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Blogs for food writers?


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Hi there, I am starting out on a new (sideline) career as a food and travel writer.

I wonder if there are any other food writers out there and if they use blogs as a tool for showcasing their work. I am thinking at least to have my work available online somewhere since I don't have a website available yet and I am not published.

Now that blogs are everywhere though, I wonder if they are considered too trendy or not taken seriously by editors or others in the publishing business.

Any feedback on this topic would be greatly appreciated!

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I've been blogging (only!) since February and I have picked up a number of new and lucrative writing gigs since. I started for the basic reason that I was told several years ago that if you want to write, the best thing you can do is WRITE EVERY SINGLE DAY. Well, I am pretty bad at doing ANYTHING every single day (I often think about exercising every day or so, but I usually sit down until the thought passes!). Now, by blogging, I am forced to write every day which only hones the skills.

It is also a great tool for that latest of PR-isms in becoming a writer; "establishing one's platform." I've been told that years ago it was not necessary for a writer to have a platform but now it is essential.

Bottom line - it can't hurt!

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David Leite presented a course for food writers in the eGullet Culinary Instittute (several years back). He gave lots of good advice. I found it extremly helpful. Sorry I don't know how to link it for you but... do check it out.

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blogging is fun. mix it with food and it gets better. best of luck. :smile:

Now that blogs are everywhere though, I wonder if they are considered too trendy or not taken seriously by editors or others in the publishing business.

They're nervous.

Edited by editor@waiterblog (log)

Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

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David Leite presented a course for food writers in the eGullet Culinary Instittute (several years back). He gave lots of good advice. I found it extremly helpful. Sorry I don't know how to link it for you but... do check it out.

Here you go.... Q & A with David Leite

I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.

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Hi there. I have had a blog since about February too and I've found it's great for getting seen and heard, as well as for developing a voice and trying your hand at different types of writing (e.g. recipes, personal essays, restaurant reviews, single subject features etc.) I haven't gotten any work yet from someone going to the blog and emailing me, but I do mention it when I pitch and I store all my clips there, which makes it easier to share them when I pitch via email.

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I've been blogging (only!) since February and I have picked up a number of new and lucrative writing gigs since. I started for the basic reason that I was told several years ago that if you want to write, the best thing you can do is WRITE EVERY SINGLE DAY. Well, I am pretty bad at doing ANYTHING every single day (I often think about exercising every day or so, but I usually sit down until the thought passes!). Now, by blogging, I am forced to write every day which only hones the skills. 

Like Carolyn, I mostly use my blog as a way to practice writing. I didn't use to mention it when I pitched; now I do (of course, my readership has grown since then as well). I've not gotten any writing assignments because an editor loves my blog. But when my first real editor bit, he wanted to see writing samples, and I sent him some of my better posts (he was critical of them, but a) that's his nature and b) I got the assignment anyway).

Carolyn's point about a platform is also a good one. I'm working on a book proposal, and you better believe it will mention my small legion of devoted readers.

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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I completely agree with Derrick -- it isn't that my blog has gotten me writing assignments, but has certainly made me more accessible (publicly) to editors and organizations to whom I pitch. The fact that I have a public voice is a benefit to those who then peruse clips of my published work and see that I established a voice -- I'm still working on getting that legion of devoted readers though!

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I've been wondering about blogging myself lately. My question it does it make more sense to blog or to try to get a column or some articles into local publications?

I suppose if you're using it as a tool to practice your writing then it's a great idea. For exposure and working on that 'fan base', is it better than getting stuff into 'print'?

I know that there are many more people who can access a blog than there are people who may pick up the local rag, but do they access the blog?? What kind of numbers do you get and how do you get the word out to the masses?

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I know that there are many more people who can access a blog than there are people who may pick up the local rag, but do they access the blog??  What kind of numbers do you get and how do you get the word out to the masses?

I had to stop looking at my numbers all the time; it's too easy to get addicted. But when I do peek in every now and again, I get roughly 2000 unique visitors every day, according to my ISP. I suspect I have 3-4K actual readers, since most people know my posting habits well enough to know I only post every few days. I have another 200 or so through bloglines, a web-based aggregator that looks like one IP address despite the many subscribers. I don't know about other, similar, services. Chocolate and Zucchini, probably the most widely read active food blog, gets, I think, around 5000 unique visitors a day (though I don't know what tracking system she uses; see below). I would argue that while those numbers are small relative to the local paper, probably a larger portion of my readers actually cares about what I write.

(Mini numbers rant: Numbers are suspect. Never just believe numbers you read. I hear that Typepad's built-in tracking system doesn't distinguish unique visitors at all; if you visit a site twice in one day, it looks like two visitors. A lot of people use that. My ISP tracks unique visitors -- as well as the pageviews Typepad uses -- but doesn't differentiate between unique visitors across days. So it says I get ~60000 unique visitors a month, since 2000 x 30 = 60K. Never mind that someone who checks my site daily accounts for 30 of those.)

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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Can we talk about the actual process/procedures/logistics for doing this?

I have been writing for a long time, just things I type into my computer. I have also sold/written for newspapers and magazines, and know that a blog would be an asset if nothing else than to have my clips easily available to editors. I have long wanted to keep a blog, but I am not computer savvy. Hell, I just got a digital camera a month ago, filled up my memory stick so now I can't take anymore pictures, so finally 2 days ago I figured out how to download onto my computer. But now, I dont' know what to do with the pics! (files, moving to send in email, trying to post here on eG!)

I am really challenged in this respect, and would appreciate a mini-tutorial!

thanks!

I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.

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I just turned my web site into a blog. I started my site in '99 posting diary-like entries which I had to laboriously send to my web master to post, then check, etc...

Since I am a cookbook author, it's interesting that very few of my books get sold (via Amazon) direectly from my site, and I get a lot of hits, but my web master (whose mother is a cookbook author and editor as well) said many people don't buy the book on the first 'look'.

The main reason to do a blog is to promote something, although I would not count on the blog generating much income for the amount of work you put into it. I write cookbooks for a living, and if I posted recipes everyday I suspect less people would buy my books (and in spite of my being very generous, I still need to pay my rent...) So hopefully those people are liking my writing and eventually do buy a book. I also lead culinary tours so I do get guests through the site, which is a big plus.

Blogging is harder than I thought. It's take me a very long time and many hours trying to figure it out, even though I had the help of my web master. And we're still working on getting all the graphics up.

I think with things like Blogger.com, it's easier (there was a great article about food blogs in the SF Chronicle Food Section a few weeks ago, with info about setting one up, http://www.sfgate.com). I am using Movable Type, which has taken me a while to figure out, as well as Photoshop for pictures. Still, it takes a lot of time and if you're just doing it for fun, I would go for the easiest solution.

Sites like Zucchini&Chocolate are interesting and she got a cookbook contract, but I do wonder how many of those people who are getting recipes for free will spend the money on her book when it comes out? She has a lot of recipes on her site and is a very good writer, so she's gotten articles published (However, free travel tips and sites on the internet killed the travel guidebook business, or at least they've had to adapt and put more content on the net to survive).

I recently read some Parisian restaurant reviews on a blog from an eGullet member that were far better than anything I've read in food magazines or newspapers too.

David Lebovitz

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Some things I believe about blogging: you need to establish a niche, otherwise you're just another person with a keyboard and some opinions. There are literally hundreds of food blogs online, and very few have substantial audiences. They vary in focus from fine dining to pastry baking. My blog about farms is unique, which helps me enormously.

The only thing that distinguishes a blog is its quality. Either a blogger better know how to write, or know how to take gorgeous photographs (and preferably both, honestly) or they are wasting everyone's time. The best and most popular blogs have established themselves as having unique content and a nice presentation. I see some of the photographs of baking projects (for example) and I just wilt.

Touregsand, if your husband is intending to blog to establish his own identity as a professional writer, and wants to protect his material from re-use before he's had a chance to sell it himself, I would suggest using a free blog site rather than eGullet, which has as part of its user agreement that any content you post—photos or writing—is also theirs to use as they wish. (Blogger.com and Blogspot.com are, I think, free. I use Typepad because it has some features I appreciate, not the least of which is the customizable design.)

If he just wants to share his stuff in an ongoing fashion for the fun of it, he could use eG, and it wouldn't necessarily get locked. The locked blogs are those who were officially tapped as a weekly blog. Other threads remain open, because they are not intended for a limited time. Examples of this kind of blog are Melissa McKinney's story about her Portland, Oregon, bakery (which made Food and Wine magazine this month, by the way) and Snowangel's thread about her cabin. I know there are others, but those are two that stand out to me as being long stories with big audiences.

Lastly, the point being made that having a blog demonstrates your ability to write is, of course, indisputable. As a professional copywriter and former newspaper columnist, I do not think that having a blog beats getting into print. Blogging is nice for me, as I can design the whole thing, and I do not have an Editor Scissorhands© botching my work and adding typos (e.g., "Earl Gray tea") to my writing.

Ooooh, baby, there's nothing like seeing your name in print on a by-line.

Edited by tanabutler (log)
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Some things I believe about blogging: you need to establish a niche, otherwise you're just another person with a keyboard and some opinions. There are literally hundreds of food blogs online, and very few have substantial audiences. They vary in focus from fine dining to pastry baking. My blog about farms is unique, which helps me enormously.

Therein lies the crux argument! I truly wish blogging had been around ten years ago when I was cooking all my historic feasts. Who knows where my career would have taken me if all those meals had been documented. But Tana has put her finger on it -- and the importance of a blog is What Will You Say that will make everyone want to read it more than coming here or going to another blog or chat list? Niche is critical.

Another thing (which I am still figuring out) is PR -- some bloggers are getting insane press and I readily admit to jealousy on that account. Not too long ago, there were a number of articles written across the country about food bloggers. These articles appeared in the SF Chron, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and a few others I can't exactly recall. The gist of it is that food blogging is this new, up-and-coming, but all these articles did was reference the same eight or ten food bloggers; some because they've been doing it a long time, others because they are especially good ones to read, and some others which have figured out the PR scheme. There are literally HUNDREDS of food bloggers out there and why these same eight or ten get the press shows the limited resources of investigative reporters (or, the same person re-wrote the article to appear in all these different publications... I dunno).

Bottom line? Establish YOUR voice and your niche. What will you do that is different? Mine is wine. Yeah, there's a couple of dozen wine bloggers out there. Most taste wine and give there opinion in some fashion. Many regurgitate and comment upon the breaking wine news in the industry. Like political bloggers, you can visit any one of the sites and read basically the same thing in a different voice on any given day. The niche I have established for myself is simply to attempt to visit every winery in California. I figure at 1,800+ wineries, it will take me four or five years. But I'm patient. I am also, to my knowledge, one of the few WOMEN wine bloggers. That right there has added to my cache. I don't have nearly the readership that Derrick has, but every few days, I DO get e-mails from folks asking for opinions about where to drink/stay/eat in wine country and they are all names I have never heard from before.

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I agree with Tana; it's important if you want your blog to stand out: the blog (and the photography) should be done. However since the setting up a blog is now free, it's a wonderful opportunity to work on your writing skills and finding that elusive 'voice'.

Now that I can post whenever I want, I am realizing that it's a different ballgame and trying to work on themes that would be of interest to readers...enough to want to visit several times a week.

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Therein lies the crux argument! I truly wish blogging had been around ten years ago when I was cooking all my historic feasts. Who knows where my career would have taken me if all those meals had been documented. But Tana has put her finger on it -- and the importance of a blog is What Will You Say that will make everyone want to read it more than coming here or going to another blog or chat list? Niche is critical.

It's been said twice and I'll add my own voice to this point. If you're looking for readers, find a specific focus on how you do your food writing. When I started, I was all over the place, doing restaurant reviews, visiting food events, and doing recipes. Since establishing that I'm researching and providing recipes for ingredients and cuisines, I've found that my writing is getting better and people have caught on my approach. (I've even had readers send me books to help in my research, something which totally shocked me).

That being said, if you're just starting a blog to practice various writing skills, and drawing readership is lower on your list of priorities, then simply write, write, write. I recommend Food Blog S'cool as a good place to start to see what issues other food bloggers are running into.

Another thing (which I am still figuring out) is PR -- some bloggers are getting insane press and I readily admit to jealousy on that account. Not too long ago, there were a number of articles written across the country about food bloggers. These articles appeared in the SF Chron, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and a few others I can't exactly recall. The gist of it is that food blogging is this new, up-and-coming, but all these articles did was reference the same eight or ten food bloggers; some because they've been doing it a long time, others because they are especially good ones to read, and some others which have figured out the PR scheme. There are literally HUNDREDS of food bloggers out there and why these same eight or ten get the press shows the limited resources of investigative reporters (or, the same person re-wrote the article to appear in all these different publications... I dunno).

It's important to realize that blogs are a new medium, and thus there is no proven way to be successful as a food blog. What this means is that you will have to define what "success" means to you. Does it mean getting a lot of daily readers? Does it mean using the blog as a tool to get readers to other mediums? How you define success will invariably dictate how you approach your blog and your writing.

As a side discussion... some of the articles written by the press were indeed sold to other publications. I've seen the Washington Post Article in at least a half dozen publications, as well as the Boston Globe article. I agree with you that there are many, many food blogs not recognized by the Mainstream Press, but at this point last year, there were only two blogs that were nationally recognized (Chocolate & Zucchini and AmateurGourmet....Julie/Julia had shut down by this point). That they've recognized eight to ten blogs now I think is a great improvement. Hopefully by this point next year, we can get 2 dozen or so recognized.

-Kate

-----------

My food blog:

Accidental Hedonist - Food, travel and other irrelevent irreverence

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Touregsand, if your husband is intending to blog to establish his own identity as a professional writer, and wants to protect his material from re-use before he's had a chance to sell it himself, I would suggest using a free blog site rather than eGullet, which has as part of its user agreement that any content you post—photos or writing—is also theirs to use as they wish. (Blogger.com and Blogspot.com are, I think, free. I use Typepad because it has some features I appreciate, not the least of which is the customizable design.)

Thank you tanabutler for the great advice. That is exactly what he wants to do. His students/clients also want him to blog so that they can keep with his classes, events, etc...

Many of them actually go through egullet reading every single post he makes. Had he anticipated this...

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I'm having a ball with my blog too, and started it for the same reason as Carolyn. As a beginning food writer, I didn't have many real writing samples when I started out, so blogging was a way for me to write something everyday and get used to coming up with ideas on a regular basis. If anything, it got me that much more enthused about writing, and when I started to sell, I blogged about that too. Each time I have a feature story in the paper, I blog about the backstory of the article on the day it appears, and link to it. I'm just starting to get the hang of the photography thing. For awhile, I wasn't including photos at all, just writing, but I think the photos are crucial. I like to see what people are making and talking about.

I also agree that if your goal is to build a platform for your writing and branch into other areas, like cookbooks, then it is important to have a focus for your blog.

:) Pam

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Blogging is different from having a web site featuring your writing. Anyone thinking about it would be wise to spend some time reading other blogs, of course, but also doing some research into what differentiates a blog from a web site (the best blogs are updated daily if not more often, have lots of links both out and in, and have often rousing comments, for starters).

Then there's the whole is-blogging-journalism-? debate. Spend some time reading Jay Rosen's PressThink for the most recent thinking about that.

I'm an addicted blog reader, and I've been tempted to start one, too. But it's hard enough to keep my site updated as it is without adding the expectation (from readers) of more new content regularly. Besides the writing, you need to delete comment spam, find and keep updated a set of links to similar blogs, follow up on trackbacks, and learn (to varying degrees) how to use the blogging software.

There are millions of blogs, but only a relative handful that get the readership and attention.

Jim

olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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So many blogs, so little time.

My one concern with starting a blog is investing the time. I just don't know if I have it. I would hate to get something up and running and then neglect it (assuming I gained some devoted readers)

I will definately start looking at some of the links y'all gave us, and some of your blogs.... I'm finding this all very interesting.

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I think having a blog, or precisely a food blog, is fun. Period.

Its main interest has to do with freedom, and like all free means of expression it requires a lot of rigor to be interesting. There is an art of the blog which is totally new, and very different from any other existing art of written or pictural expression.

I am a writer, I don't need to get published. That's why I have a blog. I use it to relax, to put in things that don't get into my other writings. After a while the contents may become a basis for "official" writings but not necessarily, and to me this is not the purpose of the blog. All things considered, I think my blog is better than my published writings.

If one wants to create a blog to attract attention and "get published", fine. But when I spot those blogs (they're very easy to find out) I think they're actually a bit show-offy. In a way, I disagree with this idea that blogging, the Internet means of expression, could be a preparation for "serious" publishing, a poor-quality version of the book or press article, the antichamber of the real thing. The good blogs, the ones that are fun to read, are the "disinterested" ones. There has to be some sort of carelessness in a blog, even though it may be very carefully made. They contain the idea that, hey, this is publishing already. Who needs more than this? I don't think one can express oneself as freely in a "real" book or column. There is always the publisher, the editor; there is always someone to tell you that "such or such a category or readers will not like this"... So if I blog, it it not so much to please as to write things that may displease some, and feel OK about it.

If your purpose when creating a blog is the art of writing, by all means do. In this case the writing has to be very good, of course. But a good blog isn't necessarily based on writing. And if it isn't, it isn't necessarily based on the quality of the pics either. What makes a great blog may be a certain look on things, a consistent look that defines a style. There is a blog here that is the perfect example of this. It has little text. It's in French but I think anybody can see why it's good.

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