We caught up with a couple on influencers and authors about how to publish a cookbook.
Meet cookbook authors Bettina from Bettina’s Kitchen (author of Happy Food), Sara of Shisodelicious (author of Bento Power) and Sasha from The Sasha Diaries (author of Jackfruit and Blue Ginger) to learn what it takes you to get your recipes onto the bookshelf.
What did you learn about recipe development for books?
Bettina: I am not used using measurements so that the whole process was new for me – but very exciting too. I learnt that good things take time and that the book writing process takes time! It’s not like in the movies.
Sara: I learned to simplify and reduce the number of ingredients in recipes, especially hard-to-find or expensive ones. I also learned to fit my style of cooking into the quite rough increments of teaspoons, tablespoons, 100-125-150 millilitres/grams and so on .. It’s a balancing act – making a recipe that’s true to my own flavours and style, yet flexible enough to safely be made by others who’s ingredients might differ slightly from mine! It is an ongoing learning journey to make delicious recipes within these limitations.
Sasha: Writing a recipe for a book is so vastly different from writing a recipe for a blog post. Before I signed my book deal, blog posts were to the only thing I really had proper experience in doing. I, very ignorantly, believed that developing recipes for a book would involve a similar process. But you can’t edit a book as easily as you can a blog post once it is published, you can’t quite respond to comments or questions as easily. You can’t add links to help your reader create the final dish and you can’t write a lengthy introduction. Because of this, developing each recipe takes a lot more time for print. It takes a lot of testing, and a lot of thought has to go into the way you write it, the way you word everything. I love to ramble and embellish, and writing a punchy, 3-sentence-long description before each recipe was rather challenging (although I did get used to it – eventually!).
The one thing you wish you knew when you started
Bettina: To not takes things to personally. Its a funny thing book writing – its a very personal experience and there are many high and lows. Also, start writing early, dont leave things to the last minute, be organised and most and foremost enjoy the process and experience of it all, its exciting!
Sara: I wish I’d realised I could have used more of the improvised, rough bento recipes I’d shared to my social already. They just needed a little refining and simplifying. I did use some of course, but I also (wrongly) though I needed to invent the wheel again. I think this led to unnecessary stress and a silly big workload.
Sasha: I suppose the one thing I wish I could tell myself before I got a book deal was that good things take time – and publishing a book (a VERY good thing) took a LOT of time. I pride myself in being a fairly patient person, but I still didn’t quite expect the whole process to take as long as it did. Admittedly there were times I found myself wishing it would all go a little faster but now, in retrospect, I am so very glad it took 2 years from start to finish. The length of the whole process is so reflective of all the countless hours and a mind-boggling amount of work that went into making my book what it is today. Not just my own work but that of the entire team at Murdoch (my publishers). And in exchange for all of that, we got Jackfruit & Blue Ginger. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better book, a book that is so representative of who I am as a cook, and as a person. Good things take time but I promise you this one will be worth it.
What was the hardest thing about publishing your book?
Bettina: Putting your heart on a sleeve! Hoping that everyone likes it.
Sara: The hardest thing was probably that I had about 5 months to write and shoot the entire book. With that, managing expectation of what is possible within the timeframe and setup of a publishing house. As well as the expectations on my own capacity and time.
Sasha: I poured my heart and soul into writing it, into brainstorming recipes and testing them countless times. I’ve written so many personal stories and little anecdotes. The hardest thing for me was to know that I have put this book out there, in the big bad world of cookery, and that there may be someone who would not like it. It was hard for me to come to terms with that, and I did feel so very vulnerable at first. It’s a difficult thing to wrap your head around – that something you spent 2 years of your life creating and something you are so incredibly proud of may not be what someone expects when they order it off amazon. And that that’s okay. Not everyone is going to love your work. But it’s the ones that do that fill my heart with unsurpassable joy. The little messages that flood into my inbox about how my book has convinced their husbands to go vegan, or that it has helped reunite someone with a dish from the childhood – those are the things that keep me going.
What was the pinch me moment when it comes to your book being out?
Bettina: Getting messages from all over the world with people making the recipes. seeing the book in shops! All pretty magical moments!
Sara: Actually the biggest moment was when I went through the first proper print out of the layout, with most of the text and images ready and in. I suddenly realised “wow, I did all that. And some of it is quite good, too”
Sasha: It would have to be the day I went to my local Waitrose after christmas and saw my book out there on the shelf just as I stepped in from the cold… it was the first time I had seen my book in a store and needless to say I completely lost it. The photostream on my phone was saturated with pictures of the book display from every conceivable angle. I think I took about 150 pictures of it. So much so that security actually stepped in to see what all the kerfuffle was. But every time I spot it in a book store, or someone sends me a picture of theirs or something they cooked from it – it sends a little jolt down my spine. It’s still so surreal that my little project is now out there in stores, or on the bookshelf of someone’s home. It’s absolutely incredible.