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Publishing a Cookbook with Sally Ekus, Literary Agent

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In this episode, we talk about what the publishing process looks like, how to write a book proposal, and the various reasons for publishing a cookbook.

Publishing cookbooks is a natural extension of what food bloggers do. We already know how to write recipes, photograph dishes, and teach our craft.

But the book publishing process can be a big, scary unknown for a lot of people. I've published 14 cookbooks and I still don't fully understand it. So today, we're going to shed light on the whole process.

Listen to or Watch the Interview

This episode from the Makin' Bacon Podcast podcast is available on all your favorite podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.

The video of the interview is also available on the Makin' Bacon YouTube Channel.

About Sally Ekus

My guest is a Literary Agent and co-owner of The Lisa Ekus Group, which is a full service culinary agency. She specializes in representing food bloggers and influencers, health and wellness bloggers, YouTubers, and more.

She has brokered more than 150 book contracts with the top publishers, as well as offering consulting and project management for self-publishing.

She's hugely accomplished, and I'm excited to welcome todays' guest Sally Ekus!

Key Takeaways

  • Don't Postpone Joy
  • What does a literary agent do
  • Why having someone who knows editors is important
  • What happens between "I've got a book idea" and when it shows up in a bookstore
  • How do you know when it's the right time to write a book
  • What does a cookbook proposal look like, and what should it contain
  • How to find agents that may work with you
  • How to stand out to the agent that you want to work with
  • How a book marketing plan works
  • What rewards besides money are there
  • How do royalties and advances work
  • What size of advance do book publishers typically offer
  • How to build your audience with an eye towards publishing
  • Why collaboration is so important BEFORE you look for a book deal
  • How far out of your expertise should you do a book
  • How to decide between traditional and self publishing
  • What hybrid publishers are
  • What agents do AFTER the contract is signed
  • What agents bring to the table
  • Where to start if you want to get started on a proposal

Links and Mentions

Do you have some traffic and fans but you're not making as much money as you would like? It's time to take back control of your blog, diversify your income stream, and start moving forward again. And this FREE food blogging video course is exactly what you need to get you there.

How do you approach this? Let me know in the Makin Bacon Facebook Group or the comments below.

Transcription of Sally Ekus Podcast

Jason Logsdon: Today, we take a hard look at what goes into the publishing process. We talk about what makes a good cookbook proposal, and we explored the various reasons for why you might want to publish a cookbook. Take it away. Sally,

Sally Ekus: I'm always looking for the best deal, and to me that's both equal parts financial and sort of cultural editorial fit, right? Who's going to pay you what you're worth and really get excited about what you have to say. And those are the deals I absolutely love to me.

Jason: Hey there. I'm Jason Logsdon and this is Makin' Bacon. We're all about helping you serve your fans, grow your income, and get the most out of your blog.

Publishing cookbooks is a natural extension of what food bloggers do. We already know how to write recipes, photograph dishes, and teach our craft. But the book publishing process can be a big, scary unknown for a lot of people. I've personally published 14 cookbooks and I still don't fully understand all of it. So today we're going to shed light on the whole process. My guest is a literary agent and co-owner of the Lisa Ekus Group, which is a full-service culinary agency.

She specializes in representing food bloggers and influencers, health and wellness bloggers, YouTubers, and more. She is a broker with more than 150 book contracts. It's just amazing to me, and that's with a lot of the top publishers out there. She also offers consulting and project management for self-publishing. She's hugely accomplished and I'm excited to welcome today's guest, Sally Ekus. Sally, welcome to Makin' Bacon.

Sally: Thanks, Jason, for having me. I'm really excited to talk with you today.

Jason: I really appreciate you coming on because I believe that writing cookbooks is a great fit for a lot of food bloggers, but most of them don't know where to get started, how to approach it, or even what to expect from the process. And you know more about that, especially as it relates to food bloggers specifically than pretty much anyone else. So I can't wait to explore that process with you.

Sally: Yeah, I'm thrilled to be here. And I love that you're a resource for initial blogging and also sort of the second stage of people thinking is a book right for me, what should it be about? Is now the time, can I make money? D all of the above.

Jason: A lot of food bloggers have questions about all of that and have no idea who to turn to get answers. So one thing I like to start with before we dive into it is, what is it like around your dinner table on a typical night?

Sally: Oh my gosh, we're starting with the most loaded personal question ever.

All right. Well. Physically speaking, the dinner table that I grew up sitting around is about 22 and a half feet. It's an enormous long, wooden dinner table, and quite regularly it is completely full all the way around. Um, just this past weekend, we celebrated my grandfather's 89th birthday and the table was full of friends and family and our, our dinner table is constant entertainment and conversation.

