Cookbook Author Interview: Maureen C. Berry: Food Publishing Is Not For The Timid, But If You Have Passion For What You Are Doing, It Doesn’t Matter

Cookbook Author Interview: Maureen C. Berry: Food Publishing Is Not For The Timid, But If You Have Passion For What You Are Doing, It Doesn’t Matter

I met Maureen through the Kentucky Food Bloggers group on Facebook. When I learned of Maureen’s cookbook contract, I was thrilled for her. Over the past few years, I have come to know Maureen as a committed aspiring cookbook author. She seizes opportunities to learn about food and cookbook writing through seminars offered by a professional organization to which we both belong, the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals).  She selected her audience, created her content focus, and approached an agent. Then, as she dreamed of doing, she landed a contract with a publisher. Congratulations to Maureen on her forth-coming cookbook, due for publication in 2016. This interview offers a pre-publication look at how Maureen arrived at where she is today. I wish her luck on manuscript transmittal to Storey Publishing over the next few months and great success with her cookbook.

What is the name of your cookbook?

Forthcoming and tentatively titled, Eating Salmon (Storey Publishing).

When was it published?

My official deadline to Storey Publishing is March 6, 2015. According to Storey Publishing, the book will be released 9 to 18 months from that date.

Is this your first cookbook?

Yes.

What compelled you to want to write a cookbook?

In 2009, after working 23 years in the food service industry, I was ready for a change. I’d managed a 64-seat breakfast and lunch restaurant for ten years in the Florida Keys, then I sold groceries for Sysco and a few food brokers in Central Florida. After that, I landed in the wholesale seafood business where I bought and sold commodity fish. While I worked, I began to dream about writing my memoir and a seafood cookbook to help people not to just eat more seafood for a healthier diet, but the “right” seafood. In 2010, I thought the memoir was the place to begin my writing career and I pitched my memoir to an agent at a writing conference. She suggested I write a cookbook first.

Do you have a food blog? Was your blog a driving force in obtaining a contract?

Yes, I write two food blogs, Seafood Lady: Sustainable. News. Recipes.,  and A Cook Writes. No, my blog wasn’t the driving force. I have a small, niche audience on Seafood Lady. And I think the only people aware of A Cook Writes are my close friends (maybe) and family (possibly). 🙂

Can you tell us how you were offered a contract for your cookbook?

I queried Danielle Svetcov (Levine Greenberg Literary Agency) after reading her interview on Dianne Jacob’s blog. Svetcov told me my idea was doable, but not for her. She recommended me to Margaret Sutherland at Storey Publishing.

Do aspiring cookbook authors need food blogs?  If no, what other ways can they promote their work (or how do you promote your food writing work)?

Yes. I think managing a blog helps develop voice, a cooking and writing schedule, and shows the ability to finish work on a regular schedule. However, a blog can be overwhelming and time consuming, keeping a writer from completing other writing goals. Other ways for self-promotion include writing for a local news source, either online or in print. Also, I think aspiring cookbook authors should begin to build an online social media presence. A writer doesn’t have to have 1 million followers and be on every outlet, but should be able to show proficiency for social media. Choose one or two social media venues and work that angle. For example, if food photography is your strong suit, focus on Pinterest as one of your primary social media outlets.

Do you find the publishing industry daunting in any way?

Yes. The traditional publishing industry is complex and incredibly intimidating. I read that traditional publishers accept 2 percent of queries. Fortunately, that is not the only publishing outlet. Now writers have more choices than ever. Indie press, small press, university press, self-publishing, and third-party publishers.

What are your thoughts about an aspiring author, who’s an unknown food entity, writing a cookbook?

Food publishing is not for the timid, but if you have passion for what you are doing, it doesn’t matter. You must write your story.

What is your advice for an aspiring cookbook author who is reading this interview?

Believe in yourself. Finish your project. Read other cookbooks. Research the market.

What was the biggest challenge in completing your manuscript?

There were two challenges for me. First, developing a product that would speak to readers, and then knowing when my project was finished.

What was your biggest fear about writing a cookbook?

Failure.

2 Comments
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