As a food blogger, I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a cookbook here and there. I, obviously, haven’t gone through with it, but it’s one of those things that’s never out of the cards. The experience is a daunting one for me and one that my dear friend, Lori Rice, has down now twice (3x really – I was mistaken)! As a craft beer lover and connoisseur, her cookbooks focus around ways to use the libation in your kitchen. I’ll let her tell you more about the books though…
And how did we meet? Well, I think it all started online when she and I worked together for a sparkling wine company. Then our paths crossed (in person!) at an ice cream event in northern California a few years ago. We kept in touch over Instagram and reconnected much more so last year when I asked her to help me with my food photography!
Lori shares my loves of healthy, homemade food and being incredibly straightforward. If either of us had time, we’d start an Instagram account of women who travel in comfortable and realistic outfits – none of this flowy dresses in flower fields for us!
1. Tell us about your TWO cookbooks!
Well, technically I have three, but I focus on two. Ha! I wrote an Everything Guide to Food Remedies cookbook that published back in 2011. It has a lot of recipes, but no photos. Due to my love of food photography, my motivation to write a cookbook was as much about wanting to photograph my own book as it was writing it. So, I really focus on two.
Okay, now that we have that intro out of way!
Along with my husband, I have a passion for craft beer and beer history that was inspired by our travels. A lot of writing a cookbook is about finding a topic that publishers find exciting, or more importantly, one that has potential to sell. For me, that ended up being cookbooks that involve beer. My book, Food on Tap: Cooking with Craft Beer (The Countryman Press, 2017), is about cooking with beer in everything from brunch to side dishes to dessert.
My second book is set to publish February 20, 2020. It is called, Beer Bread. Its chapters are filled with breads that use beer from yeast breads, to no-knead breads, to quick breads and bread-based bakery items like cinnamon rolls. I did my best to simplify the process for new and advanced bread bakers as well as beer lovers. Each recipe uses either a half or whole beer and one standard supermarket packet of yeast (if the recipe uses yeast).
2. What was your background before venturing into authoring your first cookbook?
I have an MS in Nutritional Sciences – Wellness/Sports Nutrition and a BS in Consumer and Family Sciences with a focus in Nutrition, Fitness, and Health. I started my career working in academia in a position that merged Cooperative Extension and the department of Public Health. It was a lot of instruction, hand-out writing, and curriculum development for obesity prevention, exercise, and healthy eating for the state of Kentucky, where we lived at the time.
I left that job to move abroad with my husband for his job, which was something I was happy to do. I was rather exhausted with trying to get people to eat healthy and exercise given the food industry, diet industry, and other challenges we are up against. And dealing with the university system, red tape, ivory towers, and all that was getting old.
While living in Brazil, I started a food blog, Fake Food Free. I soon learned that I enjoyed two things about it – developing recipes and taking pictures of food. Both of which pulled from small parts of my previous education as we had courses in food science, food service, and nutrition communications. What I liked less was actually running a blog as an income source. I was never good at the backend, ads, and promotions.
So I focused on the two things I loved the most and it evolved into the business I have now. I develop recipes and provide food styling and photography for my clients. Sometimes one or the other, often both. That work led to writing and photographing my own cookbooks.
3. What decision(s) did you have to make before, during, and after the drafting process that were surprising and/or difficult?
The first book was pitched as a baking with beer book. The publisher wanted to change it to a cooking with beer book. I was fine with that. Then they changed the name. I resisted that for a bit, but you learn what your role is with the book. Mine is the content creation, theirs is knowing what will sell. So I came around to the new title (Food on Tap).
Realizing that you have a book to write and photograph while also maintaining your work with your clients is challenging. For example, I got an offer to photograph another cookbook while I was working on my book. Given my goals, it was something I couldn’t pass up so I was working on both simultaneously.
Then you have that hallelujah moment when you turn in your manuscript and you think – holy crap, I’m done. Not quite. The book will come your way 2 to 3 more times for editing (you will be so tired of reading your own book!), then you have to decide on the cover and so on. It’s a 2-year process for most people when you add in marketing after it publishes.
4. Once the cookbook was available to the public, was/is it difficult to get traction and sales?
It’s tough if you are a lesser known figure – meaning not a celebrity or an influencer with loads of social media followers. Your publisher helps, but they tend to focus on those other folks. A lot is left up to you. This is something I learned a little late from friends who also had books. Funny how these conversations don’t come up until AFTER you need them. You are just so absorbed in getting your deal and making the book, your networking takes a nosedive during a time when you could really use that info the most.
I was motivated to help promote my books, but I wasn’t sure how. I also got a bit of assurance from the team that worked with my book that they would be helping and then that fell through for various reasons. When I didn’t get much help, I tried to get signings myself and learned it was too late because the book had been out a few months at that point. I did organize quite a few events on my own, but this time around with Beer Bread will be much better. I’m ready for it and I know what I need to do.
5. How has blogging and social media factored into your cookbook’s success?
These days you will ALWAYS be judged by how many followers you have in this field. That translates to – you are not good enough. I got it several times even when shopping my second idea. It takes a tough skin and you have to not let it define you personally. It’s just the way it is.
Sadly, you can be the best food writer in the world and it’s often not enough. Fortunately, I found an editor and publisher who was willing to take a chance on me due to my past work, which did evolve from my blog.
So I consider social media and the blog essential for me personally, but I can’t say I like that. Sadly, there will be excellent food writers who never publish a book simply because they have avoided the social media game (and they are probably healthier for it!), but being known drives sales.
6. How is the second time through this process different than the first?
I wish I could say it went so much more smoothly! I will say I was more organized in my approach with laying out the recipes, testing, and all that. With the first book, I jumped in and did it all at once. With my second, I spent a lot of time in research mode and made a lot of notes which allowed me to write my intros pretty easily at the end. I also tackled recipes by each chapter. It was slightly more organized, but no less chaotic.
7. Anything else to share?
Having the freedom to turn a book you have in your head into one you hold in your hands is a true privilege. I’ll never take it for granted or stop appreciating the opportunity.
Get your hands on Lori’s first beer cookbook Food on Tap! And don’t forget to follow her on Instagram for beautiful food, adorable doggy shots, and life in California’s Central Valley! You can get more of her delicious (not necessarily beer-focused) recipes on her blog Fake Food Free!
And Be Sure to Read the Other Females Features:
LYNN CHEN ON DIRECTING HER FIRST MOVIE
JESSE VOIGT ON OPENING HER BICOASTAL DESIGN FIRM
Photos of Lori by Kaycee Maye. Food photography all by Lori Rice!