Things I Wish I Knew: About Writing a Cookbook with Allison Day

Whole Bowls 9781634508551Today’s “Things I Wish I Knew” post is from cookbook author and award winning blogger Allison Day.

Allison Day is the cookbook author of Whole Bowls (Skyhorse, April 2016) and Purely Pumpkin (Skyhorse, Fall 2016), the voice and lens behind Yummy Beet, as well as a food photographer and nutritionist. Allison won gold in the 2015 Taste Canada Food Writing Awards, the highest honour for culinary writing in the country, in their inaugural blog category. Her work has appeared in the New York TimesFood Network CanadaThe Irish TimesPreventionalive, The KitchnEpicurious, the James Beard Foundation, on CityLine and more. She cooks, writes and snaps photos for Hamilton Magazine’s Good Taste column, too.

Today, Allison tells us in her own words 5 Things She Wish She Knew…About Publishing A Cookbook:

  1. Accept outside input: Taking control of every aspect of cookbook writing, from recipe research and development to testing to writing to photographing, became too much. I began to experience a bit of cabin fever over the many months of working on Whole Bowls! Writing a book, regardless of genre, can often benefit from outside input. For my second cookbook Purely Pumpkin I’ve reached out to friends for their ideas on the recipe set, even getting some assistance on the food styling front. It’s made for a much more balanced, fun job (and has helped me retain both my sanity and a social life!).
  1. Keep it quick: Writing the book over a longer period of time caused big changes in my writing, recipe and photography style. I’ve found doing a project in a more condensed time period, when I’m given far less time to second guess myself, produces a more consistent outcome.
  1. If you have a problem, ask your literary agent for help immediately: Don’t suffer in silence! If I wasn’t happy with something regarding my publisher, there are several instances I should have reached out to my literary agent (Carly) for assistance earlier. Now if there’s an issue, I tell her right away. Working through a problem with the author, publisher/editor and agent is much more efficient.
  1. Set boundaries: Because I work from home, it’s hard to separate work life and regular life, as they generally overlap when “you” are your business. I used to set unnecessary standards for getting work done, working later into the evening than I should. Today, I’m much more efficient if I stop all work by 6 or 7 pm, make dinner and unwind with a friend, walk or good tv show. I’ve also discontinued working on Saturdays when I can help it, which helps refresh my ideas for the week ahead and keeps me happy.
  1. Embrace change: Writing is dynamic. Every piece of work you do is a little snapshot of who you were at that specific moment in time. Inevitably (and thankfully!), you’ll grow as a writer, changing your style with each new project. Looking back at Whole Bowls, I can see things I’d love to change (recipes, photos, words, etc.), but I’m so proud of the book in its entirety. I don’t sit and stew over minor details anymore – it’s the big picture that matters. When you get the book in your hands, regardless of what it contains, it’s an incredible accomplishment that neither you nor anyone else should diminish. Accepting that my work will change over my career is no longer nerve-wracking to me, but exciting. And the more comfortable I become in my food, photography and writing style, the more enthusiastic the response from my blog (Yummy Beet) and cookbook audience.

Check out her books! Whole Bowls is in store tomorrow and Purely Pumpkin is available this fall.

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How To Critique Other Writers

researchPart of being in the writing community is critiquing, editing and beta reading other writers’ work. It can bring so much to your own writing by helping you be clear about craft issues. And it can be a wonderful circle of support. However, it’s one thing to read someone’s work, but it’s another to provide editorial notes.

Here are my 4 tips for critiquing other writers:

1. Build them up and not down. Even if there are major structural or character issues, part of you job as a critique partner is showing them the good in their work, as well as what needs improvement. All writers are unsure of themselves in that moment when they send things off for another person/friend/colleague to review it. They want you to enjoy it so make sure you tell them the good, too. By highlighting what is good and what’s working for readers you’re going to help shed light on how to frame the issues that aren’t working.

2. Don’t harp on the same issue. Make note of it once. There’s no need to repeatedly make note of the same thing. Give credit to the writer that they’ll be able to carry that note through the manuscript. Continue reading How To Critique Other Writers

‘It’s not you. It’s me’: why agents don’t connect with certain projects

It’s hard to understand why when agents say they are looking for a certain type of book, and then you query with it, that it isn’t the right fit for them.

Here’s why that happens:

We represent something similar

If we recently took on a project that has similarities to yours we cannot sign yours up too. It’s not fair to our client and it’s not fair to you. We can’t bombard editors with two projects similar to each other and risk the success of both of them individually.

The voice doesn’t grab us

It might have everything going for it, but for some reason the voice or main character doesn’t speak to us in particular so we need to pass because we’re not the best fit. Agents sign projects up when they are the whole package–in our eyes. But, every agent’s taste is different so what isn’t a fit for one agent can be the whole package in someone else’s eyes.

We like it, but aren’t head over heels for it

Sometimes we like something a lot, but love is different than like. Sometimes we want to love something, but we can’t get there for any number of reasons. Forcing a good fit doesn’t work out for anyone. Don’t settle for like, keep searching for an agent that loves it and they’ll be the right one to represent and support your project and your writing.

It requires more work than we have time to give  Continue reading ‘It’s not you. It’s me’: why agents don’t connect with certain projects

Q: If I am published or have been offered a contract for publication do I need an agent now?

ImageQ: If I am published or have been offered a contract for publication is it necessary to find an agent at this stage? Isn’t an agent’s job just to find you a publisher?

A: An agent does so much more than just match writers with publishers. Yes, you should still search for an agent because you want them to negotiate your contract in the works, future contracts, and be your business manager in all aspects of your literary career. An agent knows, from their experience in the industry, when to push for you and your offer and when to accept. So, just because you got your offer it doesn’t mean the work is over. There is so much to be done.

Agents’ specialties include guiding authors to publication, a career’s worth of knowledge in contract negotiation, editorial advice, rights sales, marketing and social media consulting among solving all the other issues that come up in the publication process. An agent is a liaison between you and your publisher so your agent will cross check your royalty statements, consult the designer on your cover, and all the other things that writers often don’t feel comfortable handling.
Continue reading Q: If I am published or have been offered a contract for publication do I need an agent now?