Thursday, October 07, 2010

Some Advice for Food Writers and Bloggers from Will Write for Food's Dianne Jacob

Dianne Jacob, food writing teacher, coach and author, was at San Francisco's Book Passage recently to talk about the new, second edition of her guidebook for food writers: Will Write for Food.

The new edition is subtitled "The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More" and is fully updated. It includes information on blogging, electronic publishing and other topics that weren't very mainstream five years ago when the book was first published. Jacob said other topics needed an updating since technology and the changing nature of food media have affected the market for food writing. 

Here are some points Jacob made at her talk and during the question and answer session afterward.

Restaurant reviewing has changed because of sites such as Yelp and Chowhound that allow the customer to review and rate his or her experience.  It also widens the kinds of restaurants reviewed since the sites are not just for the trendy or upscale establishments.

The reach of blogging can be amazing.  In one year of writing her blog, she said the number of page views her food writing blog gets is higher than the circulation of a print magazine she once edited.

Jacob at 9.28.10 talk at Book Passage
Freelance writing has changed.   There is less demand since many of the traditional sources such as magazines have declined and those that have survived are selling fewer ads so they have fewer pages for editorial.  Another trend is to shorter stories.  There is also pressure on bloggers to contribute posts and even articles for the "exposure" rather than for pay, which drives down freelance rates.

"You can't just want to write a cookbook, you need to have a national platform," Jacob says.  While publishers were always interested in cookbook authors that had a built in audience, now it is almost obligatory.  A successful blog is one way to build that platform.  "You have to become a somebody before you write the book."

Cookbook authors need to know how to promote their own work.  "Publishers are insisting you are in charge of sales of your book," Jacob says.

The bar has been raised for food bloggers.  It not just about the food.  In addition to strong writing and good recipes, you need to be a photographer, marketer as well as understand a host of technical issues.

Print writers have to increase their visibility.  Create a blog if you don't already have one.  If you have a cookbook out, your blog should mirror that.
For more on this topic, check out Jacob's Will Write for Food blog and her website.  Going to BlogHer Food 2010? Jacob will be moderating the panel on storytelling.

Photo credit of book cover: Amazon


Dianne Jacob said...

Dear Faith,

I am so lucky to count you as my friend. Thank you so much for this write-up, which accurately reflects my talk. You are a terrific note taker and reporter.

Anonymous said...

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