Growing up it held famed guests like Julia Child, Emeril and other people that I got to sit next to you when I was little growing up eating dinner. And now the table is all different sizes and we are also, we also just welcome my daughter to the table who just started solid. So it's also a little messy.

Jason: Who is the most interesting person that like really you related to that you ate dinner with her?

Sally: Oh my gosh. I'm, the first person that comes to mind is this woman Lori Masterton, who, um, was a pioneer in the food scene of Asheville, North Carolina, and sadly passed away a number of years ago.

But sitting at the table, I think she had come for one of our media training programs at the time, if I remember correctly. And she opened a place called Lori's Cafe, and her parents actually had, um, a BNB called Blueberry, I think it was called Blueberry Hill in Maine when she was growing up. And so food was a legacy in her family.

And she's somebody who was incredibly involved in giving back and charity in regard to her cafe and the food industry, and also personally. She was a champion of cancer research and she biked across the country raising awareness of cancer at the time. And she was somebody who, I don't know, when you ask that question, she's the first person that came to mind. She was enormously influential personally and professionally to me. Her tagline to life is Don't Postpone Joy.

Jason: I feel like we could just end the podcast there. That is, that's all you need to take away is Don't, Don't Postpone Joy.

Sally: If a book brings you joy, Don't Postpone Joy.

Jason: I love that. That's a perfect way to start off the podcast on a process that can bring a lot of people joy. So you grew up around food and around a lot of these, some celebrities, and now you're a literary agent. A lot of people don't know what that actually means. We've heard the term, but can you go into a little bit of what you do?

Sally: Sure. So our agency was founded by my mom, Lisa Ekus 38 years ago. We were founded as a culinary PR agency. And over the years, as the industry has changed, our agency has grown. So now we offer media training, we offer consulting, we offer talent representation. And like you said, I'm a literary agent, which I joined the agency about 11 years ago.

And what we do as an agent is work as an advocate on behalf of our clients, whether it's on the talent side, so that might be a color, an Instagram influencer, or a food blogger working with a brand and or book representation. So literary agent operates on a commission. It's a 15% commission off of a traditional book advance and any royalties earned.

And we are oftentimes the longest relationship an author might have through the book publishing process because as we know, publishing is changing really rapidly. So your editor who acquires your book idea might move publishing houses, or the publishing house in itself might be acquired by a larger publishing house, but your agent is your constant from concept to contract and beyond.

What we do as agents is represent an author's best interest. We review incoming proposals for representation, and we do scouting. We sign a client, work with them on the concept. They write the proposal, and we weigh in heavily and do a lot of handholding, editing, shaping. Um, ultimately our job is to help answer any question that could come up from a publisher in a proposal. So I'm constantly, um, prompting the author as we're working on the proposal, you know, answer this, what about this? Add more here and we can talk through the components of a proposal, I'm sure. Um, and then once it's ready to go out, we come up with a list of publishers who I think and with the author's input that they love could be a good match.

So ultimately, it's matchmaking, and I love that part of my job because through the proposal process, I get to know what an author's like, what their working style is, what they're really passionate about. And because I've been doing this for so long, and also Lisa has been doing this for so long, our agency is really well known in the culinary space and culinary is culinary-ish, right? Health and wellness, special diet, lifestyle. Um, we know what editors love certain types of projects. So we come up with a list of publishers, we pitch it to them, and we negotiate the deal.

Then somewhat unique to our agency, although sort of depends on the agent. Um, we also do a lot around the promotion and a support of a book once it comes out. So we're really working closely with our authors throughout the whole trajectory of their publishing career. And again, it's, um, in the best interest of our authors and their, um, publishing trajectory.

Jason: I think that's perfect. The matchmaking that you talk about as well, because there's so many different publishers and then each publisher has different editors and they're all looking for different things that a great book idea isn't going to matter to probably 80% of the editors out there. They want a specific one and you know who's looking for what type of content.

Sally: Yeah, and one of the things I love about how I do what we do is getting people excited before that proposal goes out for the formal pitch. Right? So I might meet someone at a conference and stay in touch with them. They send me a proposal, we work on it together, I sign them, we send it out. But before I send it out, I know, you know, because I'm talking to a different editor about another book that I've already sold them, and it's time to get on the PR call, or it's time to look at a different conversation in a different book's timeline.

I say, Oh, by the way, you know, in about. You know, three, four weeks, I've got this great project coming in. Here's the backstory, and this is why I think you're going to love it. So I'm planting those seeds that get cultivated along the way, and there's constant overlap of enthusiasm, which is what I love about my job.

Jason: And they will definitely view that proposal differently than one that just shows up in their email box or on their desk.

