleveland November 12-14 at the Fabulous Food Show, a two-day extravaganza featuring cooking demos by TV food stars including Giada De Laurentiis and Guy Fieri.

My classes are “Should You Write a Cookbook or Start a Blog? “(for professionals) and “Food Writing for Food Lovers” (open to the public on Saturday). Please come by and say hello if you’re at the show. I’ll be co-teaching the classes with food writing pal Laura Taxel.


  1. Karen says

    Don’t we all wish we were either in California or on our way to Cleveland!! How about doing an online class? That might be really fun – and you wouldn’t have to worry about not having enough chairs for everyone. How about it guys, anyone else want an online class from Dianne???

  2. says


    I loved the class I took from you at Leite’s Culinaria and your panel discussion at IFBC was one of the highlights. I’d take a class from you again anytime! Love your 5 good ideas listed here. A Twitter Cookbook? Wow, I’ll have to check that one out. That is definitely a great way to “capitalize on a trend.”


    • diannejacob says

      Thanks Melissa. Wasn’t that a good idea? I think she jumped on the trend early. As I recall from the book jacket, her partner was one of the first programmers at Twitter.

    • diannejacob says

      Nothing planned yet, but I will certainly let you know. I was there earlier this year for BlogHer.

  3. says

    Totally agree with the things that often make for very successful cookbooks.

    I bought the Italian Summer cookbook, though, and was SO disappointed with the actual recipes. The book itself is GORGEOUS, with photos printed directly on the pages (with a parchment look) and they use a font that looks vintage. It’s an absolutely STUNNING book, but the actual recipes aren’t that great. I poured over the thing and only came up with 2 or 3 that I would actually make. (And I’m pretty adventurous!) So, they aren’t “typical” Italian favorites, by any stretch of the imagination.

    But… it sells! Like hot cakes! And that’s what we’re talking about here! :-)

    • diannejacob says

      Jackie, I’m wondering why you are disappointed. The average number of recipes that a reader cooks from a cookbook is only 2 or 3, so you fit right in.

      • Karen says

        Dianne – really only 2 or 3 recipes? Maybe we should start a list of the cookbooks that we all use and have pencil marks in and sauce all over the pages. I have many that I have cooked my way through – they are the real “standards” that are the never fail, go to, always a hit books that I know everyone else must have also. I have one that falls open to the most used pages – and those pages are falling out from sheer exhaustion!

  4. says

    Hi Dianne,
    more wonderful tips from you! Now I hear you’re going to be in my hometown for the Fabulous Food Show- I hope I can make it back for a visit and attend such a great program. Thanks again for this post and for all I learned from you at your talk at Kendall College in Chicago.

    • diannejacob says

      Hey Yvonne, great to have met you in Chicago. Maybe I’ll see you again in Cleveland. At least it’s not so far to drive!

  5. says

    Those are indeed good ideas. That haven’t been done over and over already–except maybe the Italian book–I suspect that everything possible has already been covered on Italian! The Mexican sweets book is one I will have to take a look at. And the Bakerella Cake Pops certainly features a unique and appealing vision that explains its instant “pop-ularity.”

    • diannejacob says

      You’d think that everything has already been done in Italian books, but it’s a huge category. Two former clients have books coming out this fall on Italian cooking. Hah hah — that’s cute about pop-ularity, Nancy.

  6. says

    Wish you would come to Austin or even Dallas/Houston! Do you think that like Italian cookbooks, Indian ones are a huge category also? There are A LOT of Indian cookbooks out there. I’m thinking about an Indian one but a more specialized one, like just a region or two, but I’m afraid the field is saturated.

  7. says

    I’m signing up for your class tomorrow!! I’m new to Cleveland and Taxel’s book has been sitting on my nightstand literally since I moved here. Every time I think I somehow managed to find a spot she hasn’t tracked down, sure enough, it’s there. I here she’s working on a new book about the West Side Market. And I’m on Chapter six of Will Write for Food.

  8. says

    I will definitely sign up for your on-line class.
    I agree with your cookbook ideas. I wish this would help me think of something! I’ll keep it in mind.