Sep 042012
 

Peter Reinhart is a baking instructor and faculty member at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Peter Reinhart has authored eight cookbooks, including the The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, winner of two national awards. That cookbook alone has sold more than 100,000 copies.

You’d think he’d have an ego, but during our interview Reinhart came across humbly, talking about the value of working with a team and not burning bridges.

I caught up with him as he taught baking classes in California to promote his latest book, The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking, co-authored with Denene Wallace. It’s his first book on low-carb breads, pastries, cookies, and cake for those sensitive to gluten, diabetics, or those who need to reduce carbs to prevent weight gain. The focus is on baking with nut and seed flours and non-sugar sweeteners.

In this interview, he talks about the value of sticking with the same publisher, learning a new subject, and why you need a thick skin to grow as a writer:

Q. Why did you decide to write a gluten-free, sugar-free baking book? You are a bread and pizza guy.

A. Ten Speed asked if I wanted to do a gluten-free book, and I said only if we cover new territory. They told me gluten-free and allergen-free was the hottest new category. It was nice to be asked. I felt like I had arrived.

Q. You’ve been with Ten Speed for a long time.

A. It’s common to jump around to publishing houses, but it feels traditional to be with a publishing house where you feel like they’re part of your family. There’s a comfort level there and a trust level there. I’ve been with them for 12 years.

I got lucky when Random House bought Ten Speed because they got bigger distribution but they kept the same team. My former editor, Aaron (Wehner, publisher), is a great idea man. He stays engaged and I have access to him. Melissa (Moore, Food Editor) is the new Aaron, very collaborative. This is our third book together.

In the old days you read about Judith Jones and Julia Child, where people were together for years. I feel like I’m in the stable with thoroughbreds. And if I want to do a non-food book I can stay within the Random House family and go with an imprint.

Q. What makes an award-winning cookbook?

A. Writing a book is not a solo effort. Sometimes the magic is just there with the editor, the publisher, the design, the photography — it’s like putting a movie together. Everybody contributed something. Having great recipe testers has been invaluable too.

From the writer’s standpoint, it’s important to appreciate that process. I know a few writers who have fought the process, to their Continue reading »

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Apr 042012
 

Four days of networking, learning and fun in New York at hotels, offices and cooking schools. (Photo by Damian Brandon)

I’m back from a packed schedule of classes, meetings, cooking demos, expos and parties at the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual conference, held in New York.

I taught at a class beforehand, zoomed around the city, saw friends and colleagues, met new people, learned about our industry, ate too much, and laughed with my roomies. Here are my seven takeaways:

1. Yes, you can make money as a food blogger. While the panelists refused to say how much, public relations people and marketing folks said they hire food bloggers and cookbook writers as brand ambassadors, recipe developers, event planners — and to write Continue reading »

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Oct 042011
 

In the last few weeks, I’ve heard from lots of food bloggers who are getting calls from publishers, asking them to write books.

It’s thrilling to get one of these calls, but they didn’t necessarily know what questions to ask the publisher.

And of course, there’s no reason why they should know, since they have never been in this position before. So I compiled a list of questions, in case a call like this comes your way.

The most important thing is to not make commitments during the initial call. Get the answers to these questions, and then think it over.

1. What is the advance? The advance is the amount of money you are paid up front to write the book. If the publisher offers you $10,000, and your royalty rate is $1 per book (that’s high, so see No. 2. I’m just making the math easier), then you earn $1 per book after you sell 10,000 books.

Beginning advances for first-time book authors range from $3500 – $25,000, unless you’re a star. Most of the time, they’re offering you Continue reading »

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Aug 092011
 

“So many food bloggers have books coming out right now!” declared Amy Sherman of Cooking With Amy. She, Cheryl Sternman-Rule of 5 Second Rule (on the list below), and I were gabbing on the phone, preparing for our food blogging panel at the Book Passage Travel and Food Writing and Photography conference this weekend.