So as we dive into this, I'm sure people are going to have questions. They're going to want to get ahold of you down the road. I want to make sure they have your contact info up front. So they can email you at Sally@lisaekus.com and they can follow you on Instagram just at SallyEkus and for those seeking representation or if they want to look more into that process, you have your guidelines available at LisaEkus.com/submission-guidelines.

You're also offering 15% off to anyone who puts in the promo code Makin' Bacon, so I appreciate that. All these links will also be in the show notes that you can access at MakeThatBacon.com/e18. We'll have all the links there and more information about Sally and everything else we're talking here.

And then you're also working at the Help Desk at Everything Food Conference that if anyone's attending the conference, you should be, it's a great conference and a lot of good speakers outside of, um, me and Sally being there and a lot of other people, but you can set up a time to talk to her, to really dive into some nitty gritty that's very specific to you.

And then you're also running a one-day onsite intensive. Correct? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Sally: Sure. On Monday, June 8th we're inviting people here to our offices to do a one-day intensive on how to make a cookbook. So it's everything from concept to proposal, working through proposals and doing a deep dive into the nitty gritty behind the scenes, what the financials look like, what to expect. Does self-publishing make sense? You know, let's crunch numbers on that. It's, um, an intensive opportunity to learn from the other participants as well as workshop an idea that you might be thinking about. Or, you know, come and see what ideas come to mind and really answer the question is now the right time to write a cookbook?

Jason: Sounds like a great idea to get some expert advice that's very concentrated all at one time.

So a lot of bloggers, I think they understand coming up with the cookbook idea and they understand a cookbook on a shelf at Barnes and Noble, but the process in between those two, I think is very murky to them. Without going into too much detail what it's the actual steps to go from, "I think this would be a neat book idea" to "available for sale at a bookstore".

Sally: So if it's available for sale at a bookstore, you're most likely talking about traditional publishing. That being said, there's a whole podcast interview that we could go down on self-publishing too, so that's an option. But generally speaking, if you go to the bookstore and you're looking at the cookbook shelf and you see a book, you can look at the spine and on the bottom of the spine of the book, there's usually the icon of a publisher.

How you get on that shelf is typically with a nonfiction book proposal. So the first step is, you know, if you have an idea, work on the book proposal. And the book proposal is this looming thing on your to do list that you are dreading going back to time and time again, then I would say it's not the right time for you to write a book.

Oftentimes, I use the book proposal as a barometer for how successful or easeful, well, the book writing process be. It's one of the reasons I put our clients and my authors in particular through sort of a hellacious proposal process. And I mean that in the most fun way possible. Because I really relentless about answering every question that could come up and doing so really specifically. Because when you write a comprehensive book proposal, you will be offered a better book contract. That's just the way that it is. If you half-ass it, it's not going to happen.

The process is, you know, taking your concept and working on the proposal components. So it's of course your idea, your point of differentiation, an analysis of the competition on the marketplace. Um, your sample content, sample tested recipes if it's a, if it's a cookbook per se. Um, if it's more of a plan or a lifestyle sample content from different chapters, you're working on promotion and marketing, um, you know, there's a whole slew of sections in the proposal and that's ultimately how you're going to then send it to either an agent or directly to an editor.

Most of the big publishing houses don't take unsolicited proposals, meaning unrepresented. Some do. You can go on their websites and look. Most agents have their submission guidelines on their websites, so you can peruse around different agents, websites. And if you think you know, or want to work with one specific agent, my personal recommendation is to submit a proposal to them exclusively with a time cap on their review process.

So ultimately what you're saying is, "Hey, I've done my research. I have this idea. It's in a proposal. Will you take a look at it? You're my number one choice and you know, I'm giving you 4 weeks to do so." Following up is a dance and a nuance. Of, you know, what's the line between how much and what's, you know, as you're sitting there waiting for that email to come back into your inbox what's the line?

Jason: You don't want them to forget about you, but you don't want to badger them either.

Sally: And I, you know, in our agency, we answer every query that comes in, unless it's a fiction query. Simply because we don't handle fiction, we're really clear about that on our website. And you know, if you submit fiction, you haven't really read our requirements. Um, but we answer everything, and it might take us 2 weeks. It might take us 6 weeks. But we do get back to you.

We get great ideas pitched to us all the time, and for us, we also are looking for the right fit. So I love to set up calls with potential clients to see, you know, do we have the same goals in mind? And ours is their working style going to match with our working style.

Our agency tends to be highly communicative, really hands on, and like I said, we put through, put people through a rigorous proposal process, and so if you think you're sending me a finished proposal, I'm not going to sign you. Because never once has a proposal come in and been ready to go out the door for pitching the next day. That said, they have come really close and I obviously love those too.

