Giving Recipes Away a Big Subject at IFBC

by diannejacob on August 30, 2010

The interior of Theo Chocolates, decked out for 250 attendees of the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle this past weekend..

On the first panel at the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) last weekend, Amy Sherman raised the issue of pay for recipes. She suggested if bloggers want to go pro, they start charging when companies ask to use their recipes.

It’s not a new idea for food writers like Amy and me, who have been charging for our work for years. But for food bloggers and the people who publish their work, it’s touchy.

Let’s start with the publishers. Foodista and IFBC founders Barnaby Dorfman and Sheri Wetherell have authored a forthcoming Foodista cookbook from Andrews-McMeel where 100 recipes appear as the result of a judged contest. (Disclosure: Andrews-McMeel paid me to edit the recipes in that cookbook.) No bloggers were paid for their recipes.

Was this a problem? I don’t think so. Many food bloggers are honored to be asked for a recipe, and see their blogs as a hobby. They might covet the bragging rights to winning a contest like this or getting into print. No pay is not a dealbreaker. So the question is, when, if ever, to start asking for money?

I don’t have an easy answer. I think people should be paid for their work, but I’ve been a paid writer and editor for 35 years, and that’s different from most food bloggers. Like Amy, I’ve competed with hungry new writers who charge less than they should, and that makes it harder for us to make a living. Now many cookbook authors and food writers compete with bloggers who give away their recipes to build their visibility and platform.

(At one point, Barnaby pointed out that Amy  has given away her recipes for years on her blog. Amy replied that it was her decision as the publisher of her blog, and that was different from a company wanting to use her recipes for free. For her, it’s about people and companies making money from her work.)

On the other hand, Amy  also develops recipes for clients. If you ask Victoria von Biel, the executive editor of Bon Appetit, this discussion is moot, because she thinks most  food bloggers aren’t good enough recipe developers. “In blogs, most recipes have been ‘adapted from’ or ‘inspired by,'” she told me at an interview at IFBC. “They (food bloggers) haven’t been trained (to create original recipes).”

Her standards for new recipes, as a national food magazine editor, are high. They should be.

On the other hand (I’m getting dizzy from arguing with myself), Victoria also told me that Bon Appetit will probably feature more recipes from food bloggers on its website, especially those with platforms who are good photographers and videographers), and their recipes will not be tested. Bon Appetit will also pay less for online vs. print recipes, another now-established trend.

And finally, some food bloggers are doing very well with their recipes, according to Kirsty Melvillle, Andrews-McMeel book division president, because she participates in auctions to acquire their cookbooks.

So what’s the bottom line: If you’re a food blogger giving away recipes, YOU decide if and when you’re being taken advantage of. I’d say if your recipes are in high demand, it’s time to start asking for pay. As I said to more than one blogger over the weekend, the old adage of “No one takes advantage of you without your permission,” applies.

For more on IFBC, see these early posts:

The Future of Food Writing at the International Food Blogger Conference, a report from Publisher’s Weekly

Swag from the International Food Writer Conference

IFBC: Turning the Lens on Food Bloggers

On Blogging and Friendships: IFBC 2010

IFBC: Sex, but No Drugs or Rock ‘n Roll

IFBC, or What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Do What You Love, Work Hard at It, Be Yourself: IFBC 2010

What I Read at #IFBC

The Inspiration of IFBC and Swag Bag Giveaway

IFBC: Organize a Confab, and They Will Come

Behind the Scenes at IFBC

Five Things I Learned at the IFBC Conference in Seattle

IFBC 2010: What Was In the Goody Bag


bridget {bake at 350} August 30, 2010 at 3:38 pm

I was following the tweets from the conference on this subject with interest. Just last week, a company asked me to submit a recipe to their website. I’ve been torn between wanted the goodwill and “connection” with the company and whether or not there should be compensation.

I’m not sure I have my answer, but this helps me think a bit more clearly. 🙂 Thank you!

diannejacob August 30, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Interesting, Bridget. I didn’t consider goodwill and connection with the company. I hope you will explain this more.

John August 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm

I’m impressed that you went from

“No bloggers were paid for their recipes. Was this a problem? I don’t think so.” to ” I think people should be paid for their work” in just 5 sentences.

diannejacob August 30, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I didn’t get any indication from Barnaby, Sherri or publisher Kristy Melville that they got any pushback. That’s what I meant, if I wasn’t clear.

kitchenMage August 30, 2010 at 4:16 pm

For me it would be less about pushback and more about ethics. I simply can’t imagine being paid to edit work for which the authors got nothing. I have been careful to lavishly credit anyone who contributed to any of my books and have found ways to make it worth their while and still feel bad about it sometimes.

diannejacob August 30, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I also credit people who have contributed to my books, so I guess we’re on the same page.

John August 30, 2010 at 4:26 pm

That response doesn’t seem to make it any more clear.

In fact, you seem to be implying that people should only get paid if they complain about not getting paid? So, in fact, you don’t think they should get paid for their work?

I mean, I’m not trying to be dense, but, can’t you see where you seem to be contradicting yourself here?

diannejacob August 30, 2010 at 5:29 pm

I would like food bloggers to be paid for their work. Is that more clear?

John August 30, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Yes… and no.

If you would like food bloggers to be paid for their work, don’t you think that doesn’t jibe with “No bloggers were paid for their recipes. Was this a problem? I don’t think so.”?

I mean, if you don’t think it was a problem that no bloggers were paid for their work… do you see where I’m coming from here?

I really believe you when you say that you believe bloggers should be paid for their work, so I want to understand why you feel there wasn’t any problem that *bloggers were NOT paid for their work*.

diannejacob September 1, 2010 at 10:46 am

It’s not black and white, John. That’s the answer.

Cookin' Canuck August 30, 2010 at 3:54 pm

This is a tough subject, Dianne; it’s one that I’ve gone back and forth on numerous times. That being said, I agree with Amy that recipe developers should be compensated for their work, particularly when the company requesting the recipe is making money from it.

diannejacob August 30, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Good. I guess the next question is whether you consider yourself a recipe developer, cause they don’t work for free.

Nancy@acommunaltable August 30, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Very interesting discussion. Ms. Von Biel’s comments were of particular interest. I’ve been a Bon Appetit subscriber for over 20 years and my observation is that the majority of Bon Appetit recipes are not truly original either but are adaptations of other recipes – it all depends of course on how one defines “original”. There does seem to be a bit of a double standard with regard to print publications and blogs and I think Ms. Von Biel is a bit too dismissive of food bloggers recipes. Certainly some food bloggers use recipes from sources exactly as written and the vast majority who do state that up front. Many food bloggers however do modify a recipe in ways that are not any different from what Bon Appetit does so I really don’t see the difference except that Bon Appetit does not credit the source of the recipes they work from and many bloggers do.

diannejacob August 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Yes, she did add that “it’s almost like everything’s been done,” but BA has to be very careful about the origin of recipes and tries to do its best. I think she made an important distinction that a food blogger is not necessarily a recipe developer, and I’d have to agree with her on that one.

For more on what constitutes an original recipe, see Adjusting a Recipe Doesn’t Make it Yours.

