Apr 012014
 
Food blogger and cookbook author David Lebovitz. (All photos by Ed Anderson.)

Food blogger and cookbook author David Lebovitz. (All photos by Ed Anderson.)

Writing books is both a struggle and a joy. That was David Lebovitz’s experience for his latest cookbook, My Paris Kitchen. It’s full of stories of his life in Paris, with gorgeous photos for classic and modern recipes. I caught up with David on email, to ask about his writing process and philosophy:

Q. Why did you want a book with so many stories? The recipes often have a story in front of the headnote! That’s a lot of work.

A. We all spend so much time online, madly scrolling through things and clicking around, that I’ve realized how much I miss sitting in a chair (or curling up in bed), with a book. The idea of My Paris Kitchen was to present a personalized picture of Paris. I like telling stories and the story of the book is how I Continue reading »

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Feb 212012
 

A former student, Cheryl Sternman Rule, whose first cookbook, Ripe, comes out next month, asked, “How do I know when my book is successful?”

Good question. I told her she had to define it for herself, that everyone thinks something different, and some never feel success, no matter how many copies they sell or awards they win. She decided her book would be successful when she sells past the first print run.

Fair enough. I thought about my definition. While I’ve won two awards for Will Write for Food since it came out in 2005, I think it’s successful because people are still buying it.Then I wondered what other authors, publishers and agents would say.

One of the authors I asked was Michael Ruhlman. First he said, “I believe a cookbook is successful if it inspires someone to cook; if it advances our understanding of food or our skill in the kitchen. For the cookbook writer, it’s successful if convinces a publisher to give you money to do another one!”

Then he was so taken by the subject that he asked his Twitter followers what they thought, and created an excellent simultaneous post about cookbook success. It was fun to work together on our posts.

Now, let’s see what the others have to say:

“When the publisher asks you to write another?” Paula Wolfort, cookbook author

“First, reviews: if the book receives no attention online, in print or in broadcast media, then it has obviously failed to reach its audience. For sales, if the author is a relative unknown, 15,000 to 20,000 copies sold in the first year would constitute a success in my book. Obviously, if the author is someone who has written other cooking titles or who has an ongoing presence in print or other media, the benchmark of success would be higher. –Rux Martin, senior executive editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

“I asked my first editor that, and she said, ‘When you’ve made back your advance!’ — David Lebovitz, cookbook author

“There are several measures of success: Critical success, as exemplified by many good reviews. Popular success, as evidenced by strong sales, documented by best-seller lists. Financial success, wherein a publisher’s advance earns out and royalties flow. This last ties into the estimation Continue reading »

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Jan 242012
 

Has anyone not heard of David Lebovitz? He’s a super successful American food writer blogger living in Paris. He’s also a gorgeous photographer, author of five cookbooks and one memoir, and author and co-author of two apps.

I first met him on email in 2005, when he endorsed my book, Will Write for Food. Recently we spoke about his success and philosophy on food blogging, writing cookbooks, social media, and how he finds the time to get it all done:

Q. Why do so many people adore your blog? What is it about you and your subject matter?

A. It’s a combination of things. Part of it is I started a long time ago so I’ve had a long time to practice, to learn about blogging and build a site. Part of it is I live in Paris and that interests people. Plus I worked as a professional chef, which is part of the mix. People say they feel my blog is very personal; they know the person behind it.

My blog is largely about cultural differences because I’m a foreigner living abroad, and the longer you live somewhere, the more it gives you more credibility. And perhaps people can relate to being an “outsider.” Years ago I was more of a critic of certain aspects of French culture, but now I’m more of an observer and I try to be more neutral. The longer you live somewhere, the more you understand how people are and I’ve become more integrated, too, and understand the culture better.

Q. How has your blog changed since you started your website in 1999? What kinds of posts do you no longer do?

A. Now I microblog on Twitter (105,000+ followers) and Facebook (26,000+ followers). I used to do Continue reading »

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Apr 122011
 

Are you a funny food writer? Let’s see your stuff.

And if you’re not, maybe these funny writing samples below will inspire you. Here are several that have tickled me lately:

1. David Lebovitz has been been honing his offbeat, irreverent humor for years on his blog and in books. A sample from The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious — And Perplexing — City shows his puzzlement of Parisian hot chocolate:

“Many visitors get a lost, misty-eyed look when describing the ultrathick, steamy chocolate chaud that glops and blurts as it’s poured into dainty white cups…

Me? I can barely swallow the sludge.

You need to clam my mouth closed and massage my neck to get that hyperthick stuff down the hatch– like forcing a dog to swallow a pill. That throat-clogging liquid hits my tummy with a thud and refuses to budge for the rest of the day. I just don’t get its appeal.”

I’d call this example curmudgeonly, in an adorable way. I love the image of someone massaging his neck, and I recognize that “thud” in the belly.

2. Comedian George Carlin, always a crack-up, wrote these gems about restaurant food and waffle irons in Brain Droppings:

“There are certain clues that tell you how much a restaurant will cost. If the word cuisine appears in the advertising, it will be expensive. If they use the word food, it will be moderately priced. However, if the sign says eats, even though you’ll save some money on food, your medical bills may be quite high.”

“I don’t like trendy food. When I hear, ‘sauteed boneless panda groin,’ I know I’m Continue reading »

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Apr 202010
 

ReadyForDessertI’m new to this giveaway thing. I think it’s going well, but my style of announcing giveaways has been all over the place.

With my first two giveaways, I reviewed the books. Then I ran into a snag. I knew the author of the third book, so I just interviewed Deborah Madison instead of reviewing her cookbook, because I knew I couldn’t be objective about a friend I met more than 10 years ago.

Now we come to David Lebovitz, another friend I adore, and I have a fourth way to handle this giveaway. I’m going to talk about his video, and a little about the book, and a little about David, one of the nicest, most talented, smartest, funniest and most generous food writers I’ve ever met. (See, I told you I couldn’t be objective.)

One of the dilemmas facing someone with a blog as huge as David’s is that  it’s a challenge for his publisher to reach as many potential buyers for Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes. After all, his blog has more annual readers than at least two of the top national food magazines. So Ten Speed Press agreed to do a video with a James Beard award-winning documentary filmmaker David had met earlier in France.

“I wanted to do something snappy that wasn’t just me talking to the camera, or cooking,” explained David. “I wanted to show Paris, too, Continue reading »

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Jan 122010
 

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I’m  adjusting to this new format of food writing and blogging conference, where hanging out is a big part of the day. Today I’ve walked along the beach in the surf, done yogalates with David Lebovitz and Matt Amendariz, gave Nancy Hachisu a quick Twitter lesson, had lunch with Michael and Donna Ruhlman, and now I’m sitting in the bar, waiting for the presentation at 3 p.m.,when Jaden Hair and David Lebovitz discuss book proposals, with a handout from me.

You’ll just have to join us next year. Really. You can relax and network Continue reading »

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Sep 082009
 

images-1Let’s hit the beach, bask in the sun and get to know each other. I’m delighted to announce the first annual Food Blogger Camp at Club Med Ixtapa Pacific in Ixtapa, Mexico, January 9-16, 2010.

Club Med is giving away accommodations for seven nights, coach airfare, and a scholarship for one sweepstakes winner. You’ll get to meet and hang out with me, plus some of the most talented food bloggers, authors, and food photographers in the business.

At the Boot Camp, we’ll have workshops on how to improve blogging, photography Continue reading »

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