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gfron1

The making of my own cookbook

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Proof reader just sent back the manuscript, and man o man, was that useful. He caught so many small errors! I can see how another proof reader or two would be helpful as well.

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Aw, you changed your avatar back to the old one.

 

I also vote for a simpler back cover.  Are you intending for the front-and-back designs to be on the dust jacket (if you are having one, over plain actual hard covers) or as the actual covers themselves? (i.e. no dust jacket)

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We know that we don't want a DJ. The cover is being designed to stand alone.

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Just sent in my formal request for rights to use the Gastronomica/Best Food Writing 2014 story about me in the cookbook. The author offered to do a re-work on it if necessary for content (there were a small handful of factual errors). Yay!

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Did the author sign over the rights to the publisher of  Best Food Writing or to the site of the original publication?

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Good question, and one I'm learning about quickly. Amy Gentry, the author, has no rights anymore. Even if she re-wrote she would have to get permission. Gastronomica (U of CA Press) holds the rights. Best Food Writing licensed the rights, so they don't hold ownership - they just did what I'm trying to do.

Assuming UCP gives me rights, then the next question will be - can I use the name Best Food Writing 2014 in the marketing of my book. Its all very interesting stuff. The author just wants me to have it and use it, but she has no say in the matter.

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I assume that BFW would be happy to have a mention, but if not ...If Best Food Writing put out a press release that mentions your story you might have an angle to exploit.

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I've had 3 proof readers go over the manuscript and they're finding less and less. I just sent off to a hard editor (friend), and once he's done I'll send to a professional content development editor. Getting closer and closer.

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I needed some space from my recipes so I haven't looked at them in about a week. This morning I did consistency checks on my grams and cups for some of the oddball ingredients like acorns and amaranth. Good thing. Found and fixed many inconsistencies.

 

I got 1/4 of the manuscript back from my friend and he is editing hard - really good, significant fixes.

 

This morning I heard from my preferred publisher who was open to receiving a submission. This whole business scares me. It feels as if you get one chance and if you blow it, you're done for. Up until now I haven't communicated with my preferred publisher, but this is the one. They've handled comparable books, they're big enough to get the word out, and small enough to have some flexibility. I'm going to sit on my response for the weekend and hone it a bit more. What I really want is for them to just ask for the whole manuscript because I think its in good enough shape now to be seen by a publisher. The good news is that he wanted to see the photos - those will get his attention I'm sure.

 

I'm also still working on an agent. I've decided that an agent is the way I want to go because I want to keep my designer. If I go directly to a publisher they will push to use their own designer. I believe (possibly erroneously) that an agent can have a deeper conversation with the publisher about how they will make better money if my guy can do his job right, and they don't have to pay their guy. We'll see.

 

Final photoshoot scheduled for Monday.

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Two updates. First is I just farmed out a slew of pre-recipe testing to friends. I flagged about a dozen recipes that need special attention - extra hard or ones that I've not shared through my cooking classes or that don't get made daily in my kitchen. These are just friends...you know, like the people who will actually buy the book. I'm looking forward to seeing how they do with the recipes. After that I'll wait to see if a publisher is going to require and/or pay for recipe testing. One of the professional testers who contacted me suggested that often times the publisher will pay for that service (obviously it comes out of my cut).

 

The other thing is publishers. I talked with a friend who is a JBF book winner, and we talked strategy. She said that yes, an agent is the way to go if you can. She also gave names of a few more publishers to consider - I'm holding off until I get the final hard edit back (hopefully today). And most importantly, she said to give up on an October 1st release date. While it may happen, there are pros and cons. The pros are being included in holiday shopping lists, the cons are you have to stand out in the vast sea of books. She prefers a May release because she gets more airtime with TV stations. So I have let that stress go. If its out in October I do think the book will stand out. If not, it'll do just fine.

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Great way to go into the holiday! This morning I sent a proposal, full manuscript, a few photos and a cover letter to my preferred publisher. I didn't expect a response, at least not for a long, long time. Instead, 90 minutes later I received this:

 

Rob,
 
This sounds excellent, and glad XXXX recommended us. 
 
I agree with all you are saying. In fact, I've been trying to come up with the right way to frame a forage cookbook.

I'm out until Monday for the holiday. More next week...
 
Thanks again for considering us. Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

What he is agreeing with me about is the need for foraged ingredients to be more universal, and recipes to be accessible. This is very good news.

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I hired a bunch of local home cooks to do some non-professional recipe testing. I picked the 6 recipes I think are mostly likely to be made, but also the most tricky. I'm getting really amazing feedback. Some things are basic - ie cook times; others are about substituting things that I never thought would need substitutions; and then there are the tough ones about understanding the steps. 

 

I want to work through this feedback and fix my recipes, then expand the learnings into the other recipes. I have a couple of professional testers who are asking to work on the book, but I'm waiting til we have the publisher confirmed just in case they're going to pay for the testing.

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Last food photoshoot was yesterday. On instagram I say posted that and said "I won't miss these." One of my followers asked why. I already do 70 hour weeks at work, and adding a photoshoot on my day off is just fatiguing. My spouse made it clear yesterday that these had better end soon. I was very much in the dog house yesterday. But we finished. Now there's just pics of me, my dog and nature.

