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gfron1

The making of my own cookbook

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You may know I've been on the road doing pop-ups for the past 8 days...today's my last. Then I'll update everyone because as of last night I got an agent! She is highly regarded and has strong history of financial success with her clients. More later this week.

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Tonight I finished making changes suggested by an unofficial editor. If anyone is an anal retentive editor-type, who wants to give it a gratis read, I sure would appreciate one more set of eyes (PM me). I also have a big picture reader going at it right now to see if the stories are complete and the vision is coherent all the way through. 

 

My agent has warned me against doing too much since they often will make big changes, but I want my manuscript to be as clean as possible before any more publishers see it.

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And I quote:

Hi Rob,

I talked with the publisher at Ten Speed this weekend (I believe I mentioned to you that I'd be seeing her) and got a sense of ways we can strengthen the proposal. Generally she was interested but felt it needs to be presented as a fresh approach and in a way that isn't too trend-based. I have ideas about how we can do this, and will send directly to her (top of the food chain) when it's ready, so there's one pitch down!

I'm adding those notes in and will send tomorrow for your revision process.

 

I don't know what is appropriate as far as me talking about these details, but this is amongst friends, right?

 

The interesting thing about Ten Speed is that they are the biggest of the boys, and my assumption is that I would have less control over the process. Could be an erroneous assumption on my part. But, I do want to keep my designer. I do want to have some say over the images, recipe flow, and color scheme, etc. So, we'll see how it rolls out. Money talks, but I'm not a professional cookbook author, so there's more to it to me than making a living.

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And I quote:

I don't know what is appropriate as far as me talking about these details, but this is amongst friends, right?

The interesting thing about Ten Speed is that they are the biggest of the boys, and my assumption is that I would have less control over the process. Could be an erroneous assumption on my part. But, I do want to keep my designer. I do want to have some say over the images, recipe flow, and color scheme, etc. So, we'll see how it rolls out. Money talks, but I'm not a professional cookbook author, so there's more to it to me than making a living.


Edited by Honkman (log)

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I didn't feel that this involved any details that would breech that trust. My agent knows, and encourages my blogging of the development of the book, and this is all just "out there" info - nothing solid. But your point is heard and I'll give it more consideration going forward.

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Blogging about the development of a book is different than posting business details. Just imagine somebody from Ten Speec is member of the forum and reads your posts.

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Pretty simple: Ask for permission first. Personally, if it's a standard contract, I'd welcome the publicity more than I feared details getting out.


PS: I am a guy.

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I am really enjoying following your "adventures" as things unfold.  In some ways, they remind me of Angelo Garro in San Francisco.  His restaurant, Renaissance Forge sounds as amazing as he is.  I think the two of you must share some DNA.  The October issue of Sunset magazine did a story on him  I think he probably feels the same joy while cooking as you do.

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Yesterday I settled into working on the proposal. Its a strange feeling because in some ways I'm going backwards. And as I work on the proposal, I realize that a publisher could make or request sweeping changes to the manuscript. My biggest fear - a dumbing down of the recipes. My agent's hope is that we have multiple offers which allows us some power to maintain integrity.

 

The agent really attacked the proposal. Whereas i wrote it to make the case that its a good book, she revised it to make the case that it will sell, and has really emphasized potential numbers. She's not giving me those numbers...I have to find them, but I understand the need. Not easy however. What's easy is demonstrating potential sales in the southwest. What's difficult is expanding that to the rest of North America.

 

She has also asked me to have my designer put the proposal in our design template to increase the possibility of being able to sell the book, designed, as a total package.

 

In the back room I have Smithy doing another edit, as well as a big picture reader going through it right now to make sure voice is consistent, and themes are carried out. I won't touch the manuscript again until both readers are done just to ensure that we don't cross wires.

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Yesterday my agent said, "Most publishers expect books to be either award winners or sell well. I think you have the opportunity to do both." How cool is that!

 

So today, I'm resting (big dinner last night, another on Tuesday and the VD). But, tomorrow I'm cranking through proposal edits again, and hopefully taking a stab at Smithy's edits.

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I would make a base estimate for out of the area sales (without even distribution via major bookstores in the beginning - as long as you make mail order possible) to include many people you 'know' here on the boards who don't live in the south, their friends and relatives, etc. I would guess in terms of the numbers that publishers hope for that may not sound like much (though I would bet it is more than 5 of us), but, what if we all went to our bookstores (independents and major chains), praised it (I am sure it will be worthy of that praise) and asked them to stock it?

 

I may never make a recipe from your book, gfron (though I might - who knows) - but I will READ it and treasure it (will you autograph mine, please? :biggrin:) and get ideas from it and love the pictures, etc. I have a LOT of cookbooks that are like that for me.

