What is the name of your book, and who published it? When was it published?
My latest book is The New Fast Food™: The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Minutes. I published it myself although that was not my intent when I started this project. When I started, I did have publisher. The book was just released.
Do you have any experience writing other books, or is this your first?
My first book is The Veggie Queen™: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment which I happily self-published, knowing what I wanted to do.
Can you tell us how you were offered a contract for your cookbook and the working title? Was a blog a part of the contract? Or was this self-published? Why did you choose to self-publish?
As I mentioned, I had a contract for my book. I have always wanted this book to be titled The New Fast Food™. I already maintain a blog and a blog was not part of my book contract.
I think that I was attractive to the publisher because I have a platform. I have had a blog for almost 5 years, a website for 7 years and I am active in social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
I chose to self-publish The New Fast Food™ because the time schedule was not going as planned, and I feel as if this is the time to release the book. I also had finished writing it and didn’t want it sitting around. It doesn’t make any money for me if it’s not published. This way I can have it available this holiday season.
Do aspiring cookbook authors need food blogs? Or any recommendations about building a platform?
You can’t sell a cookbook without an audience so use whatever means necessary to build an audience. I am not sure if every cookbook author needs a blog (I think that you mean website of some sort) but you need a way to connect with your audience. In this day and age, the internet is certainly the easiest way. A blog also allows people to get to know you and see what you’re all about. It is essential to build a platform but you get to choose what you want to do. You don’t have to do it all.
What compelled you to write a cookbook?
I had been teaching classes and had been talking about writing a cookbook for a few years. The truth is that about 5 years before I even started talking about the book, I had written a small book which I called a cookbooklet. It was titled Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone: Volume 1. I sold about 500 copies of my 44 recipe cookbooklet. Between that time and when I started thinking about writing again, Deborah Madison wrote Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone so my title was gone. Luckily, I had gained the title The Veggie Queen™ which is far easier to remember for most people than my name. So I decided to incorporate that into my book. It has helped with branding, and that’s a subject unto itself.
Tell us about the process of testing and developing the recipes for your book.
I do all my own recipes since I teach cooking. I test out recipes my recipes on my students and have done this over the years.
Do you find the publishing industry daunting in any way?
The publishing industry is changing a lot. I can see how working with a publisher would be daunting as you have much less control regarding the financial part, as well as access to design and other things.
The hard part for a self-publisher is distribution but I think that with print-on-demand, which I am testing out for the first time this go around, the playing field might be leveled a bit. There are a lot of people and entities in the publishing industry that want a piece of the pie. That’s why as a contracted author you only get 15% of the selling price. For example, if your book sells for $20 and the publisher sells it at the traditional wholesale price of $8 (which is a 60% discount), you will get $1.20 per book. The rest is absorbed into design, printing, marketing and distribution.
When you self-publish you assume all the work and reap the profits if (and this is a big if) you have an audience and can sell on a regular basis.
What are your thoughts about non-Food TV network stars writing their own cookbooks?
Why not? Most Food TV network stars are about the show. Many other people have great food to share.
What is your advice for an aspiring cookbook writer who is reading this interview?
1. Figure out how and why you want to write a book, and how you plan to sell it. Whether you do that for a publisher or your self you need to know how you plan to make things work. 2. Have a good plan. 3. If you self-publish hire talented people to help you, such as my designer Phyllis of Magnolia Studio.
What will be the biggest challenge in completing your manuscript?
My manuscript is luckily done. For those who are in process, plan more time than you think that it will take to do the writing. Also, have a firm deadline. Without a deadline, I procrastinate. A deadline is great motivation for me.
What is your biggest fear about writing a cookbook?
I have not had any fear about writing this cookbook. I don’t mind taking risks as they are calculated.
If you had a crystal ball: where is the cookbook industry going with the advent of digital media?
More books are being sold digitally than in print these days. This is not true, yet, of cookbooks. With more iPads making their way into the kitchen, this could change.
My book, The New Fast Food™: The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Less than 30 Minutes, was initially released as a PDF download in April of this year. I negotiated with the publisher that I would be able to do that until they printed the book. I started making money from day 1, even though I had to pay a designer to put the PDF together.
Selling ebooks is much easier than going through the printing process, yet that first day I had people asking when I would have the print book available. This is why I am publishing it this year. I didn’t want my audience to move on and forget that the book was coming. Next summer seemed too far away.
Digital media will open up the world of cookbooks to doing more: including more links, more video, more show and tell and it will be very exciting. It will also be expensive to produce and someone needs to pay for that. Once again, if you don’t have an audience, the numbers won’t pencil. Publishing is a business. And If you decide to self-publish, you must treat it like a business.
If you don’t know what you are doing, hire people to help you. I love being a publisher and a cookbook author. If I got the “right” offer from a publisher, I might once again consider going the traditional publishing route. For now, I am happy with my choice.
Visit Jill at her website and learn more about her exciting books and her work as The Veggie Queen™