Here it is, the first announcement day of 2016! This time congratulations are in order to Jenn Segal of Once Upon a Chef, who will be publishing a beautiful cookbook with Chronicle Books. Here’s the official deal listing from Publisher’s Marketplace:
I’m so excited about this book for two reasons (well, actually it’s more like two trillion reasons, but I’ll spare you the exhaustive list):
Jenn is such a success story and a great inspiration for anyone who’s on the journey of building their platform. Jenn’s big dream was always to write a cookbook. After graduating from college, she went to culinary school at L’Academie de Cuisine and began working in the kitchens of fine dining restaurants like the L’Auberge Chez Francois. But, as she wrote in her proposal:
“Not only was I the only woman in a hot kitchen full of big, sweaty men, but I was also not at all right-sized for the massive equipment that surrounded us. At 5 foot, 2 inches, I had to get lifts on my shoes just to reach the plates. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to cook in a restaurant kitchen, just imagine trying to juggle multiple orders in your head and cooking on four different burners with food in the oven at the same time. Plus flames, sharp knives, hot pans, and an incessant stream of orders. It was terrifying!”
I love this story because it shows how not every food job is the right fit for everyone, no matter how passionate you are about food. I’m 5 foot, 2 inches, too, and I can tell you that the restaurant world is just NOT designed for the slight of stature. But you know where height doesn’t matter? In the writing and blogging world.
So when Jenn gave birth to her son and decided to stay home with him, she hung up her chef’s whites, picked up her apron, and went back to that cookbook dream. The problem was, she needed a platform.
And a platform she built. Over many years—one recipe and one blog post at a time—Jenn built a wonderful, engaged, and highly active community at Once Upon a Chef. She now has over 4 million page views, an email list of over 100,000, and a real connection to the people she’s helping. That right there—a close sense of knowing your readers and being dedicated to serving them—is the real purpose behind platform-building.
Lucky for us, Jenn has graciously agreed to share a few bits of advice about what it was like building the platform that got her the cookbook deal of her dreams:
What one thing worked best for you to grow your audience and increase traffic?
In the beginning, contributing to larger blogs, like HuffPost, Parade and Serious Eats, exposed me to a broader audience and drove lots of traffic to my site. (Reach out to the editors; sometimes it’s not as hard as you think to become a contributor). More recently, I moved away from the typical blog format/design and invested in a custom site redesign, which increased my numbers dramatically.
What was your biggest fear when you were building your platform?
The scariest thing I’ve done is go on live television, but it actually turned out to be fun once I got past the nerves.
What advice would you give to other writers and bloggers who want to get published?
Be patient! Focus on developing quality content and building your audience — the rest will follow.
I love Jenn’s advice to be patient, because it’s one of the hardest (and most important) things for anyone in a creative field to learn. So often I see bloggers querying us when they’re only at the midway point: they’re doing all of the right things to build their platform, but the numbers just aren’t there yet.
This is a book I can’t wait to cook from. Yes, I say that about every book I work on, but for me, it’s the guiding principle in how I chose my projects and authors. I often see queries where everything looks good on paper—the author has a solid platform and a unique idea—but I just don’t feel a thrill of excitement about the book. And as I always tell authors, genuine enthusiasm is the secret ingredient in the publishing process.
When an agent is genuinely excited about a book, they can effortlessly spread that enthusiasm to the right editor, who can then spread it to her team, all the way down the line to the sales rep, who also genuinely loves the book and can tell a bookstore buyer exactly why. That’s where the magic happens.
And I love this book because I think I’ll learn a lot from it, and I think readers can learn a lot from it, too. Jenn will be distilling all of her culinary school knowledge—everything from knife skills, to technique, to flavor profiles—into easy lessons that you can learn just by making each recipe. It’s the perfect book for anyone who wants to become a more intuitive and skilled cook with every recipe they make, yet they still need to get dinner on the table, and quick. So, basically, all of us!
Congratulations again to Jenn, and for more behind-the-scenes snapshots as she writes her cookbook, sign up for her newsletter. You’ll also get her delicious (and I mean seriously delicious) recipes that are tested and perfected.
You are welcome. 🙂