Grace August 31, 2010 at 6:04 am

Dianne as I have stated to you before I am very new to blogging, only a few months. Whenever I use a recipe I show recipe as is in the recipe section of my post and in the body of my post I describe how I have adapted or adjusted. I guess I feel even if I have made changes or adaptations I don’t feel it is truly my recipe. I have scoured the web trying to find resources to learn how to really develop a recipe of your own and publish it as your own. I have noticed on some blogs recipes that state adapted from, inspired by and find that nothing has been changed or quite possibly the amount of an ingredient has changed slightly and I am left wondering is the recipe really now their own. Am I wrong to feel the recipe still belongs to the original? I did notice something interesting when I was hunting for a Red Velvet Cupcake recipe. I found 2 different recipes from 2 celebrity chefs, each recipe looked almost identical but the measurement amount on one or 2 of the ingredients were slightly different. They didn’t state adapted from or inspired by. It’s very hard to know what to do when the lines are so blurred.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 10:13 am

I don’t know what an original recipe is, to be honest. That is a good question.

But certainly, there are dozens for a red velvet cupcake. I don’t suppose you would consider this answer: Don’t write a recipe for a popular dish. Do something else. Just one idea.

Grace August 31, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Dianne I didn’t do a very good job getting my point across. What I was trying to say is, I don’t feel comfortable posting a recipe as my own with just a few small changes but I do see that happening quite a bit on the blogs that I read. I post recipe as is and give full credit to owner of recipe and in the body of my post I will mention how I have altered. I don’t feel comfortable taking ownership for the recipe because the lines are so blurred and I would hate to offend the owner of the recipe. Another point I tried to make was, I have found that recipes from well known chefs (i.e the red velvet recipes I found) can be very similar (minor changes to quantity of a certain ingredient) yet you don’t see them stating inspired by or adapted from. In respect to resources, I would love to learn how to develop a recipe from the ground up. As you can see I need a lot of help in the writing dept and can’t wait to get your new book and hoping to take writing classes in the fall.

diannejacob September 1, 2010 at 10:44 am

That is the convention, Grace, to give credit when you make small changes, so you are doing the right thing. And yes, many recipes are similar, with minor variations. It would be hard to track down who owns them.

I do provide some information in my recipe chapter on how to develop a recipe. I hope it helps you.

Lori @ RecipeGirl August 30, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Hi Dianne, I’m in the camp of people who believe that recipes should not be given away. I’ve contributed to three cookbooks thus far, 2 were for charity (which I deemed a worthy cause) and one was for pay. It irks me when I get emails (pretty much daily) from companies that are asking for me to contribute recipes in exchange for goods, or simply to get “recognition” from being published on their website. Nope, not gonna happen. And it bothers me that so many bloggers will do this… bloggers who really wish to transition their blog from hobby to money-maker. It’s really a bummer for those of us who write for $$ that some are giving it away for free. That being said, I’ve said ‘no’ to companies before and they’ve come back to me with money that they initially said they didn’t have. Be strong food bloggers- you can get paid for your recipes!

As to Ms. Von Biel’s remark that “bloggers simply aren’t good enough recipe developers… that most recipes are inspired by… or adapted by…,” well, yes, this is true. And I’m guilty of that sometimes as well. After years of reading recipes in cookbooks and magazines though, many bloggers have developed the talent for writing recipes themselves. I love that I have food blogs on the internet that I can visit, nab a recipe and trust that it’s tried and true. Those are the blogs editors/companies should be paying attention to.

diannejacob August 30, 2010 at 5:38 pm

That’s good to hear, Lori. Sounds like you are as clear about it as Amy is.

I do think that cookbook authors and magazine writers are also guilt of adapting recipes, but I can see where Victoria is coming from. I’m sure the editors of other national cooking magazines would say the same thing.

Also, I don’t want anyone who contributed a recipe to the Foodista cookbook to feel that they made a mistake. When it’s early in your career, you make decisions that might change later.

Nancy Baggett August 30, 2010 at 4:24 pm

I don’t know the answer either. For decades I never considered doing recipes without getting paid. Now, I give ’em away on my blog and on other people’s in exchange for a link. (That I’m often not seeing much benefit from.) The quality of my recipes is the same as ever; my income most definitely is not! Yes, I still have several fine publications who pay me for my work, but the opportunities are dwindling all the time.

I am also mulling over Victoria’s comment that bloggers’ recipes just aren’t up to snuff. Followers seem to be just crazy over some popular bloggers’ recipes, so does this mean they just aren’t able to tell what quality is? And since blogger cookbooks seem to be the next cookbook trend, where are bloggers going to get all the recipes they need? Is it really going to be okay to fill a whole book with recipes “adapted” from other cookbook authors. I dunno, but I’d sure like to!

diannejacob August 30, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Nancy, these are good points. To the first part, if you’re not seeing much benefit, then why continue reciprocal links?

I’m not sure how much cooking is actually going on as a result of reading blogs. It’s probably a small percentage, just as is true with cookbooks, where readers try up to 3 recipes. If you look at the comments there’s a lot of “that looks delicious.”

I’m pretty sure publishers don’t want a cookbook filled with adapted recipes. Bloggers will have to become better recipe developers if they want to go that way.

Michelle @ Brown Eyed Baker August 30, 2010 at 6:47 pm

There seems to be some contradiction going on in the industry. You have people from Bon Appetit saying that food bloggers’ recipes aren’t up to snuff because most are “adapted from” or “inspired by”. However, there has been so much flak about properly crediting others that I would say food bloggers are “trained” to do it, almost to a fault. In addition, in the article you linked to in the comments (“Adjusting a Recipe Doesn’t Make it Yours”), you have David Leite saying a recipe he published in one of his books wasn’t exactly his. Cook’s Illustrated posts recipes for things like lemon meringue pie. Did they really invent lemon meringue pie and are the ingredients so vastly different from other lemon meringue pies? No. Where did lemon meringue pie start? Did they credit all the different recipes they referenced when coming up with their version? It’s a very murky situation, to say the least.

I posted a recipe a couple of months ago that I adapted from a popular company, and I credited it properly, i.e. ‘recipe adapted from companyXYZ’. I got a NASTY comment from a reader lambasting me for stealing content from another blogger and that my behavior was disgusting. I went to the other blogger’s site and saw that they in fact had also made the same recipe I had, and had credited the same company. Umm so what did I do wrong there? Do I need to search out and credit every other person who made a version of the same recipe I’m making?

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 9:39 am

You’ve noticed the contraditions! Exactly, Michelle. It’s quite complicated.

Of course you can’t reference ever person who’s made a lemon meringue pie. It’s more about taking a particular recipe and copying it while making subtle adjustments, rather than developing it yourself.

Ricki August 30, 2010 at 7:17 pm

I was following the tweets as well and was really interested in this issue. Reading all the comments and thinking about it further, I do think there’s a crucial difference between recipes on blogs and those in print: with your blog, the recipes are already available for anyone to read, for free. Recipes in a book or magazine must be paid for before someone can read them. I think that must be why I feel somehow less justified asking for money for my blog’s recipes. When I publish a cookbook or ebook, I make a very conscious decision to include a few of the recipes on my blog first. Then, when someone agrees to do a review, I request that they post (or print) only those recipes that have already appeared on the blog so as not to diminish the value of the other recipes in the book. If someone posts a recipe from my cookbook without asking first (which happens too frequently). it irks me, even though I know they are legally allowed to do so (I think up to 10% is allowed without permission, right, Dianne?).

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 10:43 am

I wouldn’t feel less justified, Ricki, about asking for money for blog recipes. Another purchasing group you have not named is food manufacturers and councils.They pay for recipes.

