Is it Time for Metrics in US Recipes? A Q&A with Ten Speed's Melissa Moore

Let’s say you want to write a cookbook, and you live in the USA. Should you write recipes that include metric measurements (liters and grams) in additional to imperial (cups and pounds)? That’s a good question, and one that’s being asked more often these days.

First, let’s admit that the US is way behind in the metrics arena. It should not come as a surprise that, to quote Dave Barry: “The metric system is not going to catch on in the States, unless you count the increasing popularity of the nine-millimeter bullet.” We are one of only three countries that have not yet embraced the metric system, along with Burma and Liberia.

Second, many bakers are adamant about measuring dry ingredients by weight for accuracy, and more baking books sold in the US list them.

And third, a daily US newspaper has taken to including metric measurements in some recipes, as some kind of experient.

To get some clarity on the issue, I turned to Melissa Moore, an editor at Ten Speed Press specializing in cookbooks, about the state of metric measurements today:

Q. Is metric measurement in cookbooks getting more popular in the US?

A. There has been somewhat of a shift. More people have a digital scale in their homes [Read more…]

Kickstarter Campaign Reaches Nearly $100,000 to Pre-Sell Cookbooks

(Disclosure: After working on this post, I bought this cookbook. I love foraging and viewing beautiful images of plants, and these two women impressed me. If you wish to do the same, act now, as time is running out.)

Herbalist Dina Falconi teaches people about plants, herbs and foraging in the wild, and has done so for about 30 years. Now that foraging for edible plants is trendy, she decided the time is right for a cookbook. As the writer of Earthly Bodies & Heavenly Hair, a recipe book for body care products published in 1998 from a small press, Falconi knew about the process.

Her book idea took shape about three years ago, when Wendy Hollender, a professional illustrator, moved to Falconi’s New York neighborhood. Falconi asked Hollender if she wanted to ilustrate a cookbook on foraging and feasting. “With her skills, I could direct her art to be [Read more…]

5 Things Literary Agents Say When They Mean No

Snagging a literary agent for your book proposal takes nerves of steel. You might have to send a query out to many agents, while telling yourself that it only takes one who’s excited about your book.

Most agents accept only one or two percent of the queries and book proposals they read. They spend a lot of time saying no. The problem is that they don’t have time to tell you why they don’t like your book idea or you, and often their responses don’t shed any light. On top of that, you’re not supposed to ask for clarification when you do get a response, because once they’ve said no, it’s no.

Possibly the most stressful thing of all is how long literary agents take to answer. Many take a month to six weeks to write two sentences back about [Read more…]

Q&A: Peter Reinhart on What it Takes to Be a Successful Cookbook Author

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 [Read more…]

7 Things I Learned at the IACP Annual Conference

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 [Read more…]

9 Questions For When a Book Publisher Calls

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 [Read more…]

Pile of Food Blogger Cookbooks in the Works

“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 [Read more…]