Jason: From when they give you a proposal, how long does the back and forth, if you like it, the back and forth between you and them and then the back and forth to editors tend to take?

Sally: That's a great question. It really depends, and I say this in every talk I do every, my answer to everything in publishing is, it depends because just a couple of weeks ago, a proposal came in and it was essentially perfect. I mean, there were a few things to button up and clarify, and so really it was done in a matter of weeks.

Um, more often than not, it's a matter of months simply because, you know, it takes time to rework a competition section or really dive into marketing and promotion. And those are the 3 sections that oftentimes need the most work because that's where the most detail matters for the best deal out there.

Jason: And that's so important because you want to show to the editor and publisher how much basically upside there is, correct?

Sally: Yeah. You want to show that you're really going to drive the sales bus because the more you're prepared to do as the author to promote your book, the better the book is going to perform.

So it's not the time to say, you know," I'd be willing to go out on tour and do events to promote the book". It is the time to say, here's who I know, here's what I've done that's proven successful before in my community, both online and in real life. And here's how I'm going to leverage that in new and creative ways to promote and sell the book.

Jason: I feel like that's really important because a lot of publish publishers these days don't do a lot of promotion on their own for the majority of books that they put out. So you're really, as the author left and the agent left to drive a lot of that publicity to try to drive sells.

Sally: Yeah, and like I said our agency was founded in PR, and so we're really encouraging our authors to think creatively about how they can promote the book. You know, landing on a national segment isn't going to drive sales dramatically necessarily, but that in conjunction with what you're going to do online, what your community is going to do online, who you know and can ask to promote it to a newsletter or an event, you know, all of that works together to ultimately drive the success of the book.

Jason: It makes a lot of sense. Just trying to get out there and get out to people that have audiences that are similar to the audience that would be buying your book and that buys cookbooks in general.

Sally: And I think for your audience and food bloggers who are thinking, you know, is a book, right for me, is now the right time and what can it offer. It's important to keep in mind that a book is not a retirement plan. It's a big, beautiful business card, and it can be really successful that way for opening up doors to other types of work. So it might take you to the next level in brand partnerships. It might help secure that local media spot that you've been trying to get on onto.

And you know, the holiday is coming up, whatever holiday it might be, it's national, you know, burger or month, or it's Christmas. Who are they going to look to that has something new to offer and who's positioned as an expert to do a food segment? Okay, now you have something to pitch them. And so it's really about thinking creatively how can this book leverage other opportunities that then all feed into one another?

Jason: That's one thing that I harp on all the time is that if you want to be a successful author you need to figure out what your goal is and define what success looks like. And a lot of people think, well, financial rewards. And that can be a goal that you have but like you're saying, you can also use that as a business card, like it's marketing you or your brand.

Sally: Right. And it's positioning you as an expert. And I've heard you say, you know, it's helping with thought leadership and sharing an idea. And I fully support that and I think that's absolutely true. And this is not to say that there aren't great advances out there. I mean, I'm always looking for the best deal. And to me that's both equal parts financial and sort of cultural editorial fit, right? Who's going to pay you what you're worth and really get excited about what you have to say. And those are the deals I absolutely love to make.

I think it's so important to know where you're trying to go. So there's marketing yourself. There's trying to get an idea out there that if you have something you feel passionately with and you want to get into as many people's hands as possible, and then there are financial rewards.

Jason: What are the type of financial rewards that people get with the advance and royalties? I think a lot of people get confused about what they actually mean and how they work.

Sally: Yeah, that's a great question. Um, I mean, advances are so an advance is the money that a publisher is going to pay you to essentially write the book. Um, does it usually cover the cost of writing a book? No.

You know, the cost of writing really looks towards your time, recipe testing, equipment, expenses, photography. Oftentimes, um, you know, there's an enormous investment to what it takes to write a book. Um, an advance is also not paid out in one lump sum. So a publisher is going to offer you a contract that includes an advanced payment structure.

And with some of the bigger houses, they're really spreading out the investment over quite a bit of time. So in an ideal case, best case scenario, you're offered an advance that's paid out in halves. So half upon signing of your publishing contract and half upon the delivery and acceptance of your manuscript. And 2 caveats there your thing, you know people who haven't published a book, they're thinking, "Oh great, half and half, that sounds wonderful." But half on signing of your contract is not after you agree to the deal. It's often weeks, to months later because you agree to the general terms. And then you wait for the contract to come, which comes from a different department at that publishing house.

And then if you have any changes that you would want to make, which you always do because there's more to negotiate. You have to send it back to that other department that then communicates with the editor to say, is this okay? You know? And so it's quite a long process. So

Jason: At this point, you usually pretty much agreed on a general deadline of when stuff's done so you better be working on it during this time.