Your book philosophy makes sense. I have not heard this 10% rule before. Has anyone else?

Amy August 31, 2010 at 12:13 pm

So it’s ok that someone else makes money from your recipes and you don’t? That doesn’t seem right to me. I publish my recipes on my blog by choice, but I also sell other recipes and many of those live on the web. In fact, I’ve been paid more for some recipes that appear online than others I created for a cookbook (that I also got paid to create).

Ricki August 31, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Amy, that philosophy makes sense to me if I create a new recipe that isn’t already on my blog. My point is that (even though I’m controlling when it’s published, and, initially, where), I am putting out recipes for free on my blog. It’s common practice for other bloggers, for instance, to repost recipes they found on someone else’s blog, either with or without changes to the original recipe. Should they be charged to use them, too, then? Or are you only talking about sites that will make money from the recipe? I think I’d still have a hard time asking a company (say, one that makes gluten free flours, which I use in many of my recipes) to pay me to re-post a recipe that is already available to everyone for free on my blog. Now, if I were to develop a new recipe just for them, well, I have no qualms at all charging the big bucks.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I was thinking about this very point earlier myself. It’s one thing to give a recipe away when it’s already on your site for free, vs. developing a recipe for free. Certainly the former idea is more appealing. But people will pay. Ex. as I said earlier, BlogHer paid me $50 for a post already on my site. That’s how they work.

Karen August 30, 2010 at 7:26 pm

It seems that the whistle-blowing “recipe police” are on over-time here. Granted a great many food bloggers post recipes that are adapted from, taken from, almost like, or out and out stolen from someone. The fact remains that someone out here is reading the recipe, trying the recipe, and perhaps commenting back about the recipe. Are we actually witnessing another permutation of the process? Have we gone beyond the first level of originating the recipes and the second level of adapting them, to the third of adapting them and/or passing them along to those who cook them on a daily basis and could care less from whom they originated? Could it be that as is we bake “Aunt Sara’s neighbor’s grandmother’s sister’s lemon pie (or maybe the Mayor’s wife’s version, but it doesn’t matter cause we like it anyway) that we really don’t care? I think it is up to the individual recipe-bearer to either demand compensation in whatever form or to let it go out free and without encumbrance. The ethics sit with the deliverer, not the recipient in this situation. The value is in the eye or bank account of the “holder” and no one is better able to determine that than they are themselves. The blogger world is just too big and wide for anyone to be able to police every site to be sure that their recipes are given proper credit or payment. If you want compensation, conjure up a system that keeps your recipes within your control. If not, go for it and get as much exposure as you can. Links and “forwards’ can send your name further than most anything these days. It all comes down to what you as an individual are seeking and usually you get that for which you ask.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 9:42 am

As you know from having a blog, there’s always someone out there telling you you’re doing it wrong. I hope I’m not in that category, Karen. I’m trying to change my own thinking from being black and white. And ultimately, yes, it’s up to the individual to understand the ethics of the situation and do what’s right.

Winnie August 30, 2010 at 7:41 pm

There are a lot of points in your post that I want to comment on, but it might take me several hours if I did…
Re: pay for recipes. I do believe it would be better for all of us (bloggers, food writers, recipe developers) if there wasn’t so much “giving away for free” going on. When I first started blogging, I was happy to give my recipes away. But now that I have more experience, I rarely do “freebies” – it has to be for a very “high profile” opportunity for me to say yes. The idea of the foodista cookbook project did bother me a little by the way. Couldn’t they offer something to the bloggers? I have several recipes being published in the upcoming food52 cookbook and while we didn’t get paid for contest winning recipes, we did receive “gifts” from sponser OXO for each one.
As for publishing recipes “for free” on my blog, I’m with Amy S. in that I don’t really see it that way. I too see myself as the publisher of my blog. I view each post/recipe that I publish as an opportunity for me to gain advertising revenue (on the day that post is published and for every day that recipe is viewed for years to come). So even though I might make very little off each individual recipe on the day it’s posted and viewed right now, I will make more and more as my blog readership grows (at least I hope so:)
As for Victoria Von Biel’s comment, I have to say that it really irks me. I agree with Michelle above- there is a lot of contradiction going on in the industry. How can any recipe really be original anymore? Apparently we bloggers are damned if we don’t say “inspired by” or “adapted from” and we’re damned if we do it, as well.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 9:45 am

Oh your last point really got to me, Winnie. Believe me, you are doing the right thing by crediting others. I guess Victoria’s point was that she wants people to be more original — which is really hard.

The food52 example is the same — giving away a recipe for no pay. But if you think you got something in return, that’s what counts.

Lynda August 30, 2010 at 8:30 pm

I contributed several recipes to the Foodista Cookbook project. This is one of two forums (Food52 is the other) where I have submitted recipes (for free) which are subjected to a vetting process and voted on by a community of readers/bloggers/cooks/editors and won. I have also been approached on numerous occasions by companies to write and give recipes for free – and declined.

The difference? Participating in an intelligent, inclusive and networking community that in turn promotes my blog. With each opportunity, I have considered my choice of when and how to offer recipes without compensation. For me, community counts and so does building a portfolio of work. In the case of Foodista (or Food52), while there has been no monetary compensation, I feel that the value I have received in terms of thoughtful recognition, traffic to my blog, along with participation in an inclusive and positive community of peers are the benefits of my choice.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 9:46 am

Thank you so much for explaining your decision to participate, Lynda. It makes sense to me. I will defend you to anyone who says you did the wrong thing!

May @ Slow Food Kitchen August 31, 2010 at 3:50 am

Being a newish food blogger, I find this an interesting topic as I have never considered the issue of being paid for recipes. I don’t have that many recipes on my blog yet as the posts are mainly reviews so far. I do know of some bloggers who have been offered gigs to write for a fee so the line between bloggers and writers is blurring. So I think that this issue of bloggers being paid for recipes will definitely go the same way. Some bloggers are very qualified to write tried and tested recipes.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 9:51 am

Hah ha, that is a whole different can of worms. Now restaurants will invite you to eat for free in exchange for a review, and you’ll have to decide what to do about that. I’ve got a whole bunch of posts on that subject too.

Re recipes, yes, the line is definitely blurring. I think in the end, though, the people who are giving away recipes will reach a level of popularity or expertise where they decide not to do it anymore.

Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite August 31, 2010 at 4:29 am

Dianne, first of all, it was a pleasure meeting you in Seattle this past weekend and I found your session (and your contribution/ questions in others) to be truly inspiring.

Secondly, what you responded to Lori really resonated with me: “When it’s early in your career, you make decisions that might change later”

I think there is no hard and fast right or wrong answer to this – we are all at different stages in our blogging career (but let’s be honest, how many people actually make money from blogging, enough to give up a day job? Not many…) and it really irks me to see some more well known bloggers who HAVE written books or are published elsewhere and paid for it blast newer bloggers for contributing to unpaid projects in exchange for a little recognition that might help kick start their blogging career. They seem to forget that they were “little bloggers” at some point in the past too. You have to start somewhere and I don’t think any publisher would see anything wrong with new bloggers building a portfolio at the beginning of their blogging life by contributing to some projects for free.

There’s also a difference between being sought out and asked to contribute to a project and voluntarily contributing when you know you won’t be paid (i.e. Food52 or Foodista) and I think the distinction at IFBC wasn’t really clear.

