From home cook to cookbook author – bridging the gap

fairytale food

Lucie Cash is passionate about food and her blog Fairytale Food is her stage where she shares all sorts of tempting delights with her readers, Lucie tells how she managed to turn her blog into a book for all budding authors there are lots of ideas and tips to help you on your way

TV shows like ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and ‘Masterchef’ have brought talented home cooks into the limelight like never before and the nation’s ever growing passion for good home-cooking, has seen a strengthening cookery book market. You might think this means more opportunities for unknown cooks to bag book deals. But look more closely at the glossy tomes of newly released cookery books and you’ll find the majority are written by TV chefs, celebrities and famous food bloggers. This is understandable. Publishers have to publish profitable books and their acquisitions are driven by what we, the public, want to buy. And looks like we can’t get enough of famous people in their beautiful kitchens! So, if you’re an unknown cookery author how do you go about getting noticed?

As an unknown home cook myself, I began my own cookbook writing journey in the autumn of 2010. A year and a half later and after spending pretty much every weekend testing recipes and most nights typing, my book was published in the spring of 2012. Although it will never compete sales-wise with the Nigella’s and Jamies of this world, writing it was one of the most satisfying and challenging things I have ever done.

So if like me, you’re a home cook with aspirations of writing a cookbook, here are the most valuable tips I’ve learned along the way. I hope they help you turn your culinary dreams into a hardback reality.

Read all about it

Before putting pen to paper or testing your choux pastry recipe, do some research. Find out about current publishing trends, is your idea original and of the moment or is it outdated and there are similar books published already? Check out the bestseller lists, Amazon rankings, weekly review sections and Twitter – see who and what people are talking about. Take a look at different publishers’ websites and pay attention to what they are publishing. Trade press websites such as www.thebookseller.com provide daily updates on what’s happening in the publishing industry and they are worth a read. This may sound obvious, but if you’re a budding unknown author it’s hugely important that your book is a current, original idea with its own unique selling point.

Blog Blog Blog

I am not going to sit here and claim to be an expert food blogger as I am not. When I do designate time to blogging, which, I confess, is not often enough, I find it really useful practice for writing recipes and for coming up with interesting new material. There are many fabulous food bloggers out there and some have bridged the gap and had books published. Two of my favourite food blogger books are’Comfort & Spice’ by the brilliant Niamh Shields of eatlikeagirl.com and ‘The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook’ by Deb Perelman, whose blog www.smittenkitchen.com always makes me head to the fridge! So if blogging is your thing then it can be a huge help in terms of getting noticed, but you must blog regularly and make your blog your own. Publishers do keep an eye on popular food bloggers, so make sure your recipes are well written, original or have an original edge, be consistent when writing measurements and using cooking terminology, include lots of photographs and present your blog in a style that is unique to you.

Get personal

The food we cook and eat so often makes us reminisce about other times, other people, our travels and momentous events in our lives. Cooking is personal and when you’re writing a recipe or about ingredients it’s important to engage your readers so that they can easily relate to what you’re telling them. How you achieve this does depend on your style of writing, but I’ve found that recounting little stories about your culinary experiences, confessing to kitchen mishaps, adding some gentle humour and providing some useful advice, can bring realism and personality to your writing, which helps to draw readers in.

Make your pitch count

The first pitch of your cookbook idea to a literary agent or publisher is extremely important. Agents and publishers receive hundreds and thousands (excuse the pun) of submissions each year and therefore that proposal has to impress. Make sure you pay attention to submission guidelines on agent and publisher websites as sometimes they will suggest the form in which a submission should take. Some publishers do not accept any unsolicited book submissions and will advise you get an agent.

As for writing your proposal, when someone else reads it they need to instantly grasp what the concept behind the book is. For example, if its a cookbook for children where they do the cooking or if its a book for parents to cook fun meals from for their children, make sure that concept is obvious – leave no ambiguity.

Talk about the format you could see the book taking and the price point – do you see it as a £25 hardback or a £9.99 small paperback. Take a look at other books on the market and think about what might work best for yours.

Say if there will be colour photography, illustrations or just text. Write about who the target market is for your book and think about why they would buy it; is it for parents, women, teenage girls or boys, or is it a gift book or a seasonal purchase say just for Christmas?

Provide examples of similar books already on the market or authors that you might compare yourself to. Include a chapter outline with example recipes from each chapter – make sure the recipes are well written and that measurements are consistent – don’t switch between kg and ounces and tsp to teaspoon.

Provide examples of photos or illustrations if you are featuring them and make sure your writing is as good as it can be – your proposal should showcase your writing ability. Finally and most importantly, get some honest second opinions from friends, family and useful contacts you may have – any outside feedback you can get is priceless.

Fairytale Food by Lucie Cash is published by Preface Books at £15.00

LUCIE CASHLucie Cash lives in West London with her husband. She is an enthusiastic home cook and adores food, especially eating it! Her first cookery book ‘Fairytale Food’ was published by Preface Books in 2012. Lucie’s blog Fairytale Food shares recipes, tips and links to lovely things. You can also tweet Lucie @fairytalefood

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3 Responses to From home cook to cookbook author – bridging the gap

  1. Anneli Faiers 21 May 2013 at 13:11 #

    What a great post full of honest and helpful tips. It’s really encouraging to know that despite it being hard to get a cookbook published, it can be done! Thanks for sharing Lucie.

  2. Actually Mummy... 22 May 2013 at 09:42 #

    Thank you, this is really useful, and not just for would be food book publishers!

  3. Clare Duguid 23 May 2013 at 20:30 #

    What a really useful post. Inspiring and thought provoking. Food writing is a busy market both in books and blogs but there is so much to say. Its pleasing to know that other voices are getting published not just the TV personalities.

    Good luck with the book Lucie it sounds like it might not be your last!