Sally: You're already working without being compensated. Um, and so you're paid that first half on signing of your contract, and then when you finish the manuscript, which is often 9 to 12 months later, although it depends on the publishing house, you hand in the manuscript and you think, great, I'm done. But in fact, you are not done.

You get a bunch of editorial theories back and you go back and forth through the editing process before your manuscript is formally accepted. At which point then that second payment is released. And that's best-case scenario.

Um, more, more often than not, the advanced comes in thirds or even corners, which could be post-publication of the book.

Um, and then the royalties, the royalty structure is a percentage of each book sale. You earn as the author and it takes back up until you earn out your advance, and then you can earn additional monies. Most of the contracts don't earn out there. Most cookbooks don't earn out their advance. And there's no guaranteed money beyond the advance itself.

So in most cases, you're looking for the highest advanced possible because that's the only money that the author is guaranteed. No, you never have to probably pay back the advance unless for some reason you canceled the book contract or there was an extraneous circumstance.

Jason: And I know everyone is wondering, and I know the answer is it depends, but how large. What can a typical food blogger expect by way of a range of advances? You know, we're not talking to $2 million contract.

Sally: Yeah, I mean, it's the question I get more often than anything, and I will say that I've sold books for $5,000, I've sold books for $55,000, and I've sold books for more than $150,000. Um, so it really depends.

I will say though, that if you're looking to have the, um, chips fall in your favor in a 6 figure deal you want to build a great audience and community, engage them as much as possible and spend the time it takes to make a rock star proposal.

Jason: If someone does say, I want to be a cookbook author. That's why I started blogging and that's why I'm doing this because I want to, you know, it might take 10 years to get to where I want to be, but I'm building towards this. What's the best way to kind of create that audience around them so they will have a better-looking audience than someone like me that was just a blogger in general.

Sally: I would say it's both community, digital, community engagement, and also real life. So build the audience online with steady readership, talk to them, give them what they want without obviously compromising your integrity or your voice. Um, and pitch magazines, periodicals, subscribe to HARO, help a reporter out, position yourself as an expert who has something to say, who's a resource. Um, have people start coming to you to speak about your area of expertise and your, and your topic in particular. Craft yourself, craft your voice.

And then go to select conferences or industry events and meet with agents and editors and other colleagues who are writing in that community and then that space so that you're starting to play in the same sandbox. Because if you pitch me a proposal, that is a fantastic idea and you have a massive platform, but you have never crossed paths with any of my clients or other colleagues of mine that are in that same conversation, I have to wonder, why not? You know what? Where have you been writing or talking that none of our common denominator contacts have, have not crossed your path.

Um, we're very much a collaborative agency and believe in connecting people who write about similar topics and support one another. You know, I have an area of expertise in vegan and plant-based representation. So, you know, I often get new clients who are experts in vegan blogging or YouTubing because current clients are recommending them. Great. They're already working together and supporting each other and saying, this is another person and I love what they have to say, and I really think they, you know, they're ready to do a book, they're ready to talk to an agent. Would you talk to them? Great.

But if you pitch me this new vegan idea and none of my vegan clients have heard of you and none of their friends or colleagues have heard of you, then I would just say, you're not quite ready yet.

Jason: I can definitely see that, and it's, I feel like there's so much in publishing and promoting books now is that it's not just. Even if your base is food blogging, you need to get out there and whether it's networking or conferences or interact with people and like you're saying, position yourself as an expert and whether that's to publish a cookbook or putting out a product or services, it's going to help you in all those different endeavors.

Sally: I think as a society we view people as the whole of what they do. Where maybe 10 years ago someone was just a food blogger and you weren't expected to necessarily be writing for magazines and being on TV and speaking at conferences. But now as social media has increased a lot in people, there's a lot more platforms people can show up. If you're not on those platforms, you're not viewed as much of an expert, you know.

And I will say that probably all of the introverts listening are now cringing. Like, I don't want to go do that. That's also totally okay. I'm not asking people to do something that's not true to who they are. You can be an expert and a resource and a colleague to somebody in a specific culinary conversation without, um, necessarily going outside of your comfort zone more than you are open to.

It's a matter of establishing yourself in the industry and what that looks like can be different to different people. That's okay. And in fact, that's good, right? That keeps our industry really diverse and thriving. Um, but I do think it's an, it's really important to be collaborative and supportive of one another. And, you know, those are the types of clients that we're looking for or that we're looking to support and recommend to other agents.

Jason: I think that's a good point that you need to do what feels comfortable to yourself. I talk about that on the blog, that there's a thousand different ways you can be a successful blogger, but if you focus on things that don't make you happy, all you're going to do is create a job doing things that makes you unhappy, like focus on what you're good at, what you enjoy doing, and you're going to be a lot better at those things and find out what the range of things you can do to get you to your goal, in this case, networking and helping people and get it within your own comfort zone, doing things that you enjoy.

