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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Dec 082010
 

 

Kirsty Melville, president and publisher of the book division of Andrews-McMeel Publishing, based in Kansas City, MO.

When you submit a cookbook proposal to a publisher, what are your chances?

At Andrews-McMeel in Kansas City, MO, only 10 percent of the books its publishes are cookbooks. That’s 20 cookbooks a year.

Of those 20, perhaps half the books spring from ideas generated internally.

How many proposals compete for the remaining 10 spots? About 5,000 per year, estimates president and publisher of Andrews-McMeel’s book division, Kirsty Melville, who started the cookbook division in 2007.

That makes your chances about  one in 500.

Wait, don’t give up. Melville is always looking for new authors. If you’ve been to the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC), or the Greenbrier Symposium for Professional Food Writers in the past year, you might have met her.

“I’m proactive, more entrepreneurial,” she explains. “I like to meet and talk to people.” Her attendance at the first IFBC conference in 2009 led to publishing the Foodista Best of the Food Blogs Cookbook earlier this year.

The cookbook department may be new, but it’s already launched best-sellers (Cake Wrecks and Bon Appetit Desserts) and national award-winners (My New Orleans: The Cookbookby chef John Besh; and The Art and Soul of Baking, a Sur Le Table book by Cindy Mushet). Recently Melville won an auction for Top Chef star Kevin Gillespie’s next two cookbooks, showing the publisher’s new clout in attracting star power.

What does it take to be published by Andrews-McMeel? “Being a good writer and Continue reading »

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