I had not counted how many, so Amy whipped up a list and emailed it to me. I added a few names, including writers I coached on book proposals (so proud!). And she’s right, it’s a pretty impressive list.

I happen to know that the advances on this list range from around $3500 to six figures. (A book advance is the amount the publisher pays you upfront.) Regardless of the advance size, there’s no doubt that cookbook editors think food bloggers are hot enough to follow, befriendand even comment on their blogs.

Food bloggers have tons of advantages as book authors. They come with their own list of potential readers. They’ve not only created a community but often they’re part of a Continue reading »

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Aug 022011
 

Deb Perelman turns in the manuscript for her first cookbook, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, at the end of this month. I caught up with her to ask her how writing a cookbook has been different than writing her blog.

You can meet Perelman at the International Food Blogger Conference in New Orleans August 26-28. She, Kate McDermott of Art of the Pie, and I will be talking about recipe development.

Q. What percentage of recipes will come from the blog?

A. Very few recipes, maybe 10 to 15 percent. I have to put in the greatest hits or it wouldn’t feel like the Smitten Kitchen cookbook.

Q. Where did you get your inspiration for new dishes?

A. I have no shortage of ideas. I have a long list of recipe ideas I’ve been building on for a decade, and I keep them all in Google Docs. I can reach them from any computer, from the phone and from the grocery store.

Besides cookbooks that I know and love, the web is a great tool to research recipes. I gravitate towards recipe sites that have reviews, like the Food Network, Allrecipes and Epicurious. It’s not that I’m looking for new ideas. It’s more like I have my recipe for pancakes, and I wonder if the salt level is too high or how much milk other recipes use.

I get a lot of ideas from restaurants too, where there’s something about the dish I like, like the combination of ingredients.

Blueberry Yogurt Multigrain Pancakes. (Photo by permission of Deb Perelman.)

Q. How is the cookbook different from the blog?

A. There are things I’ve pulled from the cookbook because they were going to be really complicated Continue reading »

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May 112011
 

It’s a quandry. You want to entice readers to make your recipes, but you don’t want to just hit them over the head with sales pitches.

Fortunately, there are more subtle ways to attract people to a recipe. Here are five methods cookbook authors use to draw in readers:

1. Make them salivate. Describe the food and how it’s cooked so readers can not only imaging tasting it, but they see it, smell it, hear it, even imagine touching it. Here’s a headnote for South Indian-Style Eggplant Pickle, from Cradle of Flavor by Saveur Editor-in-Chief James Oseland that gets the senses going:

“This south Indian-style pickle is popular in Malaysian kitchens, although the sugar in it is a decidedly Malaysian addition. Similar to caponata, the Sicilian eggplant relish, it’s made of chunks of Japanese eggplants in a lavishly spiced sweet-sour pickling base. Coriander, fennel, cumin, chiles, ginger, and cinnamon all vie for dominance, creating a lush layering of flavors. The eggplants are fried and then put in the pickling base, rather than cooked in it. Japanese eggplants, which are commonly used in Malaysian cuisine, cook quickly, so frying them first give you more control, ensuring that they won’t come out mushy.”

Notice his evocative description, so specific that you can almost taste the eggplant. He assumes you may not know caponata, so he describes it too. Then he tells you how to cook the dish, so you can Continue reading »

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Mar 292011
 

Culinary mysteries sport some of my favorite food-based titles of all time, full  of puns and double entendres.

Yesterday my agent said she’d just told someone how my book, Will Will Write for Food, got its title. She suggested I tell you as well.

I hadn’t thought about that story for a while, and it’s a good one. Should you be faced with coming up with a witty book title one day, you might be able to use it. And I give a few suggestions for coming up with good titles at the end of this post.

(Isn’t it ironic? As a freelance editor, I can come up with great titles for others, but I had so much trouble with my own.)

Back when I turned in my manuscript for the first edition, I had a loser working title. My agent (who does not like to be named),  my publisher (who no longer works at the publishing house and the publishing house no longer exists) and I went around and around for two months, trying to find a better one.

Ready to know the name of the working Continue reading »

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