The tricky thing in all of this for me is WHEN does this change? When can you start feeling you should charge for your work? When do you stop being a newbie? It’s the old Catch 22 situation, you can’t be hired without experience but without a job you can’t get experience….

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 9:55 am

Well said, Mardi. (And yes, it was satisfying to give you a hug at IFBC after only knowing you online.)

I’m not sure that the bigger bloggers are blasting anyone. They have worked hard for their success, and maybe they did give away recipes at first.

You have to decide when it’s past “at first.”

Amy August 31, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Just to reiterate, the section of the presentation where I advocated not giving recipes away for free was called “Going Pro.” Bottom line, if you want to be a professional, you need to charge fees in line with other fellow professionals. If you are a hobbyist and want to give your work away for exposure, that’s completely different. Yes, there probably is a time of overlap when bloggers don’t neatly fit into one category or the other, and it’s up to them to make that call. I believe given the current advertising model fewer bloggers will make money from traffic than they will from selling high quality recipes to clients. Do you think I’m wrong?

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I’m glad you jumped in, Amy. I don’t think you’re wrong. The money from advertising sucks unless you have huge numbers, but you can be paid well to write recipes.

Nate @ House of Annie September 1, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Now would be a good opportunity for someone to jump in and say, “I know where you can go to find work as a recipe developer”.

And for someone else to say, “I can teach you to become a recipe developer.”


diannejacob September 1, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Got a post on that subject coming up, Nate.

Stephanie - Wasabimon August 31, 2010 at 1:28 pm

I have to agree here. There comes a time when you need to decide if you’re doing this for passion or profit. Once you consider yourself a pro you’ve got to draw a hard line, which benefits you and everyone else in the same market. Perhaps we need to start a recipes writer’s union.

Dahlia Klein August 31, 2010 at 5:24 am

I have been blogging for a few months now posting recipes that have been adapted or inspired from other recipes, but there is a reason why I have done so.
I am in the process of writing a cookbook and need to build my presence as a cookbook author with my blog. That being said, I entice readers with my recipes, which I give credit for, however these are not recipes that will be in my cookbook.
The recipes in my cookbook are not really found in an online search because it’s not a popular cuisine… Central Asia.
So I think that many bloggers do it as a hobby and then there are some bloggers like me that would like to graduate to a cookbook and can’t really post original recipes, otherwise why would anyone buy it if it’s free.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 10:00 am

Aha. Interesting philosophy. It’s true that you can’t write a cookbook based on your blog posts. No one would spend the money for what they could get for free.

kitchenMage August 31, 2010 at 3:56 pm

No one would spend the money for what they could get for free.

Absolutely not true. Pioneer Woman’s book has many recipes that are on her site already and it was #1 on NY Times bestseller list.. Apparently people WILL sepnd the money…

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 6:48 pm

We should all have that problem!

Nate @ House of Annie September 1, 2010 at 5:47 pm

But did she just republish the posts from her blog, or did she reshoot the pics and rewrite the text? Seems to me that people are spending the money for the extra work involved in putting a cookbook together. The blog was there to develop the audience first.

Jamie August 31, 2010 at 5:25 am

The issue of giving something away for free, usually by “newbies,” isn’t unique to recipes. When I was in the quiiting industry, the quilting teachers/authors had the same problem. They charged for being a guest speaker and/or for teaching classes, but there was always someone willing to speak or teach for free.
In the writing industry, same thing. There’s always someone willing to write for free, usually to build a portfolio.
In all industries, some of the no-charge guest speakers/teachers/writers are just as good as the paid-for hires; some are not.
It’s not a new question and it’s not an issue that can be solved. It’s one each person has to deal with in a way that fits their perspective, which can change as they gain experience.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 10:02 am

Yes, exactly. I speak for free. I would like to figure out how to get paid, but there is always something in return that makes it worth my while, usually: promotion of my book or blog.

Renée Restivo August 31, 2010 at 6:00 am

Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? If a blogger has the experience and skills necessary to develop and publish original recipes, she will save some content to publish in her future book or in national magazine articles or online for pay. He or she may decide to give away a limited number of recipes for free in order to drive traffic to their site.

National food magazines provide a limited amount of free recipes and articles on their websites, but in most cases you still have to buy the current magazine if you want to read the best feature or to get all of the recipes in that issue.

I agree w/ the executive editor of BA when she states that most food bloggers are not professional recipe developers or recipe testers, but sometimes I’d rather read a genuine recipe (that has been told to me in the words of a home cook and documented by a blogger), than one that has been tested and changed and has lost its true flavor.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 10:07 am

You are one of the few to agree with Victoria, Renee.

I was thinking of the argument about cows and milk yesterday. Then I laughed! Not many of us were virgins when we got married. Isn’t that the original point of that saying?

Elizabeth August 31, 2010 at 7:16 am

This is definitely a tough discussion. Many food bloggers are simply hobbyists who started their blog to keep recipes in the public eye for their own family to see, not so they could make money. To them this is fine and they don’t see the blog as a business.

I, on the other hand, do see my blog as a business and treat it as thus. I get paid for my recipes, but I also give them to sites such as tasty kitchen for free, and they are also available on my blog for free. I get paid from companies that wish to use my recipes without adaptation and I think more food bloggers should also ask for this.

ALTHOUGH, I write my recipes completely from scratch. I actually take offense at the notion that “They (food bloggers) haven’t been trained (to create original recipes).”

That statement irks me because it is a generalization. There ARE food bloggers like myself that only post original recipes, I have maybe 1% adapted recipes on my site.

I must admit I am a trained professional no longer working in the industry, but I know there are plenty of people like me out there developing recipes every night at dinner time.

In conclusion though, if you are developing original recipes than you should never give them away for free…I believe that they should be compensated.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 10:17 am

Sounds like you have a good business going, Elizabeth. And you have decided which recipes to give away for free and which to charge for.

Since you are a trained professional who writes a recipe from scratch, pitch BA! Victoria is looking for someone like you.

Amy August 31, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I’m curious, as a professional why are you giving recipes away to Tasty Kitchen? What’s in it for you?

Elizabeth August 31, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I “give away recipes” to Tasty Kitchen because it brings heavy traffic to my site. I take it all in as Social Networking. I post a tasty recipe on Tasty Kitchen, I’ve had a fair amount be “spotlighted” and then that brings a tremendous amount of people to my blog which in turn brings in revenue from ad space. Also, the more people see me and my online presence the better.

Shef September 1, 2010 at 8:44 am

Elizabeth, your posts are interesting because I feel that though i’m a very very new blogger, i am hesitant to post my recipes because they are truly from scratch, ethnic recipes that are hard to find online. And i’ve really worked hard on developing them! I use them to teach cooking classes but found I really couldn’t copyright them. Do you have any advice for me as a new blogger? I’m not a great writer but just like to “journal” my recipe development process and what i’m cooking. Not sure if i’ll get any traffic on my blog but eventually i want to publish a cookbook….really to hand down to my children. Should I avoid posting recipes on the blog?

Elizabeth September 1, 2010 at 12:56 pm


I’ve only got what I know to give as advice, but I would post SOME of the recipes you have as a teaser. An example of this in the blogging world would be Pioneer Woman. She wrote a cookbook that featured recipes available for free on her webpage but also included recipes that were not available.

I think if you have a following they will be the first to buy your book and gaining that following from posting recipes online in an interesting blog would be a good start!

