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…]

Want to Write a Cookbook? Top Editors Reveal Best Subjects and Formats

This past weekend two cookbook editors from Chronicle and Ten Speed told an audience at Book Passage bookstore in Corte Madera, CA what they’re looking for in a cookbook. I thought you might like to know.

One of Chronicle Book's biggest sellers.

Let’s start with Amy Treadwell, an editor at Chronicle Books. She’d love to find another book that will do as well as Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans, which has sold more than 100,000 copies. That book led to more cupcake-based products: the Cupcake Kit and Cupcakes Deluxe Notecards.

Treadwell said she’s looking for three things:

  1. Cookbooks that tell a story, versus just a collection of recipes. She gave the upcoming The Commonsense Kitchen: 500 Recipes Plus Lessons for a Hand-Crafted Life as an example. It’s based on a college that teaches men to cook.
  2. Targeted single subject books, such as the one on Whoopie Pies she co-wrote in six months to capitalize on a trend.
  3. Blog-to-books such as the upcoming [Read more…]