Jan 152013
 


Last week, I took part in a Google+ hangout: A free 1.5-hour panel on How to Be a Better Food Blogger with

And it was a blast! This was my second public Hangout on Google+. It was a huge success, with close to 200 participants and more than 400 comments and questions about the session.

If you haven’t seen this video, I hope you’ll watch or put it on in the background while you’re cooking. Typically you’d only have access to a session like this during a conference — for which you would have paid beaucoup bucks — so please take advantage of a freebie. The panelists discuss best practices for bloggers, writing craftsmanship, structuring posts, writing killer titles, and we take lots of questions from the crowd.

I’m still learning how to use Google+, and I don’t have many followers yet. Google hopes it will eclipse Facebook and Twitter as a way of sharing information. What’s different about it is the access to free video. You appear live on a Hangout that’s automatically recorded to appear on YouTube (unless you are charging for it, and if so, you can turn off that feature), and you can invite others to join you.

While it’s fun to do free hangouts and have yet another channel to share content, I’d like to see this medium evolve as a way to make money. I know. I’m so crass. But God knows, we already have lots of opportunities to share our content for free.

Some people are already trying to making money. A pioneering group, ChefHangout, charges for cooking classes. Chef Dennis joined in September 2011, originally one of 24 chefs. To be expected, it has been slow going and some teachers have dropped out.

Dennis’ first class was almost a year ago. His most successful one so far was on paella, with seven people paying $45 each. “It took me a little over an hour to do it. Not a lot of money, but I never left home, and my wife and enjoyed a wonderful dinner afterward,” he concludes. He has another one-on-one class that lets students choose what they want to learn to make. “Those classes can go up to $150 but still are a great value for what they’re getting.”

For me, this medium comes down to video and whether there’s a way to charge for it. Are you active on Google+? If not, why not? If so, do you use it to share content, or do you think there’s a way to make money? If so, what are the possibilities? Let’s brainstorm.

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Jan 082013
 

Writer and blogger David Leite (right) with his partner, The One.

It’s never just about the food. Soon enough, your partner or your kids start creeping into your food blog, because you’re writing about your life and they’re inseparable from you.

Suddenly a post about baking a red velvet cake includes how you made it for your husband, how your mother used to send you a whole cake on your birthday every year, and how your toddler smeared it on her new dress. It might be food writing, but as we know, it’s the storytelling around food that draws people in.

At some point, you decide how much to make the people in your life part of the story. And then, there are more questions. Do you 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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Sep 142009
 

It’s the last night of my husband Owen’s and my vacation in New York, and despite 10 days of eating meals at restaurants, he took shots of our food only once. I asked him to do so when I didn’t think anyone would notice, sitting at an outdoor table at  Xie Xie (pronounced shay shay, Mandarin for thank you), a casual pan-Asian sandwich shop. I wanted to experience what food bloggers go through when they’re going to blog about a dish. When we were done, however, Chef Angelo Sosa came over to say good-bye and thanks. Later Owen said the chef had been watching us. Would he have done so if we did not take the photos? I guess I’ll never know.

Let me interrupt for a moment to tell you about his sandwiches. Sosa has worked a the restaurants of Alain Ducasse and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and I couldn’t wait to taste his cooking at a fraction of the price. The two pan-Asian sandwiches I sampled were loaded with layers of flavor and texture, and to top it off, cost under $9 each.

fishThe Hanoi-inspired Cha Ca La Vong, a tumeric-laced seared fish sandwich loaded with sweet juicy onions, a layer of fresh dill, had a sriracha mayonnaise that kept the sandwich moist.

porkThe caramelized Sweet Glazed Pork in Chinese buns, so tender it hardly required chewing, was laced with a sweet and sour sauce, onion and sprigs of cilantro.

We ate well and inexpensively in New York, including dinner with David Leite and his partner at La Caridad 78, a Latin American/Chinese restaurant frequented by cops Continue reading »

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