Kate @ savour fare August 31, 2010 at 8:52 am

I had a discussion with Amy about this after the session – can’t I see some recipes as a marketing budget? The way that Sur La Table gives out products, I can give out a recipe? Amy argued that I don’t need a marketing budget, but I think I do. Where I draw the distinction is in both scale and venue. I don’t publish all of my recipes at Tasty Kitchen (which some bloggers do), but I might publish a few, hoping to get a spotlight, which I see as an ad. I’m going to be in the Foodista Cookbook and the food52 cookbook, but I only submitted a few recipes to both platforms, and I think the credibility enhancement (and while it may be changing, appearing in print media still boosts your credibility more than appearing in online media because the barrier to entry is higher) is worth it for me. With venue, if a company like Dannon or Kraft, approaches me and asks me to use or publish my recipes, I ask for payment. If the project is food media, I’m less likely to.

But those are my personal rules of thumb, and they may change the landscape. Companies are still paying you and Amy because they value you more than they value me, and I’m looking for ways to enhance my value.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 10:21 am

You have decided where to draw the line and it is working for you. What’s wrong with that? Good point that SLT gives out products when the company deems it profitable to do so (ex. swag bag at IFBC!). I agree that you can operate the same when you think it’s worthwhile.

Winning a contest definitely adds to your value, but I’m with you: print is still held to a higher standard. It’s changing, thanks to bloggers.

It’s pointless to yourself to me. I came from print. And I recently gave away something for free. BlogHer paid $50 to run a post of mine on its site, then asked for permission to post it on for no pay. I agreed because it was a way to reach a new target audience for my book. The post ran on SheWrites’ home page with a photo of the new edition of WWFF. I thought it was worth it. Besides, I had written the post long ago and had already been paid for it once.

Barbara | VinoLuciStyle August 31, 2010 at 8:55 am

I do love the exchange of thoughts inherent in this discussion; that alone is worth the read but guess I feel like sharing my two cents as well!

First; despite the back and forth with one of the first commentators; I read that as the authors included in that compilation did not have a problem with not being paid and that your personal opinion is that people should be. Either way, I take some umbrage at the notion that Foodista would develop a cookbook and not consider payment to the recipe authors. That they paid you to do the editing illustrates the comparative value they place on the talent included and helps set the precedent industry wide.

This situation is not just limited to food bloggers; I see a comparative in my field and I’m sure many professionals could say the same. Those wanting to get some attention, get noticed, get some exposure will be more prone to give away intellectual property than those established. I actually understand that thinking but therein, as they say, lies the rub. As long as anyone gives up the goods without being paid, it affects everyone…why pay for it if someone else will do it for free? Those very people who give away their work product for free today will most likely be the ones lamenting it shouldn’t be done tomorrow if they are lucky enough to have their situation change.

There will never be an answer; everyone has to do what they feel best suits their particular situation…but I think as food bloggers on the whole, we need to support the community and each other, no matter which way we find best suits us, our blog and our audience; there is no one right answer.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 10:33 am

Hold on. Andrews-McMeel paid me to edit the recipes, not Foodista. It was because the recipes needed WAY MORE EDITING than was normal for other cookbooks and the book’s editor didn’t have the time to do it herself. And I’m talking about the final recipes, which represented the best. I wrote two posts on the errors I found.

I don’t know for sure, but I imagine the folks at Foodista spent months culling through the recipes, trying to decide which ones to publish. They tested all the final recipes, often more than once. Now it’s going to be their job to promote the book.

Agreed that the situation is not limited to food bloggers. Photographers, website designers, and print writers go through the same thing. But at some point, the people who are giving it away decide to get paid, an it raises the bar for everyone. And then the next step is getting paid more, so there isn’t as much of a gap.

Thank you for saying there is no right answer. I have had a major shift in my thinking. I would never have said that, even a few months ago.

Jennifer - Savor August 31, 2010 at 10:25 am

You also want to keep this in mind: If you are getting paid or not, is the recipe still owned by you or are you also selling the rights?

Amy August 31, 2010 at 12:29 pm

As a professional recipe developer I can tell you, the recipes I develop for clients and get paid for are theirs, no longer mine. If I want to reprint them, I must ask permission from the publisher and credit them.

katy August 31, 2010 at 11:26 am

MAN. This is so tricky!

An analogy is design work. Graphic designers are submerged in a world of good work — by other people. They look at design mags, find fresh new work online, see the work of their colleagues, daily. Sometimes, that gets unintentionally “regurgitated” in their own work. They were subconsciously — yet strongly — influenced by the work of someone else that spoke to them in some way.

I wonder how often that happens in recipe writing? It seems almost an impossible feat to define the phrase “original recipe.”

On my own blog, I am almost always giving credit to a cookbook or another blog for inspiration or adaptation — but I’ve also never considered myself a “recipe writer.” And since I’ve never submitted a recipe for cookbook publication, the question of payment never arose.

Seems a key dividing point is whether someone else benefits financially from your recipe, while you don’t (which is not the case when a blogger posts own recipes for free)? That being said, exposure can be a form of payment (as in the case of bloggers submitting to Food52, etc.).

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 11:28 am

Good analogy about being influenced. I agree that it is impossible not to be. When I cook at home, without recipes, I am thinking about dishes I ate in restaurants, or recipes I read somewhere.

Exposure can definitely be a form of payment. Although Food52 will benefit financially from the book.

Aleta August 31, 2010 at 11:40 am

As a professional writer who has been paid quite well for her work in print, I would say that the online world poses many challenges. Since anyone can publish her work on the web, everyone’s work is devalued. It makes sense that a lot of people will do just about anything to get noticed, including giving away their recipes. Still, it’s sad to see so many people being exploited.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 1:12 pm

You have a print perspective, Aleta! Not everyone feels exploited, particularly if they are blogging as a hobby. However, it would be nice if we could be paid as much for our online work as we do for our print work. Print still rules, in terms of pay.

Nancy Baggett August 31, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Dianne, as for why I give away recipes for exchange links even though I don’t see much benefit, I am in the process of re-evaluating that now. The strange thing is that in advance, I don’t seem to be able to predict what links will bring me much traffic–the results have been surprising, good and bad.

As for the comments about blog recipes being “devalued” over ones in some print published form, I think that’s probably true. (People often think, “It’s free, so it can’t be that good!) I never put anything out on my site that isn’t what I consider my top quality work, but I suspect that readers don’t really appreciate that I could have sold it somewhere instead. What’s the answer, assuming that I can’t post a heads-up line saying “I could have sold this to a nice mag!”? That I should only post recipes I don’t think are good enough to sell? I’d feel sort of silly “adapting” other people’s recipes, since I’m used to developing my own.

One thing I do occasionally do is post recipes that are from my books, noting what book, and giving it a little plug (and maybe a link on Amazon). But if I give away too much, as somebody said, it will negatively affect book sales. Plus, new approaches/ topics/trends come up all the time, and old work is usually just not current enough to be very interesting to me or readers. Sorry, more questions than answers here!

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 1:16 pm

You have to be careful, because you don’t want people choosing not to buy your books because they can get your recipes online for free. You’re trying to find a balance. Putting in recipes from your book from time to time, with a link to purchase it, makes sense to me.

This idea that you should only post recipes that aren’t good enough to sell doesn’t make sense to me either. Someone alluded to that earlier — that she was keeping her best recipes for her cookbook. Seems disrespectful to her blog readers, but that assumes they know the difference.