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Thanks Deryn. One of the things that my agent keeps emphasizing in our conversations is that the book is accessible and has all the substitutions you would ever need. That's a big part of why she's excited to start selling it to publishers. I have plenty of peanut butter pies, and chocolate chip cookies, but just a small number of elk's blood bonbons. I think its a good mix. 

 

One odd reality is that, naturally, these recipes are all me 1-3 years ago. I did a big dinner last night that was 10 brand new courses and none are in the book. I immediately wanted to put some in, but I think its more prudent to document them and save them IN CASE I do a second...god help my relationship if I do decide to do a second :)

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Question. I'm wrapping up the proposal and we're listing what the book has to offer. Since I'm so deep in, I may be missing obvious things. Based on everything I've written over the past months, what is it about this book that may have sparked your interest enough that you may buy it? Certainly no wrong answers here, but hopefully I'll see things that I haven't thought of since you, my peers, really are my target audience.

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1) In general, the foraging aspect. I don't expect to be able to forage the same ingredients you can/do down there, but, I may get ideas on what to forage around here/what to do with locally foraged ingredients - from how you use yours.

 

2) The fact that I 'know' you (although I have never met you - but I gather a number of board members who I trust have) to some degree through the boards. I like to get to know the 'mind of a chef' so the board has helped me do that with you at least a bit. Also, your energy is tangible - and that helps energize me.

 

3) The few recipes you have published here and the pictures you have taken and displayed here have given me some insight into what you are hoping to publish - so the 'preview' aspect has also been important. The pictures in particular seem to be food art and I like your 'style'. I am certain there will be recipes in the book that I may adjust to fit me or to suit ingredients I can get here locally. I don't take recipes literally - unless you tell me (or I already intuit) that substitutions would be unwise in a particular dish - but then I am not a novice cook either. I don't expect you to tell me what substitutions can be made - but I do hope I can figure out from what you write (and my personal knowledge, etc.), WHY an ingredient works. If I understand 'why' then I can figure out my own substitutions or recipe amendments.


Edited by Deryn (log)
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I'm using insider information here, of course, but here are the things I'd list:

1. The essays. This isn't just a series of recipes; it also has thoughtful essays and funny stories. It's a good read.

2. The accessibility of the recipes. There are some recipes that I may never try - for instance, I love the idea of Modernist cookery but haven't taken any steps toward trying spherification myself - but there are many, many recipes that look like something I'd enjoy making and eating. Furthermore, the steps are spelled out clearly enough that anyone should be able to understand them. I've never tried confection making, but if I wished to I believe your instructions could get me started.  

3. The interesting combination of new ingredients with familiar techniques and familiar ingredients with new techniques. I haven't tried salt-curing yolks yet, but it's on my list for this year.

4. It's going to be pretty.

 

Full disclosure here: I do not have a financial interest in this book or this conversation!  However, after seeing the manuscript I very much want to see it published.

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I sense that it will be a cookbook that one reads for enjoyment.

 

Foraging is interesting.

 

Pretty pictures of interesting food.

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Foraging ideas.

 

Venison....different kinds of ideas using meats that are not the normal chicken, beef etc.

 

Pictures of great food.

 

The dish ware.  I'm a sucker for different/beautiful plates etc.

 

I "know" you.  That alone makes me purchase your book.

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With these comments we're done with our proposal. My design guy is laying it out as I type. Designing a proposal is atypical, but we're trying to sell him as part of the package, so it makes sense. The evolution from my original proposal to the agent-influenced one isn't radically different, but there are certainly more numbers included in this version. The more numbers she can show, the more potential sales she can argue for, the higher the advance and percentage. Go agents!

 

And thanks for the comments above. I've said it many times, but this book was written with an eGullet mindset, so I hope you'll all be proud of it.


Edited by gfron1 (log)
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Thought of the day. If you have any interest at all in publishing a cookbook, get your social media in order today. The more followers/fans/views you have the more money a publisher will give you. I thought my 800 Facebook friends/followers was good, but I've been told they talk thousands, not hundreds.  

 

Pictures, tags, consistency, and its never too late. 

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Thought of the day. If you have any interest at all in publishing a cookbook, get your social media in order today. The more followers/fans/views you have the more money a publisher will give you. I thought my 800 Facebook friends/followers was good, but I've been told they talk thousands, not hundreds.  

 

Pictures, tags, consistency, and its never too late. 

 

I think that actually a good, thoughtful Twitter account is even more valuable to get your work across. Most of the time we communicate with chefs about their work, setting up tasting menus (even with those who normally are not doing any tasting menus), learn about new webpages, books etc. it mainly happens through Twitter.

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