 

I also received my first non-professional recipe testing results. All I can say is - if you ever do a book, do this! Regardless of if you use a professional tester, having friends with widely varying skill levels do recipes is so useful. This recipe was for an almond teacake with foraged Russian olives. She couldn't get Russian olives so she used my substitution of kalamata, but she didn't even know what those were. I had salt listed in the steps but not in the ingredients. She expected a tall fluffy cake, but its a tea cake so it wasn't. Questions about what folded into what. All really great feedback from a non-baker with limited knowledge. 

 

This was a recipe I hadn't made in a number of years and didn't review it except for basic editing, so the tester gave me exactly what I needed. Very much looking forward to getting the other testings back this week. In other news, my hardcore reviewer should pass off his notes today.

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Just heard from my preferred publisher. His content editor thought the ingredients were too Texas specific...they aren't. In fact we were very careful to make them nationally available. I'm preparing a response to educate the editor.  But the good news is...they're still talking!

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Texas specific?! I hope you're going to include a tactful geography lesson.  :laugh: Glad to know they're still talking.

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That's what I thought. They could have at least said, Southwest specific, but its not. I'm going to list all foraged ingredients, show their geographic spread, which we offer online sourcing, and which we offer substitutions.  They were burned on another book, so I get it, but ours is very consciously not regionally specific.

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I can see why they might worry if your foraged ingredients are all mesquite and cholla fruit, but I'm assuming far more geographic range than that.

Speaking of cholla fruit: assuming that's one of the foraged ingredients (you mentioned it in another topic) do you go into level of detail like *which* cholla? Chainfruit cholla fruit looks very different from staghorn cholla fruit, for example. I have no idea whether they taste different from one another, much less what one could use as a substitute. If they're interchangeable, that would also be good to know.

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I nixed cholla early on because it doesn't have enough geographic spread. Too bad - its a good ingredient.

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I'm not so sure that it isn't available in many places. We grow no cholla in SE PA, but I see it in the Mexican markets all the time

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In today's dialogue with the publisher, his editor had concerns that the recipes were too difficult and many of the ingredients were too hard to find. Included in the hard-to-find ingredients...cashew, peanuts and coffee.  I kid you not.

 

I created a chart that lists all of my ingredients, then using the plants.usda.gov website, listed their geographic spread, any substitutions, online or local grocery sources and gave each a rating of difficulty to source. I'm not sure who the editor is but I'm guessing they eat out a lot...and hence are not my market.

 

Again I say - the fact that they are spending so much time on this project without us having signed a deal is very encouraging.

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Cashews peanuts and coffee.... You showed admirable restraint!

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So do you want the good news or bad news first?

 

After almost two months I heard back from the top cookbook agent whom I had approached to represent me. She said that she was going to pass because the topic was too specialized and was unlikely to be picked up by a publisher. 

 

I responded immediately that I had a major publisher who was interested, but we hadn't signed anything yet, and I really want an agent to handle the negotiations. She responded, "I have an associate who has developed a recent interest in foraging, who might be willing to represent you." "Recent" as in, now that you have a publisher...  :)

 

I'll take it. I really think I can accomplish more with an agent speaking on my behalf.

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I have not yet read your cookbook - but regarding cashews and coffee...was/is it clear that you do NOT require the whole cashew fruit (apple & nut & all) or whole raw coffee bean (as found on coffee bushes in Colombia and elsewhere)?  Whole raw unshelled peanuts would be easier to get in the USA but the others would NOT be.  Perhaps that is what that editor had in mind?  I presume that the chart you put together clarified that "cashews" meant the stuff (salted or unsalted) one finds in groceries and supermarkets and pharmacies and corner stores; and that "coffee" means the stuff you find in cans in supermarkets or any other bodega; or is it maybe the stuff (whole roasted beans?) found in specialty coffee shops - which tend to be found in metropolitan areas and/or places with large populations of gourmets...while here is the Google map answer image for "whole roasted coffee new york city specialty coffee shops".**  Just wondering.

 

** When I lived and worked in NJ years ago, in the Metropolitan NYC area, I would be hard-pressed to find good fresh roasted coffee in my area of NJ.  I routinely drove into NYC to pick up pounds of the stuff (for my own use and for the "coffee pot" made at work to which my colleagues contributed money) from McNulty's on Christopher St.  And all this in one of the most cosmopolitan areas of the USA.

 

ETA:  Perhaps the notion of your traipsing into the wilderness to forage stuff (such as those cattails you pictured earlier on this thread) may have also affected this person's thought processes. 

PS: Then there's also related stuff like the "foraging" of stuff by Portland sous-chefs in fenced-off backyards...(like in this article)...which got a lot of negative attention a year ago. :-)

 

ETA2: I may be wrong, but I doubt it would be easy to forage for cashews and coffee in the USA...as opposed to simply buying the PROCESSED and PREPARED products of the raw materials, imported from other places, from grocery stores. ;-)


Edited by huiray (log)

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Its all about who you know.

 

I have a Facebook friend who has published a couple of cocktail cookbooks, and I asked her about agents. She referred me to hers. Her agent said she wasn't accepting new clients but since my friend referred me she would look at my proposal. I sent her my proposal, manuscript and a few pics, and now she's very excited about the project. She agrees that its a niche book, but she said, "niche books are what's selling." I like that attitude.

 

Fingers crossed.

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