Sep 262012

Yes that’s us, according to Wiley and Alpha book publishers. It’s kind of a questionable strategy to think of your readers this way, don’t you think? Maybe someone could start another line for Morons.

Regardless, some of these guidebooks are quite good. Here are two new ones on food blogging and getting published worth your consideration:

1. Kelly Senyei of Just a Taste food blog, also the Associate Editor of Gourmet Live, recently authored Food Blogging for Dummies. Well written and upbeat, it’s perfect for those who want to start a blog but have no idea how. She walks readers through how to set up a blog, find your voice, design a blog, take great photos, and how to promote and distribute content.

I like Senyei’s writing advice about how to make a good impression. She says to project confidence, rather than writing with insecurity as your guide; avoid mimicking other writers you admire because “it’s way more work to fake authenticity;” and to envision your brand to make your blog a destination, with you as the attraction.

She’s quite practical, suggesting readers establish a posting schedule. This is a good tip, as so many new food bloggers wait for inspiration, and as a result, don’t write regularly enough to establish an audience. Even if it’s just a hobby, posting more often will increase your skill level. She advises that you determine a realistic number of posts per week based on how many new ideas you can generate on a consistent basis.

Since I am not a beginning blogger, I didn’t find much that’s new, which is fine because I’m not the target audience. I read her section about monetizing with eagerness (maybe I was hoping for some kind of miracle) but found the usual advice about networks, sponsorship and affiliate programs, plus offshoots like freelancing, food styling, recipe development. That’s not her fault, as it’s the right list and content I cover as well. Admirably, she conducted a survey to determine food blogger income and discovered that one third earn between $25 and $500 in monthly ad revenue.

2. Literary agent Sheree Bykofsky and non-fiction author Jennifer Basye Sander collaborated on The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published, now in its fifth edition. This is a general book with a little bit on everything to do with book publishing. There’s good advice about examining your motivation, which books sell, figuring out what’s selling, how to submit to publishers, and then how to find agents, editors and what happens when you get a book deal, including understanding a contract. In other words, the whole megillah.

Unlike other similar books, often the info doesn’t end once you get a book contract. The authors tell you what an editor goes through in an average day, how to format your manuscript, and how to sell and promote the book. There’s also a section on self-publishing, under “Continuing Your Career as An Author,” which implies that you should go for it only after you’re established.

For cookbook authors, there’s nothing about the role of photography and how that process works in publishing houses, which is disappointing. The subject of cookbooks gets a paragraph as part of a longer discussion of types of non-fiction books. There’s a terrific story that kind of makes up for these omissions, about Malena de Blasi, author of Regional Foods of Northern Italy, now out of print:

“Marlena did find terrific writing success, but it wasn’t as a cookbook writer, which was how she originally perceived herself. She wrote the lyrical story of her midlife romance with an Italian man who swept her off her feet and convinced her to move on a whim to Venice. Her book, A Thousand Days in Venice, became a literary travel best seller. A scant two years later she wrote a sequel, A Thousand Days in Tuscany. Then came That Summer in Siciliy and Amandine. Marlene lives and writes in Italy year after year, including recipes in her books but never again trying to be just a cookbook author.”

So take a look at these two books and see if they’re right for your or friends. I’m still traveling in Ireland and about to fly to London for the Food Blogger Connect annual conference. See you back here next week.

* * *

[Disclosure: This post contains links that could lead to an income of a few cents if you click through and purchase.]

Share Button

  26 Responses to “2 Books For Dummies and Idiots”

  1. Wishing the book “Blogging for Dummies” was available five years ago! I suspect now – most of what is in it is what I learned the hard way. This is timely though, as I am in the process of rethinking my blog and my wants from it (not monetary) and how to maximize the grand sense of community I have from it.

    • Yes, true that there wasn’t much around 5 years ago, other than a supportive community of other food bloggers. I’ve heard that many of them relied on each other for help.

  2. Well, I guess it’s come to this: blogging has become so imperative to writers that there are “dummy” books available. Some things are inevitable. Thanks for the info, Dianne.

    • Hah. Yes, by now there are probably several “dummies” books on blogging in general. I bought one from the Huffington Post early on, from a blogging conference book table. It’s a skill. We might as well learn how to be good at it, eh?

  3. Two great books … Thx for sharing :-)

  4. So glad these have been published and only wish I had had a copy two years ago. Looks like a lot of useful information.

  5. I’m in the midst of reading Food Blogging for Dummies and have found it to be very helpful. It’s easy enough to skip through parts I know (but I always reread just in case I missed something) and she’s writing to her audience…not really Dummies, but people new at blogging and who are looking for information. And she has a chapter on photography which had some very useful information.

    • Great to read this, Laney. Thanks. Her chapter on photography was quite good, as I recall. AS is true of most books like this, you don’t have to read the whole thing from cover to cover, but can dip in and out depending on your need.

  6. Great reviews of these books, Diane. It’s always interesting to hear about new books like these. Actually I have heard of the first one but figured that it may not apply as much to those who’ve been blogging for years but like anything, there are always little tidbits that can be useful.

    And food photography, yes, hugely important – in anyone writing about food in any capacity. If the pics arent’t good, no one gives you more than a half second of their time. There is that pressure to have the photography be as good, or better than, the recipes, I find!

