Last week I started teaching a class on cookbook writing at Book Passage bookstore. I begin by browsing the cookbook section (not that I need prompting), picking up books to show the class that fit my criteria of great ideas. Here are five:
1. The subject is timely and capitalizes on a trend. For this criteria I found the new Twitter cookbook, with an introduction by former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni.
Author Maureen Edwards set up a twitter account, @cookbooks, to attract recipes, and published hundreds of them in this playful book.
Yes, it’s a gimmick. Gimmicks often work.
2. It’s about your area of expertise. D-I-Y Delicious capitalizes on the trend to make your own foods from scratch, with recipes for everything from cheese to sodas to ketchup. Written by chef Vanessa Barrington, it’s aimed at people who are into urban homesteading and crafty projects.
3. You are passionate about the subject. Pastry chef Fany Gerson spent years traveling around her native Mexico and sampling sweets to produce the scholarly and beautifully photographed My Sweet Mexico.
4. It has something new to say, or a new approach. Did you know that food blogger Bakerella’s new Cake Pops cookbook was the number one pre-ordered book on Amazon recently? This food blogger has an amazing following.
Her thing is labor-intensive cakes on a stick. They’re adorable. Only 40 recipes, but I bet she got a 6-figure advance.
5. It reaches a large, well-defined audience. Recipes from an Italian Summer, in addition to its evocative cover, reaches those of us who love to cook Italian food, and we are legion. Apparently you can rarely go wrong with an Italian cookbook.
One thing you’ll notice: In the best circumstances, the ideas overlap.
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Speaking of classes, I’ll be in Cleveland November 12-14 at the Fabulous Food Show, a two-day extravaganza featuring cooking demos by TV food stars including Giada De Laurentiis and Guy Fieri.
My classes are “Should You Write a Cookbook or Start a Blog? “(for professionals) and “Food Writing for Food Lovers” (open to the public on Saturday). Please come by and say hello if you’re at the show. I’ll be co-teaching the classes with food writing pal Laura Taxel.