[This post is now closed. Kris Diede is the winner of the cookbook.]
What happens on your first cookbook tour? Author Robyn Eckhard found out when she came to the US and Canada from her home in Italy to promote Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey. She did around 25 events in 5.5 weeks, traveling with her husband, Dave Hagerman, the book’s photographer.
If it sounds exhausting, it was. Exhilarating too, she says. In addition to the events, she fit lots of interviews and podcasts into that compressed time.
I’ve known Robyn for years. She is one of those overachiever types who speaks several languages and has freelanced food stories for Saveur and The New York Times. We worked together on her cookbook proposal. It still thrills me to remember the writing and photography workshops in Turkey and Cambodia I did with her husband Dave.
Robyn has arranged for one lucky reader to win a copy of Istanbul and Beyond, which shows her passion for Turkey and her fearlessness in approaching strangers for their best recipes. Read on to learn how to enter.
Here’s what Robyn Eckhardt learned about planning and executing her first cookbook tour:
Q. How long in advance did you start setting up events for your first cookbook tour?
A. I started reaching out to bookstores in March but didn’t begin confirming until June. The events picked up in August and we started the tour in October, when our book came out.
Q. Did your publisher help you, financially or otherwise?
A. Initially no, but after we got starred reviews they gave us money for the tour.
We could offset expenses because the price of a ticket at a restaurant included the book. I got paid for cooking classes and demos too.
Q. Did you have a call with your publisher about publicity?
A. Dave and I met with the marketing team in March. One of that team left in May and then her replacement left. So I didn’t start working with someone until the end of August. The publisher brought in a freelance publicist who came up with a list of events. I contacted all the venues. Then marketing and the publicist stepped in to set up interviews.
Q. What surprised you most about doing a cookbook tour?
A. How long it takes to do the logistics. I have a whole new respect for travel agents. For two or three weeks solid, before we left Italy, I spent all day figuring out flights and AirBnB.
I was also surprised by how exhausting it is: the flights, being in a place for only a couple of nights, irregular meals, not eating what I usually eat, not exercising. Even a radio interview or a cooking class sucks the energy right out of you. I’m amazed that I didn’t get sick.
I learned a few things about myself: That I can do public speaking if I’m passionate and knowledgeable about the topic. After the first couple of times it wasn’t such a big deal. And I enjoyed the cooking classes, even though I was terrified going in because I hadn’t done them before.
I also learned that platforms are so important, and not just your social media platforms. Many events came about as the result of a connection with colleagues, readers of the blog or people who follow me. They were generous and helpful with leads and suggestions. People should view their platform as a way to put together a tour, not just trumpet their books.
Q. How many different kinds of events did you do?
A. Bookstore signings, restaurant talks and signings, an in-home dinner and signing, a presentation at a museum, cooking classes, demos, and I called in to a cookbook club.
Q. How did you find out about phoning in to a cookbook clubs?
A. I’m a member of the Cookbook Junkies Facebook group. When (founder) Jennie Hartin posted about my book, someone wrote that she planned to use my book for her inaugural cookbook group.
I’m trying to be in touch with more cookbook clubs to say I’m available. I haven’t figured out how to find them yet. Sometimes libraries organize cookbook clubs.
Q. I saw that you asked questions about venues on social media.
A. People asked, “Are you coming to my town?” I would send them a DM and my email and said to let me know if they had an idea for a venue. Also chefs have reached out to me to ask if I want to do a cookbook collaboration or do an event at their restaurant.
Q. I noticed you’re doing a dinner at Women’s Athletic Club. How come?
A. They have a restaurant that seats 200 people and they have a huge mailing list. Any appearance that allows you to tell your story is going to help you sell books, because people really respond to that. If you just show up and you’re signing, people can’t connect with you. You need a compelling story.
Q. What do people not understand about doing a book tour?
A. How hard it is to put the pieces together. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. And if you don’t have someone helping you with media, it’s even harder.
Also, when only 11 people came to a bookstore on a rainy night, we sold 10 books, so it was worth it. People were enthusiastic and glad to be there, and that fed my confidence as much as a standing room crowed. Chances are that because a smaller group connected with my story, they’re more likely to tell their friends.
Q. What would you do differently next time?
A. I’d look beyond the big cities. I sold a lot of books in Ann Arbor at Zingerman’s. A lot of people showed up and only one person knew me. I wish I had known that before I started.
