Dear Author Enablers,
What are the chances of getting a cookbook published in today’s market? I have been cooking and baking since I could walk, and where I live the winters are long and I have plenty of time to test recipes!
Cathy Blatnik
Okemos, Michigan


We asked Bill LeBlond, Editorial Director of Food and Drink at Chronicle Books, to answer your question: “It isn’t easy for an unknown author to get a cookbook published if the cookbook is just a collection of her recipes. A cookbook needs a hook: The Big Book of Casseroles, The Thanksgiving Table, Big Fat Cookies, The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy. If the author is famous, then her name by itself is the hook. Paula Deen and Rachael Ray can sell a cookbook on their names alone. Even for books that have a good hook, publishers are looking for authors with platforms from which they can sell their books. At a minimum, authors should be actively blogging and utilizing social networks. Cathy will need to demonstrate to a publisher that her blog gets many hits and that she has lots of followers on Facebook and Twitter. It should be noted that there has never been a better time to self-publish. Web sites such as lulu.com make it easy to create a book and print it in reasonable numbers. For unknown writers who want to publish their own wonderful collections of recipes, self-publishing may be the answer.” Thanks, Bill! When are you going to invite us over for dinner?

BY THE NUMBERS
Dear Author Enablers,
I am putting the finishing touches on my query letter(s). I have been having a heck of time finding the number of books sold for a specific series and the average age of the self-help book reader. I have been to three libraries, two bookstores and all over the Internet with no success. Can you direct me to a place where I might be able to obtain this info?
Janet Alden
Bristol, Connecticut


Publishers don’t expect you to come up with accurate sales figures for previously published books similar to yours (aka “comparison titles”). They can do this themselves through a service called BookScan.

Your comparison titles should be books that have remained in print and done well, preferably recently—although a classic in your genre is not a bad thing to include. You can figure out a lot by looking around your local bookstore. Which books are stacked and displayed front and center? The books that are well-displayed and promoted are likely to be better-selling, more widely known titles. Don’t get too hung up on this step in the process—your role does not include providing a complete sales overview.

PAPER TRAIL
Dear Author Enablers,
Can you direct a retired newspaper editor and columnist of many years to a source for marketing my columns? I’m an essayist, have won numerous writers’ contests and have also self-published and contributed to other authors’ anthologies.
Isa “Kitty” Mady
Montesano, Washington


Sounds like it’s time to bite the bullet and write a thoughtful, well-organized book proposal; then send it with an irresistible query letter to literary agents who specialize in this sort of book. There are many resources available to walk you through this process: A book called How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen is one we often recommend. (Shameless plug: Our new book will also include this information. It’s called Write That Book Already! and will be available in bookstores this month.) Make sure to mention your awards and include a sample of your best work.

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