Kim at Rustic Garden Bistro August 31, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Hi Dianne,

Thanks for an insightful article on giving away recipes. Even more interesting is reading through the long line of reader comments and your responses.

I don’t have anything intelligent to comment or add, so… just thanks. 🙂

Happy Tuesday!


diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 1:17 pm

You’re welcome, Kim.

I’m grateful too, to have such passionate readers who are willing to jump in and help figure this out. I certainly don’t have all the answers.

Lucy Vaserfirer August 31, 2010 at 1:10 pm

What a thought-provoking discussion! I have always struggled with this issue, and I must say I still have mixed feelings.

I started my blog Hungry Cravings a couple of years ago in an effort to build an audience for my first cookbook Seared to Perfection, which will be released in October(!). The blog quickly became a creative outlet and a way to satisfy my need to share my cooking with others. I am not giving away my recipes for free on my blog—my payment comes in the form of a small but growing platform and a deep feeling of personal satisfaction. Incidentally, I am a trained professional, I do freelance recipe development for which I get paid, and I develop almost all of the recipes on Hungry Cravings from scratch.

On the other hand, when I received a couple of emails from Foodista inviting me to submit recipes for their cookbook project, I politely declined. I can see the value of the exposure, but for me it felt wrong give away my work for the financial gain of others. Especially in an environment where so many forces already work to depress the pay of food writers.

Ultimately, there is no clear answer—as with everything in life, it’s up to each of us to evaluate every opportunity and make a decision we can live with.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 1:20 pm

How lovely that you feel your growing platform and satisfaction is a good enough reason to have a blog. Perhaps since you are a trained professional, you should also contact BA!

As you say, so many forces depress the pay of food writers. Yep. That’s why so few of us can afford to do it full time.

Stephanie - Wasabimon August 31, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I’ve adopted a policy to not give things away for free – I decided that in the end, I’d rather be broke with free time instead of broke and stressed out with non-paying work.

That said, I provided a recipe to this Foodista book project. Why? Because I have a relationship with the people that run Foodista. I really like Barnaby and Sheri, and consider them part of the community. I didn’t mind contributing to their project, though it would sure be nice if they did a profit share if the book sells really well!

I’ve had people argue with me about the fact that they should in turn be willing to support their community by paying for the recipes in the book. I think it’s a valid point, but I was comfortable giving up my dish in this case.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I have a lot of respect for Barnaby and Sheri, and for Amanda Hesser of Food52. They have put a lot of sweat into their projects, and there’s prestige to being the winner of a contest. If you’re happy with that, that’s what counts. It’s not the same as developing recipe for the back of a cereal box.

Victoria von Biel August 31, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Hi Everybody,
I’m really enjoying reading all the comments here, and I want to clarify my own statements. I winced a little (well, a lot) when I read that I had said that most bloggers aren’t good enough recipe developers. In fact, I do use some bloggers as recipe developers (Sara Kate from The Kitchn, for example) but by and large they tend to be professional cooks/recipe developers as well. Everyone who has pointed out that there really aren’t that many new ideas in the recipe world is (somewhat) correct. My point is merely that an awful lot of blogs contain recipes verbatim from cookbooks or magazines, and I cannot get any kind of idea whether these people could come up with their own new and exciting riffs on popular dishes. Making a recipe your own and really being able to combine flavors in exciting ways and transform the old into the new in a way that is accessible for the home cook is a real skill, and one that takes quite a bit of experience.

The idea of whether or not contributors should be paid if their work is included in a book is interesting. “Crowd sourcing” recipe books is a big trend at the moment, and my feeling is that publishers will get away with not paying as long as they can. On the other hand, there is a precedent: Books like the Best Food Writing and Best Travel Writing do not offer payment to the writers they anthologize–being included is seen as payment in itself. Certainly the people included in the Foodista book have something very nice to put on their resumes. We’ll see what happens in the coming months/years.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Hey Victoria, thanks for dropping in. It’s tough to have high standards, no? You clarified your point beautifully.

Re being included in books as an honor that is payment in itself, that kind of book will always be around. What changes is who is wiling to enter.

Cheryl August 31, 2010 at 7:27 pm

I’m glad V VB took the time to read through the responses and to clarify her point. Her willingness to come here and speak to the issue on a blog is — in and of itself — proof positive of blogs’ import and influence.

I love that you took an already complex discussion, Dianne, and opened it up so that others not at the conference could weigh in with their thoughts & perspectives. It’s like you extended the original panel’s Q&A by a mile, and to great effect.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Thank you Cheryl. I thought it was really cool that she did so also.

And it’s been a good discussion so far, mostly because of all the thoughtful commenters. Speaking of which, do you have an opinion?

Deborah Mele August 31, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Wow, quite a discussion! I have had my Italian cuisine blog/website online for over 9 years now and I am sure on almost every message board/recipe site you can find my recipes posted by others although they do give me credit. Frustrating, yep, and I would have appreciated being asked first, but when you post recipes on the web for free that’s what happens. I do post recipes on Tasty Kitchen for free because I love the format, but do not give away my recipes for free anywhere else as I did at the beginning when I was trying to promote my site and build a following.

I have worked for companies that paid me $400 to $500 for every recipe I developed for them that are then theirs to keep and use however they choose, so it really isn’t in my best interest to give away my work for free at this point as it only diminishes my worth. I do still have folks almost on a daily basis asking me if they can post my recipes and photos on their sites to “help increase my web traffic” but quite frankly I no longer need any more traffic, and am getting much more particular on where my name/recipes/photos are being posted online.

Sharing recipes for free is an individual choice. I honestly have not plugged away for 9 years on my blog for the money or fame, or I would have given up long ago. If it gives me pleasure to share my recipes for free to anyone who asks and I’m paying all of my costs myself to keep my blog afloat that (in my opinion) is my choice. I personally no longer feel that way, but do think everyone has that option if they choose to do so.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 6:44 pm

I had to laugh, Deborah, when you say you’re not doing your blog for money or fame. For most of us, that’s not even an option! But it’s a good way to put a portfolio of work out there that might lead to other opportunities, if you don’t want it to be a hobby.

Good explanation of why you no longer give away recipes.

Deborah Mele August 31, 2010 at 2:21 pm

And I really meant to say before I posted my earlier response….if I was a new food blogger trying to get my blog noticed while there are so many food blogs posting (thousands++) the same type of recipes, I certainly might agree to having a company or store post my recipes for free if they asked to get my blog the needed attention to be different from the rest.

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Okay, but what qualifies as attention? Many of these requests you get are from people who “help increase my web traffic,” but how do you know who will? I guess that is the question.

Lori @ RecipeGirl August 31, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Deborah, I agree… I would do that too if I were a new blogger who was excited to break into the community. And I’m fine with bloggers who just have their blog as a hobby and enjoy creating recipes for brands for free… that’s their choice. It’s just tough on those of us who work hard to make a living in this biz.

Jamie September 4, 2010 at 5:39 am

I’m popping in here again because Deborah makes a valid point. It’s like applying for a job : you only get the job if you are experienced yet if companies only hire experienced people how does one get that experience? I also have a recipe that will be in the Foodista cookbook. I am also an unpaid contributing blogger for Huffington Post Food. As a total unknown and with so much competition out there, I felt that I needed the exposure, something that would give weight to my resumé. That said, I am selective in where my work goes and think that I am well-paid in exposure and experience. But I know that at some point and with these under my belt (and a few more) I will only want to work for money. Working without being paid money (and I stress the word money) is a first step to a paid career.

diannejacob September 4, 2010 at 10:34 pm

I hope you’re right, Jamie. Although now that everyone knows the contributors for both things aren’t paid, it might be harder to get someone to pay you. Sort of a Catch 22.

