Saturday, July 08, 2006

being consumed by Party of One, but in a good way.

I attended "Selling and Publishing Your Book" at The Loft today, and I have to tell you, words can't begin to describe how incredible it was. I learned so much about the publishing industry, everything from the huge changes that have been happening in the industry over the last couple of years, to the appropriate size box in which one should submit a manuscript. Just amazing. I walked out of the workshop with a 96-page handout, 8 pages of notes, and my instructor's business card -- he said we could call him any time with any questions, and if they took more than ten minutes to answer, he would offer his consulting services at a "pittance fee."

I feel so empowered. It's incredible. I walked into the workshop knowing nothing about the publishing industry, and I walked out with a beginning but thorough understanding of what I need to do to get my cookbook published. (Also, a thorough understanding of how crazy everything is, and how it could take me a long, long time to publish this thing.)

My instructor mentioned that if you have the manuscript ready, submit the manuscript -- don't fuss around with a proposal. Since my manuscript is nearly ready, or at least I think it is, I am going to go this route. I will spend an exorbitant amout of money on boxes, paper, and postage by the end of the summer, I think.

Here's my plan: I'm going to power through the rest of the manuscript for the next six weeks, and will hopefully have it finished by the middle to the end of August. When my nannying family goes out of town for two and a half weeks and I have a week and a half off and paid, I'm going to devote this time to writing the cover letter and marketing bits, researching potential editors/publishing houses, and then printing, boxing up, and shipping out 15 to 20 copies of my manuscript.

Here's one catch to my plan: I'm starting to waffle a little bit about whether I have enough recipes. I counted them up tonight, and I currently have a total of 85 recipes, most of which I've tested and have had others test for me. I'm currently at 117 pages total, which includes table of contents/chapter pages, recipes, and text. I need to write a conclusion and the "Important questions, answered" section,(including "What in the heck is . . . " "How do I . . . " "Where can I get . . . " and "What to do with leftover . . . " I would also like to pull out what specific ingredients I would like included in the "glossary of major ingredients." (I also want an index of recipes by title at the end, but I think that will be the publisher's job.) I also have a handfull of recipes still to add, maybe less than ten, but I think with all of these changes, it will bring me up well over 150 pages.

Just as a measurement tool, Vegan with a Vengeance has a total of 135 recipes and 258 pages, and that feels like a "smallish" cookbook to me -- not your giant "World Vegetarian" or VT Complete Cookbook or Vegan Planet. I don't want to write a ginormo, but I don't want people left wanting more, either.

But, I also don't want to pad the cookbook with filler recipes just because I think it's too small. Waffle, waffle, waffle.

Too bad I don't own a waffle iron, because waffles sound kind of good right now.

But I digress. :)

I think I'm just going to go for what I have, plus my additions. If I get rejection letters that say "not enough recipes," well, we'll know the answer to this conundrum, now won't we?

I also need to make a decision about photos. I really, really, really, really want a photo of each recipe included in the cookbook, which would increase its size by about fifty percent, and also increase the cost of the finished product to my readers. I want to do a paperback (maybe spiral-bound, so it lays flat,) but the photos could push the book price into the $30-$50 range, which would almost price me out of my niche market (young, probably broke, single people -- college students, young professionals, etc.) Here's the other thing about the photos -- I don't want them "styled." I want photos of the real thing, which I'm not sure a book marketer will go for. I have this idea of "food candids" in my head -- things with crumbs, things with bites out of them, bowls of soup with a splash over the rim and a dribble on the table, not-quite-perfect shots. Pictures of normal-looking young people eating my food. Kind of like the (probably really expensively orchestrated) incredible photography in Jamie Oliver cookbooks.

I bought Isa's book mostly because I had heard so many wonderful things about it, but partly because it was less than twenty bucks, and I can afford that.

I have to quit thinking about this now, or I'll never be able to sleep tonight. Off to watch a movie and clear my head!

P.S. any thoughts you have on the subject matter are more than welcome. :)


OkraMary said...

I think you're doing a great thing for yourself by thinking all of these things through - NOW - rather than later. But you're right, there are things you're just going to have to learn once you put the manuscript out on the street.

My opinion? Lose the photos and maybe have a link inside the book to your blog (or a special site set up by the publisher - I don't know the legality of those things) with "value added" things, one of which being photos!

It would be a great way to promote the blog, where people can talk to you (like Dreena) and maybe even discuss your recipes. But offering up awesome photos on the site is a great way to 1.) save money 2.) save paper and 3.) stay in your niche market.

Hope that helps - and good luck! If you need any help editing-wise, let me know - I'm a journalist by profession and a foodie at heart :)

Anonymous said...

Mmmmmm....waffles.... that sounds good right now. :)

I am glad that you had a good experience with the workshop. I heart the Loft.

It sounds like you're on the right track with the cookbook... I think I would go with pictures of the food. When I am cooking something, I like to see what things look like. Let me know if you need any help with editing or any of the marketing stuff. I've got marketing in my blood.

