Jul 232013
 

Virginia Willis does a lot of jobs simultaneously to pay the bills, and because she prefers it that way. (Photo by Angie Mosier)

A guest post by Virginia Willis

A few years ago there was a great outcry when Food52’s Amanda Hesser wrote that she wouldn’t advise any one to become a food writer. At the time I disagreed, but now I find that she has a point.

To be successful as a food writer, I wear many hats. Sometimes, I do work outside food writing because I enjoy it. Sometimes that work is more lucrative. Regardless, all these hats create massive scheduling and financial challenges, but also diversity and stimulation. My small business can be feast or famine, but the jobs are tightly intertwined and I cannot imagine it any other way.

The deal is, it’s just not enough to be a food writer, even a successful one. We may not be starving artists, but very few writers are financially successful.

Here’s what I do as a food writer. It’s a lot but it’s not enough:

1. Cookbook author. My two cookbooks have received much acclaim and even some awards. Using the language of Publishers Lunch, my advances have been Continue reading »

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Jul 092013
 

Melbourne-based Sandra Reynolds spends $120 per week on food for a family of four, and teaches others how to budget and eat well.

Last year at Eat.Drink.Blog, the Australian food blogger conference, I met Melbourne-based Sandra Reynolds of The $120 Dollar Food Challenge, who held the audience spellbound as she recounted how a dire situation led to food blogging and a cookbook deal. Recently, we spoke further about her career and her struggle to support herself:

Q. In February 2010, you left your job as a public servant and had to figure out how to feed yourself and your two teenage children.

A. I went to the Salvation Army and they gave me two $60 food vouchers designed to last two weeks. And it started from there.

I went on Facebook to complain to my friends that I only had $60 to feed my family. My friends started asking what I could cook. I sent them recipes, and then someone said, ’91You could start a blog.’

Q. How did you know what to do?

A. I’d read a couple. A friend of mine had me write a few posts for Continue reading »

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Mar 192013
 

Should writers write for free, for exposure, or for fun? Or maybe all three? Everybody has an opinion, sometimes heated.

An argument about getting paid for online work erupted recently, when a respected journalist blogged about an Atlantic Wire editor who asked to repost a long article online for free.

What’s unbelievable is that just a few years ago, the Atlantic magazine offered him $21,000 per article for original reporting, and now they’re offering him nothing in exchange for “exposure.”

Here’s the scoop from Reuters blogger Felix Salmon:

“The exchange has particular added poignancy because it’s not so many years since Continue reading »

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Mar 122013
 

Now in his ninth year as a food blogger, Adam Roberts of the Amateur Gourmet shows no sign of slowing. A witty and charming writer, he posts several times a week on restaurant meals, cooking a new dish, hosting dinner parties, and other adventures and experiments. He’s also good at coming up with attention-grabbing posts that go viral.

I met Roberts for the second time at Food Blog South, where he delivered a valuable talk on 10 Food Blog Posts That ‘ll Get You Traffic. He likes to write advice posts to food bloggers, whom he considers a main part of his Amateur Gourmet audience. I’ve listed those posts below. Consider them gold, because they’re like insider information on how to succeed as a Continue reading »

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Jan 292013
 

Lori Lange of Recipe Girl is in her 4th year of writing sponsored posts. (Photo by Amy Boring)

Lori Lange‘s food blog, Recipe Girl, made last year’s list of one of the top food blogs in the US, according to The Daily Meal. Upbeat and energetic, Lori never seems to run out of easy meal ideas.

One of the things that interests me about her blog is the way Lori works with food companies. As you know, I’m a hard nut to crack on the subject of sponsored posts. I’m no longer opposed to writing them, but I get frustrated by how few food bloggers write about products well.

Lori takes a professional approach, writing directly to potential clients in a “Work with Me” page, and creating straightforward, non-advertorial posts that always disclose she’s been Continue reading »

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Dec 262012
 

Nancy Hachisu makes rice bran pickles in her Japanese farmhouse. Photo by Kenji Miura. (Courtesy of Nancy Hachisu)

When I met Nancy Singleton Hachisu in Mexico in 2010, I was taken aback by the sight of another woman in her 50s at a food blogger camp.

Over our week together, more surprises came. Nancy had moved to Japan to teach English 22 years earlier, married her English conversation student —- an organic farmer, and raised their three boys in the Japanese countryside, living and working on their farm.

My head was spinning. How did a blond white woman from an upscale California neighborhood live in rural Japan with her family and mother-in-law, where there were no others like her? Plus, she spoke Japanese with ease, established an English immersion preschool near her home, and cooked traditional Japanese meals with her husband. How did she do all this with such gusto?

Fortunately, now there’s a 400-page cookbook to explain, called Japanese Farm Food. (Disclosure: I helped Nancy with the book proposal.) A hefty hardcover with a spine wrapped in indigo cloth, the cookbook features stunning photographs of Nancy’s food, family, and life on the farm and off. Personal essays make the book almost memoir-ish, but in a no-nonsense, affectionate way, not confessional or nostalgic. Simple vegetable-forward recipes are based on seasonal fresh produce from the family farm, flavored with classic ingredients such as miso, sake and soy.

Nancy began her writing career in 2008, with two magazine articles published in Japanese about Slow Food and Alice Waters. A year later, she took Stanford Continuing Studies writing classes and started a blog called Indigo Days at the encouragement of fellow writers, about Continue reading »

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Dec 182012
 

Every once and a while, I hear resentment. Someone’s to blame about why food writers aren’t paid well for their work.

Whose fault is it? Here are the three most common scapegoats:

  1. Writers who have partners who work. These writers don’t care if they make a living wage because they don’t need the money. They might not work full time or care what they’re paid.
  2. People who work full-time and write about food as a hobby. They will probably never make food writing a full-time career. And they don’t need the money because they have jobs, so they write for free or for little pay.
  3. Hobby bloggers. They write for free or little pay too, because they’re thrilled to be Continue reading »
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