Also I would set aside money so I could hire a publicist way early in the process. Authors are booked six months ahead. We had 20 to 25 podcasts and radio interviews that the publisher and freelance publicist set up.
Q. Any final advice for a first cookbook tour?
A. You’ll be terrified before it starts but it will all be fine. If you’re passionate about your topic and you know it well, you will find yourself relaxing more and more as you get comfortable about public speaking. It will be exhilarating and exhausting. But it’s fun to meet people who are so excited about something you put so much time into.
* * *
Now, about the giveaway and the cookbook itself:
From village home cooks, community bakers, café chefs, farmers, and fishermen, Robyn has created a cookbook full of easy-to-follow recipes, including “The Imam Fainted” Stuffed Eggplant,Pillowy Fingerprint Flatbread, Pot-Roasted Chicken with Caramelized Onions, Stovetop Lamb Meatballs with Spice Butter, Artichoke Ragout with Peas and Favas, Green Olive Salad with Pomegranate Molasses, and Apple and Raisin Hand Pies. Many of these have never before been published in English.
Don’t those sound heavenly? The recipes have been thoroughly tested as well.
If you’d like a chance to win a copy of Istanbul & Beyond, leave a comment below by December 31, 2017. I will pick a winner at random. I’m sorry but this offer is available only to residents of the USA.
(Disclosures: Robyn sent me a copy of Beyond Istanbul. This post includes affiliate links.)
Nathan Lau says
Hi Dianne and Robyn,
So excited for you that your cookbook and tour are taking off. Sorry we didn’t get to attend your events when you came to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Thank you Nate! Sorry to have missed you too but it was right before Thanksgiving, a pretty busy time for everyone.
This cookbook sounds awesome!
Linda B. says
I’ve been a fan of Robyn’s for a long time!
Oooph! That sounds so intense. I wonder if there was anything she did to remain “grounded”, so to speak. Or just healthy, since she was so busy and like she said, eating different things and not exercising. Her book sounds fabulous!
Thanks for reading, Dana. Having control over what I eat is really key to how I feel, I find, so we (I travelled with the book’s photographer/my husband) chose to stay in AirBnBs (or with friends) all but one night of the tour, and whenever possible cooked healthy meals in. As painful as it was to miss out on the opportunity to check out restaurant scenes in various cities, we ate in most of the time, something simple like a salad and a piece of fish. (This also helped us save $$$).
I made sure to get as much sleep as possible — I really worked to avoid 7am flights! And also to skip Lyft or public transport and walk whenever I could, even to and from cooking classes or bookstore events, just around the block several times if I arrived early, to make up for the dedicated exercise time I didn’t have. Before the tour I sort of trained for it, in the sense of doing as much as I could do physically, to feel very fit and healthy going in. (I did however gain 4-5 pounds over the course of the tour!)
And I tried to build in half a day, off when I was in cities for more than 2 nights. To put the computer/devices away, and read or nap or be outside if the weather allowed.
Thanks for the inside story on book tours…amazing that Robyn managed it will little publisher assistance.
I’ve been to Istanbul twice, and this book would be well used until I get to return again.
Thanks for reading Suzy. I did have publisher assistance ($$$) … but by using money I earned for cooking classes and demos, and using some credit card award miles to purchase some air tix, I nearly broke even.
I hope to win!
This sounds scrumptious!
Jennifer Johnson says
Not surprised at your good reception at Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor. Foodies love the place – and it is known beyond the town for its good bread!
Not to mention reuben sandwiches Jennifer! 🙂 What was particularly cool about Zingerman’s is that many of the people who attended the demos (about 32 people over 2 days) told me that they had never eaten ‘food anything like this’ (including ‘Middle Eastern’ food), that they had no idea what to expect when they signed up for the demo, but that they couldn’t wait to cook from the book. Priceless.
I know little about Turkish cuisine, but am definitely enticed by these beautiful photos. The ingredients from pomegranate molasses to tahini and walnuts are my favorites. Both the oven-caramelized pumpkin and the spicy bulgur salad look and sound so original and so flavorful. Wow!
Because the book features dishes from all over eastern Turkey, Janice, there truly is something for everyone, vegetarians and gluten-free folks included. Happy Holidays!
Peggy Gilbey McMackin says
Congratulations to Robyn on the successful launch of Istanbul and Beyond. Thank you for sharing Dianne.