Jamie September 6, 2010 at 1:38 am

Yes, I do agree and often think of that, too. Another point I was thinking of (this discussion has really gotten me thinking!!), it also depends on if a blogger is approached by a magazine, a company or a website or we approach them. Don’t forget that it is often clear whether something is paid or not and the choice is there for us. I also think it may be different for recipes as opposed to articles. In many cases if WE are approached we can ask to be paid. They want us and our recipe or our talent as a recipe developer. Or a writer. I am starting to submit story/article ideas to websites and magazines and there is a clear line for me: some I would definitely expect to be paid for or want to be paid, others I would gladly write something for free. Why without being paid? The prestige of certain publications (again, exposure here) or wanting to participate in something good, something I want to support (Foodista, Bloggeraid cookbook, etc).

diannejacob September 7, 2010 at 11:26 am

I know of newspapers that don’t pay at all, but not magazines. I think you’re okay there, Jamie. Websites of publications usually pay something. Otherwise, it’s the Wild West on the Internet.

If it makes sense to you to not be paid for a cause you support, go for it.

Karen August 31, 2010 at 8:24 pm

I am again reading all the comments and have to say that this discussion has certainly brought a lot of thought and opinion to the question at hand. Coming from a retail perspective, one of the first things that many of the gurus preach is that you have to give something away to get the customer in the door to see what you have to sell them. That started me thinking about cookbooks at the library – how many of us have found a book there and after using the “free” to us recipes have gone and bought our own copy because we wanted to have the collection on our own shelf. Could it be the same thing here – giving up a recipe or two as a sample in order to show the prospective customer (cookbook purchaser) what we can deliver in our books? Giving the customer a taste of our style, our genre, our approach to the entire world of food and cooking might just find us a convert and a lot of future sales, if sales is what we are after in the first place.
This whole thing is sort of like the chicken/egg controversy – except that we can always just punt and cook both of them and sell the recipe!!

diannejacob August 31, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Hello again, Karen. I would argue that food bloggers do that right on their blogs. We provide a place to show both readers and potential purchasers of our recipes what we can deliver.

Karen September 1, 2010 at 10:21 am

Yes, Dianne, I agree many food bloggers do give their recipes to us right on their blogs. They might, however, feel compelled to contribute a recipe gratis to a collective cookbook effort if they thought that they would gain exposure that their blog does bring them now. Might not someone see their recipe and then head over to the blog for some backup information and atmosphere? That would add to the “following” or base that print media almost demands of an author before they consider publishing a cookbook by an “unknown to them” rookie. In reality, it all comes down to the individual’s choice as to which way they conduct their business. I have seen from experiencein retail that those who take the “give it away” route almost always run themselves out of business and the last guy standing reaps the rewards.
I must say, you certainly do know how to make us all sit up and take notice of an issue!

diannejacob September 1, 2010 at 10:40 am

Hah! Thanks Karen. I don’t have all the answers either and I count on all of you to help me figure them out. Great job, everybody!

Re why people contribute recipes for free, I’ve read lots of reasons in the comments, and if they make sense to people, so be it. They might get traffic, prestige, good connections, have a good experience, learn from it, etc.

Jason Phelps September 1, 2010 at 4:37 am

Very interesting all the way around. A couple things comes to mind.

Established bloggers who are bemoaning new bloggers giving things away for free are recognizing a competitive element. Deal with it. You aren’t the only game in town.

The print media (BA, Cooks Ilustrated, etc) have to say things that marginalize bloggers to save face with their own industry. The know they are losing ground to independant sources who do it because they love and aren’t so much worried about getting paid. They are wrong and they will have to deal with being wrong and not embracing bloggers in their own complex soon enough.

All bloggers (food, technology, etc) are ultimately attention whores. We do what we do because we love it, but we don’t accept 0 readers forever. We want attention. With this attention comes the same growth struggles as running a business. We have to make decisions for our own growth that will be controversial to others. It won’t be all wine and roses then, and the good vibes might fade for some people when they have to use the backs of others to take a next step. Make no mistake this is what they want and these outcomes are no different than any other choices people might make.


diannejacob September 1, 2010 at 10:31 am

Jeez, Jason. Kinda opinionated, but I appreciate yet another point of view.

Established bloggers have other sources of income. They have ads, sponsors, and clients. They get book deals. At some point beginners are no longer their competition. But very few bloggers fit into this category.

The print media is still around, trying to figure out their place. They are trying to incorporate food bloggers, but their standards are high: culinary school graduates, former chefs, journalism degrees, excellent writing, book deals, etc. So now they want bloggers with a platform (translation: millions of readers) when they can’t get the rest.

Attention whores? Sure, I love attention. But I don’t think I’m the only person. EVERYONE loves attention, Jason. The only way to succeed is to get it.

Jason Phelps September 2, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Just a point of clarification. Nothing I wrote was targeted at you, more the collective we that food bloggers represent.

And yes it is opinionated, but backed up by real world examples in many different industries. These aren’t new problems, they are just made more interesting with 21st century technologies.

Print media standards are like having an ethic about only hiring from the Ivy League in many high profile corporations. You have something to advertise about where your employees come from, but since they are just like everyone else, what does it mean? Any when you find out what they expect from you for doing no more work than the State College grad, where do you find yourself?


Jackie Baisa September 1, 2010 at 6:30 am

I have nothing new to add to this discussion, and I’m not a recipe writer, but I wanted to say that I’m reading, and nodding, and nodding some more. I stand behind every recipe developer to say that they rock (and support my recipe habit!) and they should get paid. Plain and simple.

I enjoyed that panel discussion at IFBC and it really inspired me (as did this follow-up blog). There’s so much to think about for a first-time writer/recipe developer/photographer. We have to balance our need to get our name out there with making a living. I will say, though, that I’ve undercut myself enough times, and people know my name now, this was a reality check for me to start charging what I’m worth. PERIOD.

diannejacob September 1, 2010 at 10:34 am

You have the same issues as a photographer, Jackie: growing your business, figuring out what to charge, knowing that there’s always someone behind you who will charge less.

Kathy - Panini Happy September 1, 2010 at 10:03 am

Out of all the many blogs I read each week, this is the only one I keep open on my screen and refresh often. I love the thought-provoking and respectful dialogue that takes place over here – thanks so much for hosting, Dianne!

For myself, I evaluate each recipe submission opportunity on a case-by-case basis. As I become more recognized for recipes in my specific niche (grilled sandwiches) I’ve been receiving more requests. If it’s a large national media outlet requesting a recipe, I’ll most likely say yes – the association and introduction to a very large new audience is sufficient justification to me. My answer to commercial websites looking to build out their recipe content for free is generally no. The book projects mentioned previously are a gray area for me. Thus far I’ve turned them down as I believe that if a cookbook will be put up for sale its recipe contributors should be paid. I’m sure there’s a scenario where I might feel differently.

I’d also like to say that I don’t begrudge anyone for making decisions about their blogging that they feel are right for them. There are lots of good reasons to work for free, lots of good reasons not to. Do what makes sense for you and I’ll do the same. The playing field and the players always change in every industry, food writing is no exception. It’s how things move forward. Those who recognize the changes and adapt to them are usually the ones who will enjoy the greatest longevity.

diannejacob September 1, 2010 at 10:37 am

Thank you so much, Kathy.

