getting the deal

In my days of authoring cookbooks, I’ve been fortunate enough to have many learning opportunities that helped me see the world a little clearer, and see myself as a writer more clearly as well. When I first started blogging, all I knew was that there were people who wrote cookbooks professionally, and there were people who did not. Most of those people, who I at one time may have referred to as my idols (many I still do), either worked their asses off to get to writing books, or they knew someone important in the publishing world. Either way, they had what I coveted: a book deal.

I began to research how these people were actually getting said book deals, and one of the first books I came across pretty much spelled it all out: Will Write for Food, by Dianne Jacob. Back in 2009, this book changed my life. With the changing climate of the publishing world and the abundance of food bloggers, I’m not sure how on target many of the points in this book still are (I’d wager that they’re still very relevant), but the one point that Dianne Jacob makes over and over again–the idea of professionalism–still goes a very long way in the book writing world. Get a copy today and read it twice.

For my plethora of readers and friends who have asked–so, how’d you get a book deal? A few pointers:

1) Have a plan.

A lot of people want to write cookbooks; and, there are countless people who could certainly write very good books… but that’s not enough to convince a publisher to back your book. What sets your idea apart from the millions of author aspiring authors’ ideas? Treat your book like a business and plan everything out. From platform to proposal, you need to make sure you have all your ducks in a row before contacting an agent. Before I even started blogging (“building a platform”) I was researching every vegan (and eventually gluten-free) cookbook available at the time and planning out how my book would be different. A proposal should be a very well written outline of your book with a sample of at least 12 recipes. Have this ready to go before ever querying an agent. You want to be ready to send it off immediately when they ask for it.

2) Get an agent.

I know, I know, you’ve probably heard this a bunch, but I’m of the belief that an agent is priceless. In almost every case, you need an agent to get through to a  publisher. Even if a publisher approaches you… it’s a good idea to have an agent there to look over contracts, negotiate terms, and give advice before you sign on the dotted line. Most agents take 15% or so, but in my opinion, they are more than worth it. They are well versed in cookbook negotiations, and (the good ones) have strong relationships with the persons who acquire the books, so you can almost always guarantee a higher advance with a reputable publisher if you’re backed by an agent. I wouldn’t trade mine for the world. The Lisa Ekus Group has helped me not only land 4 cookbook deals, but has offered a tremendous amount of advice from day one. I don’t know where I’d be today without them.

3) Don’t be a diva.

Unless you are a diva, like Beyonce or Hillary Clinton, you probably shouldn’t treat others as though you are. Referring to yourself as über important, a celebrity (if you’ve never been chased by the paparazzi), or treat others like they should be lucky to know you won’t get you very far in the publishing world, or at least for very long. It’s a small world out there and people talk. Make sure they’re saying nice things about you. I try my best out there and guarantee that people some people still talk shit about me. That’s okay and probably unavoidable to an extent, just don’t hand people an easy reason to do so. You know, golden rule and all that.

4) Be patient.

You won’t be rich over night with a book deal and writing takes a lot of work. You will have to continuously improve your craft and keep convincing the same people over and over again that you can handle the tasks at hand. You will most likely be expected to market your own book (which is why it’s a good plan to have a platform in place already). Expect this and when you get the deal (hooray!) don’t be discouraged that your publisher isn’t offering you a 6 figure advance or a book tour… I mean, not very many people get those anyway unless they are pretty damn well known. But if you do good work and keep your head up… the rewards will come. And, in my experience, there seem to be many.

5) Be yourself.

Stick true to you and your own voice. While imitation is a nice form of flattery, it’s not the best plan to execute a book. If you are unfamiliar with your “voice”, find it. Write everyday. Online or offline, writing often will help you find your own style. If you’ve already found yours, hold onto it and use it to communicate with your readers. They will love you for you.

on busyness

Recently, I came across this post, called “The Busy Trap,” .  It was written about 2 years ago, but it perfectly sums up how I’ve been feeling lately. The author talks about busyness, the familiar plague where one’s job + social life becomes a time sink. It seems that everyone I know is busy… not just busy, but–as the author of the aforementioned post describes–crazy busy or super busy.

This excerpt really hit home:

Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs  who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

Yup. I fully admit I’m guilty of this busyness… more often than not, in fact. But why? And for what?

I had an enlightening conversation with my (quite successful) husband about this. He really dislikes being busy and definitely thinks I overextend myself almost all the time. Since I’m pretty Type-A, I have always admired this quality of his; his ability to just relax. And he’s right. One of the reasons I was excited to move to Philly was so that I could easily visit NYC and DC, as well as meet some local movers and shakers in the city I have come to love and call my home. However, that’s a bit easier said than done. These bustling metropolises are full of incredibly talented and driven professionals… who are almost always, you guessed it: busy. If you want to network, or even simply meet a friend for a a quick bite to eat, you gotta hustle. It also helps to attend as many after hours & weekend events as you can in addition to working full-time during the day. For me, it is awfully exhausting.

