[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.)