Sally: Yeah. As Lori would say, Don't Postpone Joy.

Jason: Yes, exactly.

Sally: You know, the other thing too is a lot of your listeners and the people that I meet, particularly in the food blogging space, are approached directly by publishers. Who are saying, "Hey, we found you. We love what you're saying. Would you consider doing a book on X, Y, Z?" It's also important to weigh that opportunity as like sort of a bird hand.

We have these conversations all the time with people who are saying, "Hey, so you know, this publisher approached me. This is kind of different than what I write about. I could do it, should I, shouldn't I?" And that's part of what we're talking about here is being um, you know, stretch yourself, but really evaluate those opportunities, is this true to what I'm saying? Or does this maybe not make sense for me right now? And you know, we, we do a lot of, um, consults in conversations around that particular question in fact.

Jason: You've helped me a lot when I've been approached by people.

Sally: I mean you're a great example because you've had a really successful self-publishing trajectory, and I think you're really smart in that you wanted to explore what does traditional publishing look like? Um, and there's no one answer, right? It really depends, like you say on what are your goals here? And if you can prioritize your top 3 goals and rank them for me, then we can decide. Okay. What are the different opportunities in front of us that makes sense for these specific goals? If you brought 3 different goals on the table, we'd be having a different conversation. And frankly, that's what I love about our industry, and there's a little something for everyone. It's really a matter of knowing what it is that you want.

Jason: It is what I've really enjoyed working with you when we've worked together on projects is that you are very clear about figuring out what I want, as opposed to just saying, this is how you publish a book and this is what you should do. Which is refreshing. It's nice to have someone that you're paying to help you want to know what you're trying to accomplish through it. Cause I always appreciated that.

Sally: Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. I mean, that's been a guiding principle for us all the time, you know, and I, I really believe that.

Um, and like I said, you know, this is an industry that I love, that I want to thrive and support one another. And so it's not a matter of just grabbing that shiny object because that shiny object is only going to be shining for a moment. And unless you're going to keep that shine going and you love that shine um, you know, it's, it's not going to, it's not going to work in your favor. And I want the people who love this work, whatever that work might be, to be supported with all of the information to make the most educated decision for what is best in, in their best interest.

Jason: And part of that decision can often be whether or not to self-publish. We've done it. We've been talking a lot about traditional publishing because you're an expert on that and you know a lot about self-publishing too. What are your thoughts when someone says, "okay, I have an audience. I'm ready to publish your book I think, should I do this myself? Should I put together a proposal? Do I just write the book or use recipes for my blog? What?" What goes into that decision-making process?

Sally: I'll pick out the the latter part of that question very specifically first, which is that if you want to repurpose content for the most part, then self-publishing is the path for you because for the most part, in traditional publishing, publishers are going to require essentially 90% new content. So you're, you need to feed your blog new content to keep up ad revenue, to keep up your engagement while also producing behind the scenes content that will then be published in your book. That's one. Answer to your question.

Ultimately though, there's three considerations to take when you're to review when you're thinking about traditional versus self-publishing. Um, distribution being key. If you want to be the distributor of your book and yes, they can have an ISV, a number in live on Amazon and BarnesAndNoble.com. Um, but if ultimately those books are going to be in your garage or printed on demand, then fine, self-publishing might be the path for you.

If you want your book to be sold into traditional bookstores and specials. Sales accounts, which would be a non-traditional bookstore account such as a cooking equipment store that has a handful of books or paper store that has a handful of books. Then traditional publishing would be the path because they have a whole sales funnel set up to support the, the channels of distributing your book.

Uh, certainly the financials. So if you know that you can back the funding of your book, whether it's you doing the photography yourself because you also have that skill or working with a collaborator and developing all the recipes, testing all of that. In addition to the cost of printing, picking paper or hiring a designer or hiring a copy editor, I mean, there's enormous value that the publisher also brings to a table from an editorial and printing and production side then that helps determine.

So if you have the funds to back the project and all of the resources, or you know, call the Lisa Akus Group and say, Hey, do you know what designer? Fine. Then self-publishing might be the path for you. But if that all sounds really overwhelming and you didn't listen to a thing I just said for the past 30 seconds, then traditional publishing.

Um, and then ultimately also the sort of control, and I mean that in the best sense of the word. If you know exactly what you want your book to look, feel, and embody, because you know exactly what your community is asking for then self-publishing is great. Or if you want to just play around and you have a lot of ideas and you want to test the water and say, "Hey, you know, is my audience going to buy a 1995 book or are they really looking for 100 recipes on sous vide cocktails", um, you know, then fine self-publish, test that water, use that information to then launch whatever that next thing is.