I’m starting to think that my husband and I’s late night dreamy talks about moving to Colorado or Hawaii are sounding better and better each day, if only for the slower pace.

As I witness this phenomenon among my family, friends, and colleagues, I feel guilty about how much this idea of busy is affecting my own life and my own work. Am I really that busy? Or, am I just spending inordinate amounts of time trying to promote my work and keep up with everyone else?

I realize that this type of behavior has become overwhelmingly common in our society–and it is certainly not limited to people like myself who work mostly at home/online. I recall my husband’s first job when we moved to the city and how we now joke about his 80 hour work weeks and being ‘on call’ 24-7; at the time, it was not funny. And, at his office, it was the norm. Being busy sucks, and I’m on a mission to take back my time. Life is too short for the constant frenzy.

I’ve decided to take a step back from busy and re-prioritize my calender. I have two fabulous kids and a husband I adore. Not to mention, I do keep myself quite occupied with my own work and school. But, busy? Nah. I may still live in the land of “plenty to do”, but now I will make sure I also have plenty of time to myself. I’ll have more time for adventures with my kids, coffee with friends, and just reading a good book for no other reason than pleasure. My new plan hasn’t been in effect for long, yet I already feel much happier that I’ve adopted this stance. Less busy. More present. As I move into working on my next book, I’m very excited for the additional time I’ll have on hand, knowing full and well that my level of busy is all up to me.

the power of words

Why write? For me, writing is an escape–a place where I can let my mind wander. A place where it doesn’t matter what I type, because I can always go back and edit it out later. It must work pretty well (the escaping part) considering the first time I received the final proofed pages of my Sweet Eats for All manuscript, I hardly recognized it. Who wrote all these words?!

I guess I did.

Writing for me is not only an escape–it’s really my preferred way of communicating with the outside world. I often prefer a text to phone call; an email negotiation to an in-person deal; writing books to teaching cooking classes; and “journaling” (both online and on paper) to actually talking with real live people about my thoughts, feelings, experiences. Extroverts think I’m insane. Friends think I’m flat out lying or being modest when I tell them that having my own restaurant or cooking show is quite possibly my worst nightmare. But, it’s who I am. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the company of people… I do. It’s simply that with writing, I have a bit more time to collect my thoughts, to edit so they convey just the right message I intend. It’s like a “brave” suit–when I’m all zipped up, I’m ready to face the world. With spoken words, well, I get a bit tongue tied.

I hope to have the privilege to write for many many years. The more I read, the more I learn about the written word, and the more I want to do it. Since I began reading blogs–way back in 2006–I have come across a variety of people with various reasons why they blog. Some want to help others. Some want to be famous. Some want a scrapbook of memories. Some are lonely. Each reason is just as valid as the other. The realization of why I write was the motive for me to start this blog. I write because it helps me get my thoughts straight. It’s the same reason I create art. If I have an idea, I generally rush to get it down before it fades away forever–whether it be a tweet or a painting. Lest I keep recounting fragments of that thought until it all but disappears, possibly for years, until I stumble upon it again.

I also like to connect to others who share similar thoughts I as do. I often find myself googling random problems I face–like “why does my cat play in the toilet?”–and finding solace and connections to those who faced similar issues and wrote about it. My writing may not be therapeutic for many, but it has helped at least a few people, and that makes it worth it for me. I got an email the other day from a woman who said I helped save her life. It was a bold statement–one that I wasn’t quite ready to take responsibility for. As I read her words, I teared up. The reason she was so grateful was the same reason I am grateful to find random internet answers when life gets rough. Sometimes it means the whole world just to know that someone else gets it–and if someone else gets it and has a solution, even better. I shared my experience in having celiac disease and my story helped another person realize that she was suffering from it, too. How about that? The power of words.


…and so it begins

I decided that I wanted to start another blog–but not like the one I already have, more like a place for everything else I’m thinking to go. A thought cupboard, if you will. I’ve been reading a lot of kick ass books recently (in a mostly effective effort to swear off netflix and amazon instant video until 2015, when all the good shows’ new seasons release) and have found myself incredibly inspired. I hope to ramble about all types of things, from my experiences as an author, to what types of flours substitutions I recommend.

My main website has evolved quite a bit in the past 5 years; I’ve gone from amateur recipe writer (once manifest:vegan) to published cookbook author, and in that time I’ve lost the space for my words to live–especially those that don’t somehow tie into a recipe I’ve created. My main site also no longer supports comments and I feel I’ve lost a connection with my readers that I’d love to cultivate in this space. So, if you have found me, welcome!

Please feel free to leave comments. I love a good conversation.

* This blog may be a tad navel-gazey, and I’ll probably drop the f bomb a time or two. Fair warning.