Leeann’s cookbook stems from her experiences working at a botanical garden and earning a certificate in Landscape Design. I find it most interesting with these interviews the path that cookbook authors take to publication. Over and over again cookbook authors interviewed for this series talk about the importance of a platform and Leeann is no different. I appreciate her generosity and time to share more tips, successes, and struggles of writing a cookbook.
What is the name of your cookbook?
The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook
When was it published?
Is this your first cookbook?
What compelled you to want to write a cookbook?
As a garden designer, writer, naturalist and environmental enthusiast, I wanted to explore what inspired what was then a burgeoning area of locavore chefs. Key to answering this question is that my book’s story/narrative is a journey I started in early 2002. Following the attacks in New York City, I had migrated from supercharged, technology public relations – to working at The New York Botanical Garden in public relations. I had been studying there for years, and eventually saw that I only had a few classes remaining to earn a Certificate in Landscape Design. I came at the cookbook from the grower’s standpoint. I asked the Garden Coordinator – a published author – for an introduction to her editor. This was all so early in the timeline of what is now a readily accepted/understood farm-to-table/dock-to-dish approach to market-driven, seasonal food. However when I started my book – this was all so foreign. I’d gotten signed on straight away with a major NYC-based publisher as a garden book and then was told there were too many garden books on the market. So I shelved the idea for the book – until all the cooking competition TV shows started to pop up, especially the chef and cooking entertainment shows. I thought – “Hey, I had this idea years ago.” So I dusted off the pitch, took away the emphasis on celebrity – as the concept was now hijacked – and focused on the local and seasonal ingredients, and the relationship to the local, artisanal food maker and grower.
Can you tell us how you were offered a contract for your cookbook?
Through introductions from published authors I knew, I pursued an introduction, prepared a detailed pitch with sample TOC, chapter, and photography. I interviewed two chefs and their growers and presented a sample manuscript.
Do you have a food blog?
Yes, I have a blog. It’s called Garden Glamour.
Was Garden Glamour a driving force in obtaining a contract? Or deciding to write a cookbook?
No, my book’s blog (now defunct Celebrity Chefs and Their Gardens) came after – as a consequence – and my other blog, Garden Glamour was already in place.
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?)
No, they don’t need a blog – but it is surely a go-to way to recognition. Editors I talk to won’t talk to authors without a following – a built-in audience and following – and a blog is a way to demonstrate that. Otherwise, you can show a lecture schedule and a portfolio of published articles and expertise (as I had).
What are your thoughts about an aspiring author, who’s an unknown food entity, writing a cookbook?
That one should have a passion, have a story to tell, a desire to help one’s audience cook and enjoy their food and dining in a new and different and better way.
What is your advice for an aspiring cookbook author?
To write, write, write. Research the market. Tell a story – not just provide recipes.
What was the biggest challenge in completing your manuscript?
Technology – my Mac crashed and I had back up for only part of the manuscript – and with the final deadline looming – I had to recreate the profiles in the book!!! I did it. But I would surely recommend constant back up.
What was your biggest fear about writing a cookbook?
I had no fear – I was overjoyed to have a contract – and an advance – and the support to pursue a dream of writing a cookbook — sharing food stories and recipes how chefs are inspired by their growers and makers – and demonstrating their respect for each other and for the land and sea.
Author, editor, and culinary dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors during the pre-publication phase of writing a cookbook. If you want to write a cookbook, and wonder if you’re ready, download her 11-point checklist Am I Ready to Write a Cookbook?