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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Mar 222011
 

 

Writer Michael Ruhlman (Photo by Donna Ruhlman)

Our industry needs writers willing to embrace the digital future of food writing. Michael Ruhlman, an award-winning cookbook author, dove in. He embraced blogging a few years ago and has now has regular income based on it. Next he put out apps on mobile devices based on his books.

As part of a team, Ruhlman created three apps and he’s in development on the fourth. They are:

1. The Ratio app for the iPhone and iPod. At $4.99, Rulman says the app has sold 11,000 copies, and continues to sell at the rate of 50 per week. Apple takes 30 percent off the top. The team of Ruhlman, the developer, and the designer (Leah McCombe) split the rest. The team worked on spec (basically for free) in exchange for royalties. Ruhlman is working on an enhanced Ratio app for the iPad with the developer, Sideways.

2.  The Ratio Android app. Not quite as popular, it sells 1 for every 10 sold on Apple. The same team created it and splits the revenue.

3. The iPad Bread Baking Basics. Itsells for $1.99. The team comprised Ruhlman; his wife Donna Ruhlman, who shot the photos; and the developer, Will Turnage of R/GA.

4. An iPad app based on his forthcoming book, Ruhlman’s 20. Ruhlman is currently in negotiations with Chronicle Books.

Ruhlman spoke to to members of the International Association of Culinary Professionals on a teleforum last week about apps, and I followed up with this interview.

Q. Why did you decide to make an app from your book Ratio?

A. Because the concept lends itself so beautifully to what a smart phone can do. There’s enough people who have Continue reading »

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Feb 222011
 

 

Literary Agent Lisa Ekus of The Lisa Ekus Group

Want to get your book published, and think you need to write a proposal? Maybe.

I spoke with Lisa Ekus, a literary agent who represents food-based books exclusively, about what’s new, what editors want, how she works a deal, and what writers need to do to attract the attention of an agent like herself.

What she said about the majority of her book deals might surprise you.

Q. You’re entering your 11th year as a literary agent specializing in cookbooks. What kind of changes have you seen in the publishing world during this time?

A. There’s no better time to be a food writer. There are fewer obstacles to have one’s voice heard because of the proliferation of blogging. In the past it was very challenging to break in. Now anyone who has something to say is online, and many editors who are looking for content can find it.

So how do we separate the wheat from the chaff? More talented writers have opportunities, but there has to be a system of building credentials and credibility, of putting the same diligence to your writing in an e-format: doing your own research, having ethics about where you get your material, having recipes tested, and having copy editing done before it gets posted. You still have to market yourself because there are 120 million blogs out there.

There’s more interest than ever before in food and travel and ethnic cuisines. People are now looking for people to weigh in, and writers have such an opportunity.

People keep saying that print is dead, but it’s not. It’s shifting. Highly illustrated books are harder to go Continue reading »

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