However, it's you say, "I have this great idea, I've shaped it into a proposal, but I really want a publisher's expertise on what is the marketplace doing and how are we going to reach them successfully? And really, what should that cover look like? Cause I'm not sure, or where should we go with this subtitle?" Um, you know, then traditional publishing would be the path for you. And that's not to say that you don't have input in that, but you would have consultation and conversation.

Um, so really it comes down to, you know, is it traditional or self-publishing? I think about distribution, financials and the control of the book process.

Jason: And they're very different beasts. Writing the cookbook is semi similar, but everything that goes around it, they are a completely different how they work, and some is good and some is bad. I've enjoyed, I've enjoyed parts of both processes and I've been miserable during parts of both processes.

Sally: Was there overlap in the joy and the misery?

Jason: Sometimes. Yeah. I mean, you always, whenever you get the first book in the mail, it always makes you feel really good, but there's definitely disagreements about how things should be structured. Especially for the last cookbook I did that it was, I wanted to use a photography, good photography. I had a lot of good photos and they went with stock photos that didn't show the dishes clearly. And I pushed back and pushed back, and they were like, yeah. Well, it says in the contract, you can give your opinion, but that's it.

Sally: And that's where an agent can be really helpful because we have those difficult conversations. And. I would say 92% of the time they resolve really successfully. Um, it's hard because the publisher is going to try to save as much money as possible and to do that stock photos often makes sense.

That being said, I mean, let's be real, like the food fit the. Food bloggers or bloggers that are listening to this are thinking, of course, but my book is going to have photography in it, right? And they're going to want probably at least a photo with every recipe. And so how do you then compromise and navigate that expectation into the confines of traditional publishing? I mean, that's what I spend 90% of my time doing is working out those conversations ultimately to lead what to what's best for the book.

There've been a handful of times where I've known deep in my heart that listening to the process of working that out, though it takes a tremendous amount of time, it's ultimately going to lead to the best interest of the book. And you know that book sells really well and it meets its audience, its fine, it finds its buyers, both those that knew of the author and new audiences.

But it's a long and hard conversation and it, you know, there's no one path that's going to bring those answers to the table. And that's what's unique and challenging and fun about publishing.

Another option is hybrid publishing where you're bringing. Both benefits of each path to the table in selective ways. So it's really great for brands who want to purchase a certain number of copies to distribute to their community or to give out or to sell in a special package. Um, and it's sort of a way to have the distribution and shared financials while also maintaining some control and, um shaping of the whole process. And you know, that can be a great resource for people who are in a uniquely positioned position to do that.

Jason: What type of companies are involved in the hybrid processing?

Sally: In some cases, traditional publishers, but not always. Um, there are certain hybrid publishers that bring the distribution to the table, although you're paying for their services.

Then in the traditional space, there are select publishers who when a company or brand or entity is committing to a contractual buy back, um, will, will agree to print and distribute and offer editorial services for the book, but it's still you you still need to pitch and position that as a certain way.

Jason: That makes sense. A little bit of best of both worlds to especially if you have specific goals that can really help accomplish those goals.

Sally: Yeah. Yeah. And we're, we love doing those kinds of deals because like I said, you still need to advocate on behalf of the author brand in their best interest because you know, they have a very specific vision for what this book needs to look and feel like. And um, the nuance of that deal, it can be really exciting because you're bringing two entities to the table that are both offering something really strong.

Jason: That's good. They can both focus on their strengths, which is nice.

If you're going in to try to get the best deal for yourself and you're trying to really make a career out of publishing cookbooks regardless of the goals you have in that. I think going with an agent is, you can't go wrong with that cause it's, it's a big scary process out there. And I've turned to you know, Sally's not my agent, but I've got book publishing contracts and I've, I don't know what is in them and I've had her consult on them. And they go through and they know exactly what should be in these different areas and they have that expertise that I don't have.

I view it just like a lot of people hire someone to run the technical aspects of their website because there's so much that goes into the technical aspects of a website, and if you don't have that skill, by the time you learn how to do it, it's not a good use of your time. You should rely on people that have that skills and whatever financial costs it is, it's going to pay off yeah, in the long term through you getting a better deal, you being more productive, and you're getting a lot better outcomes for what you're trying to accomplish.

Sally: The other thing I would add too, I mean, I appreciate hearing that. Um, and there are certainly scenarios in which I think people don't need representation.