    • Averie,

      I agree. Re: food photography. We do indeed, eat with our eyes. Look at Pintrest, a site that evolved over beautiful pictures.

      I like your “Thursday Things,” list. Number 6 is on my to-do.


    • Thanks Averie. Yes, true that there are always tidbits to learn in a book like this. Photography is not only driving food blogs, it is driving Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, so lots of pressure to be good at it. Good thing you’re there!

  7. I downloaded Food blogging For Dummies as soon as it was available for Kindle. I thought the content was very good. Sensible, measured but very readable. There is a lot of basic stuff that some of us with blogs have discovered for ourselves, but plenty of other useful information. I even bought the print copy as the illustrations in the Kindle version weren’t very clear. GG

    • Great to read this and to have met you in London. Interesting that you bought the print version on top of the e-book. I’m sure the Kindle can’t do that book justice, as it is full color on every page and chocked full of screen shots.

  8. Like Claudia, I wish the Dummies book had been around when I started. That’s one steep learning curve to be on and some concentrated guidance would have been welcome. I often found that I didn’t even know the right questions – let alone how to get the answers!

    • Hah! Yes, so true for me as well. Your comment gives me yet another reason to appreciate my geeky husband. He has taught me how to Google things I don’t know, and you’d be surprised what comes up.

      That’s another thing to give Senyei props for: there’s lots of good technical information about design.

  9. I started blogging in 2009, a late-bloomer in the blogging world. I jumped into the deep end (advice from a friend and marketing guru) with a site, instead of easier to manage formats, like Blogger. In hindsight, I think the learning curve would have been shorter, and I certainly would have benefited from Senyai’s “Dummies,” book. But I’m glad I have .org as my blogs grow. Now when I hire a web designer, I have the tools and have bought the domains.

    I met Kelly at a blogging conference last October, and was so excited to see what she brought to the table, I pre-ordered the book, then forgot about it, bought a copy when it came out, and then received the pre-ordered book in the mail. Ha!

    About the book itself, I found the chapters about Marketing & Monetization most helpful. The other chapters just validated and enhanced what I’d already learned.

    While it’s not an essential book for experienced bloggers, I’m from the school of thought that you can never know too much.

    I haven’t read the “Idiot’s Guide,” but it looks like another book for my collection.

    Thanks Dianne, as always.

    • Interesting, Maureen. I thought the opposite, that moving to WordPress shortened my learning curve.

      Yes, Senyei’s chapter about Marketing and Monetization was great, because it’s thorough and realistic. You can never have too much of that. There’s so much other noise about bloggers getting rich.

  10. I happen to agree with most of the comments. The reason people wishing to have access to this book earlier (when they launched their food blog), is, because it is written for the newbie in mind.

    This is one of the rare times that I disagree with Dianne (sorry Dianne) about the photography information in the book. There are three chapters about photography (and rightfully so, due to the importance of the visual presentation in food blogging), but I think that Katherine Martinelli’s single post gave us more detailed and practical information about how to use our camera, props and lighting, as compared to the three large chapters of the book.

    I do not consider wasting my money by purchasing the book (I like the dummies series most of the time); there is always something new in every book. Moreover, it also supports the actions we took before and during the launch of our sites, which ultimately boosts our confidence to push on, no matter what.

    In conclusion, I would like to see a more advanced book for people that are doing fine, but would like to get inspired with respect to “quo vadis?” What is next? Where we go from here?

    Here is one suggestion: How about emulating the book: “$100 Startup” to food writing? I find highly invigorating to read about people that with no special skills reinvented the way to make a living, which allows them to do what they love and giving them the greatest fulfillment.

    • You mean this post on your blog? It is very good, Georgette.

      Re an advanced book, that is an interesting idea, but right now so few people are actually making a full-time decent living from their blogs that it would be a very thin book.

  11. Thanks for sharing these references. Good to know these are available. But eversince I started blogging, I’ve always used your book “Will Write for Food” as reference and still do. I don’t know how I would have managed without your advice! Thanks again for all that you share with us, Dianne!

    • Oh that’s sweet, Elizabeth. Thank you.

      Senyei’s book is different. For one thing, it’s in full color, so there are lots of photos of screens and food shots, which help a lot. And as a food blogger, she can add a lot of value where I can’t.

  12. Hi Dianne,

    Many thanks for recommending the books above. I’ve yet to have read either one, but I think Kelly Senyei’s “Dummies” book suits me better as a total newbie to the whole food writing/blogging scene. However, “Will Write For Food” is still my number one go-to book when it comes to the fundamentals of food writing and its likes. Thanks again for sharing the tips and tricks of the trade!

  13. Hi Dianne!
    I will definitely add these selections to my stack of books or blog bibles as I so fondly refer to them. However long this reading list might grow, there is only one book at the top and that is “Will Write for Food”. As a new subscriber, I would like to take this opportunity with my very first comment to thank you as your book is responsible for helping me publish my blog (for better or for worse!!! :)). The other books have been very helpful but they are “How To’s”. Not to say that such books don’t have great value but yours is the nurturing, gently pushing, consistently prodding, “You got this!” type of how-to. Thanks a million!

    • Thank you so much, Laura, for the kind words about my book and for your first comment on my blog. I hope it will be the first of many. These other books are worth adding to your library as well.

 Leave a Reply



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>