Andy Schloss does. His business income has stayed steady for the last 30 years, hovering around $100,000 annually. He also thinks of his career in business terms, not as someone who works for fun, where income is secondary.
The bottom line: Andy has stayed on top financially because he shifts his food writing work as the market changes.
I had the opportunity to learn from Andy as part of a podcast panel on food writing and money. Andy moderated the panel for the Symposium for Professional Food Writers. A former chef and newspaper columnist, he is also the author of two dozen cookbooks. Plus he’s a product developer, culinary instructor and a founder of Chef Salt.
On the podcast, he was fine about disclosing his income. In 2015 his work brought in the following:
- $54,000 in royalties
- $39,000 in advances
- $8000 in freelanced articles.
Here’s Andy’s approach to food writing as a business:
Q. How have you managed to keep your income around $100,000 per year?
A. I’ve always thought of food writing as a business. Even when I wrote for a newspaper, I syndicated as a freelancer and I wrote for 40 papers.
More recently, I’ve stopped pushing writing books under my own name.
Q. Why did you stop?
A. Because I don’t do social media, my name is not marketable. About 10 years ago, publishers started feeling that you need a social media presence to be marketable. Before that it was if you had a TV show or some broadcast media presence.
As social media got bigger, the size of my platform became a judgment issue.
Q. Why not create a presence online?
A. In the beginning, I didn’t think it was anything. Once I realized it was something, I didn’t want to start marketing myself in a whole new way all over again. It was laziness.
Then when I started working with co-authors who do social media. I saw how hard they work at it. It’s a full-time job and I thought I wouldn’t be very successful at it.
So I decided it wasn’t something worth pursuing. I figured out a way to benefit without directly doing social media: as a ghostwriter.
Recently I’ve been building a new ghostwriting business, connecting with businesspeople, chefs or people who have a food business where they have a lot of social media avenues. That way I don’t have to do promotion.
I contact book editors and talk to them about pursuing a YouTube person, blogger, or someone who’s never written a book before. I offer my services to write the book proposal and book. I’ve had a couple of jobs that way. My niche is working with people eager to publish, with big social media presences, and who are eager to write a book.
Q. What about ghostwriting work from your agent?
A. If Lisa (Ekus) brings me a job, she agents it, but if someone comes to me directly, I don’t necessarily use an agent. Right now ghostwriting is probably most of my income.
Q. So this new avenue is working out?
A. I get good royalties — anything over $30,000 per year — from some of those ghostwritten books. I’m often paid by the person whose name is on the book, and we might split royalties 50/50.
Q. Why do you think you’ve been so successful as a food writer?
A. My business is market driven. As the market shifts, I think of a way to respond.
Q. What advice would you give people who are struggling to make a decent income as food writers?
A. Don’t expect to make an income from art. If you want to make an income, you have to make something people will buy.
Q. But it’s not lucrative to write a book, which is a product you allude to.
A. The reason people don’t make money is because they don’t write enough books. You either have to write a lot or publish a lot. The reason I make money on books is because I’ve written two dozen books. I have maybe four books that have hit. If I have only one book in me, the chances of making a hit are slim.
Artists want fulfillment, and they get that. They also expect money, but they don’t go after it. For me, it’s about what the market wants, and then coordinating my product with it.
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Andrew Schloss is the author of 24 cookbooks. His articles have appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune, Bon Appetit, Fine Cooking, and Family Circle. He is co-owner of the artisan seasoning company, Chef Salt. His book, Mastering the Grill, was a New York Times bestseller. His food encyclopedia, The Science of Good Food, was nominated for a James Beard award and was awarded Best Food Reference Book of 2009 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. He is the former director of the culinary curriculum for The Restaurant School in Philadelphia. Learn more at andrewschloss.com.
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