by Sally Ekus | Featured Contributor
I have heard it a thousand times, I have the best recipes and everyone asks me why don’t I write a cookbook. Well, just because everyone tells you to do it, doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good idea. I mean, sure, it’s cool to hold a book with your name on it but do you know what it takes to make that book you are holding? Even though I don’t have kiddos of my own, I have heard from countless authors that creating a book is a lot like birthing a baby. So let’s be real, you wouldn’t have a kid just because your neighbors say you are an excellent babysitter right?!
For the next 6 months I am excited to share my expertise as a Literary Agent and post some basic tips and hints on how to go about publishing a cookbook. I may even throw in a bit of behind the scenes (anonymous) stories of the projects I get pitched (naked cooking anyone?) and the challenges I face as a daughter and employee of my mom/boss who sat me next to Julia Child at my dining room table when I was just knee high.
First up are a series of questions to ask yourself if you are thinking about writing a cookbook:
- Do you have a sale-able concept? Something different and compelling that will still be relevant in two years (the average time it takes to develop, pitch, write, and edit your book)?
- Can you afford to create, test, and retest upwards of 75-150 recipes for the next 9-12 months? Keep in mind that the average book advance can land somewhere between the cost of your auto insurance bills and one year of college.
- Do you know how to write a proper recipe and headnote?
- Can you work collaboratively? Do you want to? Your agent and eventually your editor are there to help make your work tighter and better. Your agent can help shape your concept and effectively hone the pitch/proposal. Not everyone needs or wants an agent, but working with one means you have an ally. Your agent is someone who believes in your work and knows publishing contracts inside and out. They will often be your biggest cheerleader and help you secure a more financially attractive deal.
- Do you have channels in place to promote and sell your book when it comes out? Now, more than ever, publishers are looking to authors to drive the sales of their books. Sure you get some support, but the more connected and involved an author is in promoting, the better sales numbers will be.
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe there is still room on the cookbook shelf for more great books. With the surge in digital readers, e-books, and the closing of many book stores it is no surprise that the cookbook is one of the last remaining hard copy books people still read, gift and cherish. If you can answer the questions above and still feel excited, dedicated, and passionate about writing a cookbook here is what goes into a proposal. Unlike fiction, where a full manuscript needs to be completed before you submit to agents and editors, with cookbooks and other culinary non-fiction, a proposal is what you need to pitch your concept.
A proposal includes:
- Title page
- TOC (Table of Contents) for the proposal itself
- Your bio/credentials
- Markets for your book idea
- Promotion plan
- TOC for the book you are proposing
- Vision/Design ideas
- Chapter Summaries
- Complete Sample chapter, including recipes
Each of these parts is essential and more information and details on what goes into each section can be found on our website. Feel free to email me a query letter to pitch a concept before you work on a full proposal. And just to keep your creative wheels spinning, I would also consider pitches in other non-fiction areas such as humor, parenting, health, and fitness.
Sally Ekus, Agency Manager and Literary Agent, joined The Lisa Ekus Group in 2009. She represents a wide range of culinary talent, from first-time cookbook authors to seasoned chefs, professional food writers, bloggers, and television personalities. Sally loves being the liaison between an author and their publisher. She takes great pride in guiding authors towards their dreams of publication. From concept to contract, she has brokered more than forty book deals.
After graduating from Ithaca College, Sally worked in the mental health field. An unexpected turn of events, and some great food along the way, led her to return to New England (Massachusetts) to join her mother, Lisa Ekus, in the eponymous family business. Sally often credits her formal training in listening, communication, and negotiation in the mental health field as her foundation for success with her authors.
As part of the first official culinary delegation, Sally has made two trips to Vietnam where she cultivated a deep love of phở. Sally spends what little free time she has cooking spicy food and running marathons. She is a dedicated supporter and advocate for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and especially their Team in Training program.
The Lisa Ekus Group is a full-service culinary agency, the only agency of its kind to offer Public Relations, Media Training, Literary and Talent agency services, as well as Career Consulting, all within the culinary realm.