Cookbook Author Interview: Joe Carlin: Hang Around With Smart People Who Write About Food

Cookbook Author Interview: Joe Carlin: Hang Around With Smart People Who Write About Food

Do you have any experience writing other books, or is this your first?

Cocktails: A Global History will be my first book.  Over the past 10 years I have written several book chapters and contributed entries to four encyclopedias.  As Associate Editor and contributing editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America I wrote 29 of the entries.

 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?

I was offered a contract by Reaktion Books Ltd., aLondonpublisher, because my editor in chief for the Oxfordproject was editor in chief of the new edible series (30 + titles on the history of food) for Reaktion and he knew from experience my writing style, scholarship and ability to meet deadlines.  Now that the cocktail book is done and accepted by the publisher, he is promoting my name with the publisher to take on another title.

Do aspiring cookbook authors need food blogs?  

I have to frankly admit that I do not visit food blogs on a regular basis but I expect that I will in the future if only to promote my cocktail book.  I do own the web site but I am not marketing books as I did for ten years beginning in 1996.


What compelled you to write a cookbook?

I have been writing articles about the history of food in America for over 20 years.  Over that time I became an expert in several areas including Colonial food and drink habits,  fireplace and hearth cookery and the history of the American cookbook.  Since I live in Ipswich, Massachusetts, the clam capital of the world, I became an authority on the history the American clam industry.  With this knowledge, I wanted to make a contribution to the growing field of food and culinary history.  I have written a book on clams but I haven’t had time to edit it for a particular publisher or target audience because of my other writing assignments.

Do you find the publishing industry daunting in any way?

I don’t see the publishing industry as daunting.  It is like any industry that has a product to sell and a targeted audience.  My advice is to know what they sell and direct your book to that audience they reach.

What are your thoughts about TV celebrities writing their own cookbooks?

I don’t have a judgment about anyone writing cookbooks, but I suspect many celebrity cookbooks are probably written by staff and of mixed quality.  I sometimes wonder just how much involvement non-food and even food TV celebrities have in the actual development of recipes found in their books.  As a result, I think that some of these books lack a “voice.”


What is your advice for an aspiring cookbook writer who is reading this interview? Any suggestions for building a platform?

My advice for aspiring cookbook writers is to hang around with smart people who write about food.  For the past 30 years I have been an active member of the Culinary Historians of Boston.  Many of our members are cookbook authors and we take every opportunity to invite cookbook authors to speak at our monthly meetings.  Since there are a dozen similar groups around the country Google “Food and Culinary History” and see what group is in your area. To help build a platform before you write a cookbook simply write about food for any media.

What will be the biggest challenge in completing your manuscript?

The biggest challenge for my manuscript was accuracy.  Since the cocktail book is a history book there is no margin of error on accuracy.  Besides my wife, a former newspaper writer, I had two food historians and cookbook authors read my manuscript and make critical and creative suggestions.

What is your biggest fear about writing a cookbook?

I have no real fear other than getting it right.  For me the worst thing would be to be found out saying something stupid or simply wrong.

If you had a crystal ball: where is the cookbook industry going with the advent of digital media?

Interesting question!  I think cookbooks will be more focused on narrow topics and marketed to niche markets identified through data mining and consumer research.  I think there will remain a strong market for print because people like to have cookbooks in their kitchen for ready reference, comparison and consultation.  Besides, a good cookbook can be read in bed or with a classic cocktail.


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  2. Hi: I wondered if this is the same Joe Carlin I am searching for, for a friend in Los Angeles. My friend Connie used to have a pen pal friend Joe Carlin who wsa born in Mystic,Conneticut and who later moved to Hartford, Conneticut near a river and became a bartender. If you are the same Joe Carlin, could you contact me? Thanks, Joyce Granville – Northern California P.S. My email is:

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