I think it's important to, again, think about what are your goals and what do you looking for in the publishing process. Um, you know, and I've had people say, well, I talked to my friend who's a blogger, and they got a contract, and you know, we just sort of compared and A, that's in breach of their friend's publishing contract to do so. Um, but then B, there's more to the process than simply saying, okay, this line reads like their contract. It's really a matter of understanding the context in which those scenarios would be important to understand. And a book is such a long, hard, beautiful process to create that the more you're educated on what could come up and why, and what real skills and advocacy does that author bring to the table? What do they need to be able to say, this is how I know how to reach my audience. This is what we're going to do. I mean, that's really what it comes down to is it's knowing the nuances of what those clauses mean and why they benefit. The author.

Jason: I feel like when looking at the changes that you made to some of the contracts that I sent in, some of them were just wording changes, like the sentence in English, the sentence meant the exact same thing, but legally it meant the complete opposite thing. Or it meant something very specific and comparing line by line, you would never know that it that needed to be changed.

Sally: And it can also be helpful to, you know, like I said, we do talent representation here. And so when we're talking to clients, some we represent, um, comprehensively, meaning we represented them for their talent collaborations and also for literary contracts. And in that case, it's really fun for us because we can say, okay, you know, as we're working on the proposal, let's think creatively about the partnerships that you're bringing to the table and how we might weave them in in the proposal so that contractually a publisher knows down the road there's going to be an exempt exception for this brand. Or there's going to be some unique opportunity for this speaking engagement that you have coming up. And so it's really being able to understand the full picture versus just what's on the paper in front of us. So we can set the author up for the most success possible.

Jason: I love that. And there's so much that goes into after the book is out to promote it and to sell it. Yeah. There's so much that goes into it.

Is there any other tips or suggestions you have for someone that's interested and they go, "Okay. I want to start working on my proposal. I have my idea." Where can they get a little more information? They're not ready to submit it to you or submitted to a publisher, but they want to get more information about how to actually write a proposal. Where should they start?

Sally: So we have guidelines on our website that I'm happy to send to anybody as well that are really comprehensive for what goes into a book proposal. Um, they are universal guidelines and that they'd be appropriate for any nonfiction book proposal that you're submitting to other agents as well. Um, so you can use our guidelines as a foundation.

And my tip there is particularly because the process can be really overwhelming, start with your bio. Every everyone listening probably has a bio on their website, cut and paste it into the book proposal document, and then you have one section done and all of a sudden you just go say, I mean, it sounds really silly, but it's a, it's a huge daunting thing to say, I want to write a book where do I start? Chip away.

Jason: You don't have that blank page staring at you anymore.

Sally: And then pull your media kit and put that in the book proposal, and if you don't have a bio and you don't have a media kit, great. You know, you're not ready to write a book yet, start working on those things.

And I will also say I really value and think it's important to be a resource to people in our industry. So, you know, as much as I'd love to see the email subject line Makin' Bacon for the 15% off, I'm always happy to have a 10 minute call with people to say, you know tell me what you're thinking about. Let me tell you a little bit about what resources we have available to us through the industry, whether they're with our agency or not, and then I can help point you in the right direction. I'm always happy to do that as well.

Jason: I can vouch for Sally. She's just been great to work with and I've known her for probably 5 or 6 years now, and we've spoke at different events together and she's, she has never pushed services or tried to sell me on anything. She's just shared her knowledge, which made me realize how much I needed her expertise because she knew that much more than I did about the whole process.

Sally: I appreciate that, Jason, and you know, we've been in the, we've been in this industry for so long because Lisa, you know, founded the company 38 years ago so we're oftentimes that first call. And if it's not a question I can answer or is appropriate for me to answer, I am I will always introduce you to the right person.

Jason: So make sure to send her an email. If you have questions, Sally@LisaEkus.com. I'll provide the link to the submission requirements where you can fill that out and get 15% off if you use Makin' Bacon on any of the services. They offer a lot of good services; you should look into. Say hi to her at the Everything Food Conference.

Do you really want to get a book out? Make sure you take their one day intensive diving into it and take advantage of her information because she knows a lot and she's always willing to share it with people that are passionate about writing a book and getting something out there.

Sally: Yeah. Drop me a line and I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you so much for having me on today, Jason.

Jason: Thanks so much for being on, I really appreciate it.

This has been Makin' Bacon, all about helping you serve your fans, grow your income, and get the most out of your blog. So next time I'm Jason Logsdon.


Jason logsdon headshot Hi, I'm Jason Logsdon! I'm an adventurous home cook and the head writer and photographer for Amazing Food Made Easy. I grew my income to 6-figures by focusing on serving my Fans by providing massive value, and I want to help you do the same.

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All tags for this article: How to Write and Publish Cookbooks, Interviews For Podcasts and Videos, The Makin' Bacon Podcast, Self Publishing

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