I would love to win a copy of the cookbook! I’ve been missing the foods of Turkey over the past seven years since our Turkish friend from our International Ladies Group moved due to being relocated. Traditionally, members of our group would prepare their cultural foods for buffet sharing and I loved the Turkish foods of my friend and those of her mother when she would visit from Turkey. Best Wishes to Robyn and Dave in continued success!
Thank you Peggy! Several of my recipe testers were Turks living in the United States. In some cases they had never heard of the dishes they were testing. In other cases (I’m thinking of the Coiled Tahini Buns in particular) they knew the dishes from their childhood/youth, and were very pleased with the results. Which was a thrill for me.
Kris Diede says
What an interesting and useful post! I really enjoyed this one a lot.
The cookbook looks fantastic – I have a Turkish friend and would enjoy cooking for her. I hope I win
Kris as I mention to Peggy above, Turks have cooked from the book and been pleased with the results. I think your friend would enjoy seeing you make a dish from her homeland. Afiyet olsun (Bon appetit)!
Jean A says
Would love to win a copy of the book! Thank you!
Greg Patent says
Inspiring story, Robyn. And congratulations!
Thanks so much Greg. It is a privilege to share a personal passion with so many enthusiastic strangers. Happy Holidays.
Dee Johnson says
Sounds wonderful! I would love this cookbook!
Mary Wilson says
Peaceful snow falling here in Minnesota. Reading all the adventures made me dig out my little Turkish tea cups I had carefully put away this summer. Thank you for sharing your adventures. Good luck to you going forward.
Thank you Mary! Happy New Year to you!
I’ve followed Eating Asia for years, and was finally convinced to put Turkey on my “Visit asap” list. And I’m timing it for hamsi season. (mnnnn, anchovies)
That’s so great Lorelei! Don’t know if you’ve seen this but if you want to sample anchovies on the Black Sea, this trip is still very doable. If you want to keep it to one city, I recommend Sinop. There are direct flights from Istanbul. Happy travels!
SHEILA BONEHAM says
The tour sounds great, and the book even better, Wishing you all the best!
Stacey Bender says
Robyn – You are so fearless! I am inspired by your tenacity, dedication and follow through! I’m sure you have been to Seattle and know of Book Larder? Thanks for the informative insights to your experience.
When you say you broke even, do you mean including your time for the tour? It also sounds like you had a lot of expense and time invested in the writing of the book.
Hi Stacey — yes, we had an event at Book Larder, every seat filled (I love Seattle) and I taught two cooking classes at The Pantry.
Right — I’m not taking into account my time. But all of my (and my husband’s) expenses were covered during the 6+ weeks in the USA, so it evened out.
My advance covered research/writing for a good part of the time I spent on the book, and I continued to freelance as well.
Very interesting to read about the “behind the scenes” of a book tour. The authors I’ve seen always seem so composed and at ease, but I’m sure that is the result of much time and energy to make the event happen.
Thanks for the opportunity to win this lovely book!
Book tour is nerve wracking Julie! But I found that passion for and knowledge of one’s topic really carries one through the jitters. Happy New Year!
I love the fact that Robin Eckhardt and her husband traveled to remote regions of Turkey and discovered some little known recipes to bring back and educate those of us in the United States who are passionate about Mediterranean and East Asian cuisine. It’s always fund to discover a recipe that brings an old world dish back to life.
It sounds like creating this book was a labor of love.
Christine Leong says
My visit to Istanbul a few years ago was one of the most memorable trips of my life. I love to travel and learn about different cultures and ways of living, and local food is always a good place to start. I’m bummed about missing Robyn and Dave when they were in my neighborhood because I was away. I first heard about the two when I was working in the publishing industry in Malaysia and had seen their works in a magazine my friend was editing. I’m really excited about this book!
Hi Christine! I feel like I recognise your name from Malaysia … maybe not. It’s a small world.
Happy New Year!
Laura S says
Your cookbook looks wonderful!! Figuring out everything for a cookbook tour sounds rough though, I bet you are glad to have the worst of it out of the way!
I’ll be back in the USA for more in March, Laura, so I guess it wasn’t too awfully traumatic. 🙂 It’s been wonderful to rest over the holidays.
Dan Parker says
What a fun look into the whirlwind world of a book tour I’m sure for many of us considering writing and publishing books, a promotional tour at the end of all of it is a very, very distant notion.
Dorothy Patent says
I got to see your book and it’s beautiful! I especially love the photos of the village people and their food, not to mention the recipes!