Anyways, that's my two cents on that....

KleoPatra said...

Catherine, you are so hard on yourself sometimes... go with what's in YOUR heart and soul. Your spirit and the big guy upstairs will lead you the right way...

Going to workshops always leaves me invigorated and ready for action. Good for you to go do that...

Amanda said...

As much as I love photos in cookbooks, you're right in thinking about how it will effect the cost. Which is why I totally agree with the suggestion of putting up a set of photos online! You could have a user-submitted section as well, so people could see what things look like when normal people cook them. That way you get the food porn without making the price of your book astronomical.

Eat Peace Please said...

Catherine, that's great how much you got out of the workshop. As for the photos, I love them in cookbooks and it entices me to try a recipe (or not!) but I do like the ongoing idea of first you getting a digital camera, and then having a blog link like Dreena's. That would be ideal, cheapest, and your target market is a good one, so you should stick with that. Go with what your gut tells you and for sure don't add filler waffle recipes just because.

I also love the spiral bound idea, as one of my biggest kitchen struggles (besides the oven issue) is keeping the cookbooks down and flat and sticking with the recipe I want, not flailing pages. I keep a big clear heavy bowl on top of most books and look through it, just so it can be flat- but hands-free.

Do you have a special time limit here? I know you mentioned about your paid time off (sweet) but you shouldn't rush it and just go with what you feel is best. If they are 85 great recipes, that's way better than 185 just ok or semi-awesome ones. Quality not quantity here. If they want more, just write another cookbook!!!

MeloMeals said...

I agree with all of the comments above.... definitely do a blog with pictures of the recipes..

You can do this!!

Catherine Weber said...

Mary, thanks for your input! I haven't made a final decision about the photos yet, but a website is definitely one of my "marketing" ideas that will be included with the manuscript. Perhaps a digital photo gallery could be included. :) Thank you so much, too, for your offer of editing help! One of my very good friends works as a copy editor for one of our newspapers here, and she's been busy helping me, but she's also planning a wedding, so if she becomes crazed and insane, I'll definitely hit you up!

Michelle, I want to run my marketing ideas by you and see if you have any great ones to add! I told Ann all about my ideas today at lunch, and she thought they were pretty good. Here's hoping!

Well, Kleopatra, what I really want to do is include photos, but since this book is ultimately for my readers, I want them to be able to afford it. :) But I haven't made a final decision yet!

Leslie, I'm definitely thinking quality over quantity at this point. Especially since so many of my recipes are so flexible and open to a variety of adjustments and interpretations by individual cooks. I hope this is one of the things that makes my cookbook unique! (And, I do already have two other cookbook ideas . . . sheesh!)

Thanks, Melody! I'm starting to feel like I can do this, too, which is why I'm putting it into high gear -- don't want to lose momentum!

funwithyourfood said...

I there- I've been gone awhile and I'm back
I would say add pictures for the recipes you want to highlight. I mean a picture for your favorite soup and one of your favorite breakfast item and so on. That would be my suggestion



Crystal said...


I'm so glad that the workshop was helpful...definitely worth the money!

I'd say go with a few pictures for the cookbook and agree with Leslie; Quality vs quantity. I'm with you and love and want pictures in my cookbooks. However, maybe you'd be in a better position to provide that in future cookbooks. You'll have the routine down by your 2nd cookbook and can spend the time and $$ on putting pictures in.

Also, if you don't feel the time is right to release the cookbook - don't! You want to put the best product out there possible. Perhaps sending out some manuscripts will help get feedback.



Dori said...

I'm glad you found your class informative. About the pictures thing (did I tell you idea was my middle name), I wonder what several mini photos, like multiple thumbnail size covering just a couple pages and if you can add the page no. i is on.

I'm excited with you! Do you know how many singles groups at churches could use a little domesticated help? My single sister is one of them. The only thing is she has limited kitchen stuff or space (unlike her overly domesticated sister who makes up for her lack of cooking skills), but she does want to learn how to cook, she finds what I do to overwhelming though.

Catherine Weber said...

Dori, I have a whole section at the beginning of my cookbook about paring down your kitchen utensils to the bare minimum, because in a small space, you can't have too much stuff, or you run out of room to cook! No one has a smaller kitchen than I do, and I make loads of good food all of the time, just for me (and sometimes, one or two friends.) Singles cooking classes is actually one of my marketing ideas! I like your photo idea, too -- especially if I could picture several dishes in one photo, or make it sort of like a collage!

Crystal, thanks for your input! I'm not rushing for any particular reason right now -- the workshop just created a lot of momentum on my part, and I wanna go with it as long as it lasts!

Hi Teddy! Welcome back!

Anonymous said...

Hi, just found your blog! How exciting about your book. I really like the idea of a spiral bound book. Also, when I'm choosing recipes to make, it's really difficult for me to pick one without a picture (part of the reason I like blogs so much). Dori had a great suggestion about thumbnails with corresponding page numbers.

Good luck to you!