Dianne Jacob is the author of WILL WRITE FOR FOOD: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More. The first edition won the Cordon D’Or International award for Best Literary Food Reference Book in 2005. The second edition won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award in 2010 for best book in the USA in its category. The third edition came out July 15, 2015, and featured a new chapter on one of my favorite subjects: making money.
BlogHer talked to Dianne about this new edition and specifically her tips for food bloggers and writers.
BlogHer: Self-publishing has changed publishing in general by lowering the barrier to entry while also flooding the market with more (often deserving) offerings. What’s the place for self-publishing in food writing, as you address in this updated version of WILL WRITE FOR FOOD?
Dianne: Self-publishing is great for certain kinds of bloggers:
- Those with huge audiences. They are well suited to sell their books directly to their readers — no traditional publisher required, and they receive most of the profits.
- People who want to publish recipes for family and friends.
- Those who like to be in control. Self-publishing lets you write anything you want, create your own cover, even choose your own paper stock if that’s your thing.
BlogHer: What are the some of the topics you cover in your new chapter on making an income from food writing?
Dianne: Lots of new careers emerged as a result of having a blog, such as a social media consultant or a food stylist. A few people have even opened restaurants and stores, or created food products. Some have forged lucrative online businesses that have a money-making component, such as meal planning, recipe sharing or special programs or services. Some food bloggers are sophisticated business people, but the majority blog as a hobby.
BlogHer: What is the most important thing for an aspiring food writer to remember?
Dianne: That she has something important to say, just like any other writer.
BlogHer: How has food blogging changed since you entered this space?
Dianne: The focus on images has made it essential to be an excellent food photographer and stylist. Photos drive readers to blogs, especially on social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram. Also when food writing first started, it didn’t occur to anyone that there was a way to have an income from it.
BlogHer: What’s your favorite thing about writing a cookbook?
Dianne: The recipe testing. It’s made me extremely popular with friends, neighbors, and workout buddies. I may have made 175 pizzas now, between GRILLED PIZZAS & PIADINAS and THE UNITED STATES OF PIZZA, which comes out September 22.
BlogHer: What part does reviewing play in food writing?
Dianne: I think it’s a big part, but most food bloggers seem loathe to do it. They tend to talk “about” a restaurant, book or product rather than express their opinions. It’s a combination of thinking they’re not qualified to voice an opinion, and feeling like they can’t say anything that isn’t positive. It’s a shame. I’d love to read more reviews.
BlogHer: What’s your favorite piece of advice you’ve ever received with regard to food writing or blogging?
Dianne: I think it was Judith Jones, the legendary cookbook editor, who said to use powerful action verbs. Use them to start an instruction, such as “simmer, beat, or push.” She hated reading sentences that started with “In a bowl, combine.” In the book I included a list of 100 action verbs I found in MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING. Judith Jones was Julia Child’s editor, so I bet she pushed her on using lots of verbs.
BlogHer: If you could do one thing over when it comes to your career in food writing, what would it be?
Dianne: I started a food writing career in my 20s, when I became the editor of a city restaurant magazine. Then I got diverted and took other jobs at magazines until my 40s, when I got back into food writing. It would have been such fun to stick with it, but now I’m making up for lost time.
BlogHer: Which food writers have you been reading lately?
Dianne: Over the weekend I bought two cookbooks while at Omnivore Books, a cookbook store in San Francisco, promoting WILL WRITE FOR FOOD. One is STEEPED: Recipes Infused with Tea, which evolved from a friend’s blog, The Food Poet, and her former experience at a tea company. I also bought blogger Maureen Abood’s cookbook, ROSE WATER AND ORANGE BLOSSOMS: Fresh & Classic Recipes from my Lebanese Kitchen. I coached her on her book proposal and I can’t wait to try some recipes.
WILL WRITE FOR FOOD is updated and available now!
Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel THE OBVIOUS GAME & the managing editor of BlogHer.com.
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