On the first panel at the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) last weekend, Amy Sherman raised the issue of pay for recipes. She suggested if bloggers want to go pro, they start charging when companies ask to use their recipes.
It’s not a new idea for food writers like Amy and me, who have been charging for our work for years. But for food bloggers and the people who publish their work, it’s touchy.
Let’s start with the publishers. Foodista and IFBC founders Barnaby Dorfman and Sheri Wetherell have authored a forthcoming Foodista cookbook from Andrews-McMeel where 100 recipes appear as the result of a judged contest. (Disclosure: Andrews-McMeel paid me to edit the recipes in that cookbook.) No bloggers were paid for their recipes.
Was this a problem? I don’t think so. Many food bloggers are honored to be asked for a recipe, and see their blogs as a hobby. They might covet the bragging rights to winning a contest like this or getting into print. No pay is not a dealbreaker. So the question is, when, if ever, to start asking for money?
I don’t have an easy answer. I think people should be paid for their work, but I’ve been a paid writer and editor for 35 years, and that’s different from most food bloggers. Like Amy, I’ve competed with hungry new writers who charge less than they should, and that makes it harder for us to make a living. Now many cookbook authors and food writers compete with bloggers who give away their recipes to build their visibility and platform.
(At one point, Barnaby pointed out that Amy has given away her recipes for years on her blog. Amy replied that it was her decision as the publisher of her blog, and that was different from a company wanting to use her recipes for free. For her, it’s about people and companies making money from her work.)
On the other hand, Amy also develops recipes for clients. If you ask Victoria von Biel, the executive editor of Bon Appetit, this discussion is moot, because she thinks most food bloggers aren’t good enough recipe developers. “In blogs, most recipes have been ‘adapted from’ or ‘inspired by,’” she told me at an interview at IFBC. “They (food bloggers) haven’t been trained (to create original recipes).”
Her standards for new recipes, as a national food magazine editor, are high. They should be.
On the other hand (I’m getting dizzy from arguing with myself), Victoria also told me that Bon Appetit will probably feature more recipes from food bloggers on its website, especially those with platforms who are good photographers and videographers), and their recipes will not be tested. Bon Appetit will also pay less for online vs. print recipes, another now-established trend.
And finally, some food bloggers are doing very well with their recipes, according to Kirsty Melvillle, Andrews-McMeel book division president, because she participates in auctions to acquire their cookbooks.
So what’s the bottom line: If you’re a food blogger giving away recipes, YOU decide if and when you’re being taken advantage of. I’d say if your recipes are in high demand, it’s time to start asking for pay. As I said to more than one blogger over the weekend, the old adage of “No one takes advantage of you without your permission,” applies.
For more on IFBC, see these early posts:
The Future of Food Writing at the International Food Blogger Conference, a report from Publisher’s Weekly