This all sounds rational and logical. I guess the only way to do it is to evaluate each opportunity carefully. I like you attitude for not begrudging anyone.

Mrs. Mix It September 1, 2010 at 12:49 pm

I understand how this could be such a big topic at the International Food Blogger Conference, however, until you have a big following how can you charge for your recipes. I only post recipes that I have created on my website and I hope that one day I will be approached to either write a cook book or to have a receipe or two published. Thanks for the great article. I look forward to reading many more on your site.


Mrs. Mix It

diannejacob September 1, 2010 at 1:12 pm

You are most welcome. Here’s the thing. People are going to approach you about using your recipes soon. I hope this post and comments have given you some reference info that helps you make decisions.

Fran September 1, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Wow, my head is spinning. I don’t often read every comment in a long thread of thoughts and replies, but I often read all of what’s being said in response to your posts and today was no exception.

I don’t often post recipes and for what I believe are good reasons — I am a rather spur of the moment cook. I wake up, see what’s happening in my reader, check out FoodGawker and TasteSpotting for inspiration, possibly turn on a cooking show to get a spark going for what kind of food I may want to eat that day and then head into the kitchen to take a look around and see what ingredients are in my fridge and pantry.

Suddenly, something pops into my mind and away I go. It’s often inspired from a photo I see in a blog post or I see a status update from someone on Facebook that “reminds me of the time” I ate such-and-such when living in XYZ country and I get all kinds of excited to recreate a dish from that part of the world, hoping it will take me back to better times and I get excited to share it with my few blog followers.

But with very very rare exception, what I don’t do is write down the ingredients and measurements as I go or test the recipe . If I like it I’m thrilled that I’ve just made myself something outstanding to dine on and to probably bring the leftovers of to the women I work with at the store. They’re always eager to try something since we work at Williams-Sonoma and food is our common thread.

I just don’t feel comfortable posting something as a recipe that someone may spend their hard earned money on — (purchasing ingredients and spending their time in the kitchen) — to have it potentially not be worthwhile. I can’t be 100% sure it’s going to work if I don’t test it over and over. I submitted a recipe for an employee contest sponsored by Calphalon and I tested it 5 times before I sent in my entry. I was sure of that recipe because I had a pad and paper in the kitchen and I recreated it multiple times and I did a couple of taste testings with friends and two people voluntarily tested the recipe without me asking, but seriously, recipe development is not easy work, it’s time consuming and to me, it’s a responsibility.

I write about food for the stories and memories, not so much for the ingredients and process and the couple of recipes I submitted to Whole Foods and CNN that got picked up were unpaid, but I’ll admit it was great fun to see my name in “print” on the screen and to see me on the TV hanging from the wall the morning CNN featured my recipe and my blog, although he couldn’t remember the exact URL. :/

C’est la vie

diannejacob September 1, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Hey Fran, nice to hear from you. What you described is a good introduction to recipe testing, but then the hard work starts of writing it down and testing it. Blogging is meant to be spontaneous, so that is a disconnect right there — to plan out posts and make sure you’ve tested the recipe several times. I don’t think most bloggers do it.

Kirsty Melville September 1, 2010 at 1:50 pm

It has been very interesting reading all these comments and it made me think of a game I used to play as a kid called Careers, in which players have to make a choice between money, fame and happiness. It seems to me that many food bloggers are constantly juggling these choices. What do you want most: Money, fame or happiness? The argument that one should never give away recipes for free suggests that “money” is most important, which is fine. During the SEO session many IFBC attendees were adamant that they weren’t interested in traffic or making money. They just wanted to create great content and be part of the community, indicating that “happiness” was on top. Participating in a book like Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook or the one from Food52 (or giving your recipes to a magazine) may bring you “fame” but not money (or fame in the short term, leading to more money in the long term). In the end, just like in the game, we each have to figure out which is most important and then make decisions that will help us achieve it.

diannejacob September 1, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Well said, but I don’t see why they’re mutually exclusive: I would like to have money, fame and happiness. Who wouldn’t?

Christine September 3, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Hello Dianne,

About the cookbook and the recipes being given away, all the entries are willfully entered by the blogger and as part of submitting, they consent to the contest’s official rules. They have the option to not join the contest if they want to get paid for their recipes.


diannejacob September 3, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Yes, certainly they had the option. The question is whether it should have been one. Thanks for providing this link.

Victor Panichkul September 4, 2010 at 9:51 pm

I was there at the conference and found the discussion interesting. I for one am passionate about my writing. And also, like some bloggers, I am a professional writer and editor. I have worked as a journalist for publications as small as the Springfield News-Leader to as large as The Baltimore Sun. Therefore I do make my living from being a professional writer and editor. So, it’s disturbing to hear an editor at a well-respected publication devalue what I do for my website simply because I do not earn my living from it, and possibly devalue what I have to contribute to the mainstream food writing world and audience. As an assigning editor for a major metro daily newspaper, I would have never considered assigning a story to a freelance writer, or an illustration to a freelance artist, or a photograph to a freelance photographer without an agreement up-front for payment. It seems that we should stop considering ourselves less valuable simple because of the medium that we’re publishing our work on. We should be judged by the quality of our writing, storytelling, photography and recipes. Not the fact that we do it on our own websites.

diannejacob September 4, 2010 at 10:47 pm

In Victoria’s defense, she’s talking about the ability of bloggers to develop original recipes, which is different from being a writer. Of course she would like excellent writing as well, but it’s easier to rewrite a 300-word story intro than to fix 3 mediocre recipes.

We professional writers will always have competition from hungrier, less experienced writers. It just comes with the territory. And in the old days, we did not have the opportunity to showcase our work this way, which has its pros and cons. (We just had clips. Remember clips?!) The pros are that we get to express ourselves the way we want, on subjects that interest us, rather than writing a particular story a particular way. But on the other hand, professional bloggers and amateur bloggers all look the same to many people: we’re all writing for free on our own sites.

Victor Panichkul September 4, 2010 at 9:54 pm

PS. Oh and Dianne, I’m working my way through your book (which I purchased at IFBC and you graciously autographed for me).


diannejacob September 4, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Thanks again, Victor. I hope you enjoy it.

Micheline Mongrain September 16, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Hi Dianne,
I am new with your blog and truly learning and enjoying

As a cookbook author, and new to blogging since six months I do believe that blogger should be paid for their recipes as long as the same rules apply with copyright on the recipe. If the blogger is serious about his or her work I do not see why this blogger wouldn’t get paid for. After all isn’t it that a blog is to help to make a living with your passion. If a major magazine is interested enough to buy a recipe they know what it is worth and I feel the blogger should get the same amount of money as an adapted recipes appearing in their magazine.

Besides the more less expensive recipes bought from bloggers might result in less contract for serious food writers.

I publish recipes on my blog and it never occured to me that these recipes are worth less than the ones I developped for cookbooks or magazine articles.

diannejacob September 20, 2010 at 10:01 am

Since you already develop recipes for pay, Michelle, it does seem crazy that they would be worth less, I agree. But many bloggers aren’t in your position — they are not paid to write and therefore aren’t sure what to do when they get approached by a website, not a magazine. Usually the website wants to feature their work for free.

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: