If you’re like me you may dream of writing and publishing a book. At last month’s Vida Vegan Con – the conference for vegan bloggers – there was a panel about turning your blog into a book and getting published. Almost the entire session was about food blogging and cookbooks, but lots of the advice is still useful for the rest of us.
Here are my notes from the “Publishing Panel” at Vida Vegan Con:
The Publishing Panel consisted of cookbook authors plus one magazine publisher. Two on the panel had self-published works (the magazine publisher and one of the cookbook authors). All the cookbook authors on the panel had (also) experienced traditional publishing. Some of the authors had agents while others did not. Most of the authors also had “day jobs” and strongly recommended that no one in the room quit their job in order to become a cookbook author. They said their books were mostly a labor of love and not a huge source of income.
- Joni - Her first book was self published. Then she worked with another chef on a book and her cookbook writing career led from there. Author of Cosi Inside, The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet, 500 Vegan Recipes, and Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites.
- Bryanna - She wrote recipes and articles for magazines and then found a publisher.Later, she switched to another publisher. Author of World Vegan Feast, 20 Minutes to Dinner, Nonna’s Italian Kitchen, Authentic Chinese Cuisine and many more.
- Julie - She found an agent first who found a publisher. Author of Vegan Diner. She also runs a vegan food cart called Native Bowl.
- Ryan – He is self published and self distributed. Recently switched to digital only. The magazine is TOFU magazine.
- Terry - She was asked (by Isa) if she wanted to make a vegan cooking show on public access TV. The show caught an agent’s attention and the ppk.com was born. They turned the show into cookbook writing. Author of Viva Vegan! and many others.
- Isa – Terry’s cookbook authoring partner and Post Punk Kitchen creator. Author of Appetite for Reduction, Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. Future cookbook: Vegan Pie in the Sky.
Let’s talk about the nitty gritty of cookbook making:
- Julie – inspiration leads to cookbook theme
- Bryanna – inspired by heritage, veganize your own family recipes, go to the library, “don’t do a cookbook on somehing you’re not interested in”
- Terry – there’s a whole world that needs to be veganized
- Joni – “I don’t invent, I just try to veganize” and “I don’t aplogize for liking fake meat or using liquid smoke because those were the flavors I loved when I was young so if I can make it without hurting an animals i’m going to”
Giving credit/ giving back:
- Joni – “the vegan internet community inspired me to do what I do”
also inspired by nonvegan chefs
- Bryanna – reading other cookbooks is helpful, don’t need to cook from them. It’s ok to have nonvegan cookbooks in your cookbook library – they are inspiration
Life before the internet:
- Terry – “your words had a shelf life”
- Bryanna – typed my first book and mailed hard copy in, connecting with people is much easier now
- Rryan – switching to digital has allowed for more accessiblilty
Let’s talk money:
- Terry – “the people who make millions have to have a vampire in their cookbook”
- Isa – there are advantages of self publishing
- Joni – publisher spreads books everywhere so even though she earns less on each book, she sells more copies, if you have time to get out there are publicize book then do it
- Terry – love having other people do the stuff that’s difficult, “I love having a publisher,” if you self-publish you need to ask yourself ‘how much do I want to hussle?’
What do you think of amazon stats and book scan?
- Joni – rule to only check just once per week, can get obsessive
- Terry – treat it like 401k and just don’t look
Questions from the audience:
- Advice about getting published:
Bryanna – it can be tough to get an agent, “I think I was just lucky”
Julie – get an agent unless you’re a very good self advocate, they fight for you and know legal stuff.
Here is a tip on how to get an agent: look at the acknowledgement page of similar authors and find agent, contact them
Terry – remember that your agent is your employee, you should try to understand contracts yourself though and don’t leave it to your agent
- Can you give some advice on how to get the cookbook written and finished?
Joni – piece by piece
Julie – table of contents first
- How do we get noticed?
Julie – prove that you’re an expert with your blog
Ryan – work at self promotion
Joni – self publishing doesn’t have a stigma anymore, don’t need to get noticed to self-publish
Isa – you become the marketing team so work on that first
- Can you demystify process of getting a cookbook done?
jokes about locking self in basement and divorcing all friends
Terry – doon’t quit your job, yoou need it and you’ll find a way
- How are blog posts different than pages of a cookbook?
Joni – blog is longer
- Should we use a group of testers of just test the recipes ourselves?
unanymous – use other testers!
you need the feedback on how to write directions
assume the reader knows nothing
- How do you decide which ccookbook to write?
Bryanna – what interests you most
Terry – what’s easiest for you to finish
- What do your timelines look like?
vary depending on publisher or author
- How to let go of what others write about you?
Joni – people say she’s “too fat to be vegan” she loves the variety of body shapes and sizes at this conference. If you put yourself out there then people will say horrible horrible things about you but 80-90% is positive
Terry – ignore youtube videos
- How to avoid accidental inspirations from others?
Julie – try not to pay too much attention to what other authors are doing in the same area
there’s bound to be some crossover
Terry – each book is different enough
- Is it possible for there to be too many vegan cookbooks?
Julie – there’s no saturation point with mainstream cookbooks so it’s the same with vegan cookbooks
- What program(s) do you use?
Terry and Isa – to share, google docs
Terry – scriviner is great
note: publishers want the document in Word
Ryan – indesign
- Marketing first book tips:
you’re on your own, do it, blog, cooking demos
Isa – there are no more book tours
Ryan – try facebook ads
- How do you manage having a job, having a family, while making a cookbook?
Terry – you need to like your job
- Is there room for non-cookbook vegan books?
Bryanna – would like to write a mystery that involves veganism
Terry – yes, especially with epublishing
Ryan – Might want to consider writing children’s books
So there you have it, my notes from the Publishing Panel at Vida Vegan Con. If you’re writing a vegan cookbook, compassionate children’s book, animal rights theory book or an activist how-to book then I hope this information has been helpful.
To read notes from other panels at Vida Vegan Con, the conference for vegan bloggers, please go here: http://www.vegansoapbox.com/topics/vvc2011/