10 book art prints to inspire you to read more

Jarrett and I watched The Little Prince last week, and I am smitten. Why had no one told me how cute this movie was when it first came out?!

I loved every bit of it: the gorgeous paper cut-out animation, the thoughtfully done adaptation and expansion of the storyline, the themes of finding adventure and wonder in books. The movie did a great job of keeping the ethereal and delicate tone of the book yet overlaying the struggles of modern life: how the cult of productivity and busyness has made for less spontaneous and unscheduled childhoods (and adulthoods!).

It made me feel like a little kid again–it’s that same happy, giddy feeling you get when you read a great book. So, in honor of The Little Prince, the start of spring, and the very cutest Google doodle (did you catch it on Monday?), I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite reading illustrations and art prints.

Reading and book art prints

I have a whole board of reading and book art prints on Pinterest, and sometimes I just open them up to smile and remember what it is that I love so much in books. (Follow me there, if you want more!)

10 Reading Art Prints to Remind You to Believe in Books

Reading and book art prints

(Source: Simini Blocker)

Reading and book art prints 7

(Source: Doodlemum)

Reading and book art prints

(Source: unknown)

Reading and book art prints

(Source: unknown)

Reading and book art prints

(Source: part of a WPA series)

Reading and book art prints

(Source: Monica Castanys)

   Reading and book art prints 5

(Source: Book/Shop)

Reading and book art prints

(Source: Book Geek Confessions)

Reading and book art prints

(Source: Sarah Wilkins)

Reading and book art prints

(Source: unknown)


What I’m Reading This Week

Stop Focusing on Follower Count: 5 Better Approaches for Improving Social Media Use (Andrea Dunlop on JaneFriedman.com): This is such great advice–I see follower count trip up so many authors, yet it just isn’t an accurate predictor of the success of your book. Instead, focus on these 5 goals to stay motivated as you grow your author platform.

Writing the review in advance (Seth Godin): “The last click someone clicks before they buy something isn’t the moment they made up their mind. … We lay clues. That’s what it takes to change the culture and to cause action. The thing we make matters (a lot). But the breadcrumbs leading up to that thing, the conversations we hear, the experiences that are shared, the shadow we cast–we start doing that days, months and years before.”

The business of posting recipes online (Dreena Burton of Plant-Powered Kitchen): There isn’t a blogger out there who hasn’t had to work through this same emotional mire of seeing their work copied without credit, so it’s great to see a blogger discuss this so openly and yet so positively.

5 Scientifically Verified Reasons You’ll Hate Yourself if You Stop Writing (Chad Allen): “So much of winning at the writing game can be summarized succinctly in the immemorial words of Dory in Finding Nemo: Just keep swimming.”

How I Won 12 Book Awards for My Memoir (Judith Newton on Dianne Jacob’s blog):  Memoir can be a tough category to break-out in, so start here if you’re looking for ways to build buzz for your work!

10 Empowering Writer’s Retreats for Women (Ellen Turner on The Write Life): Feeling a little blah or overwhelmed in your writing life? Sounds like you need a retreat!


What We’re Eating This Week

What’s for dinner? Why, I thought you’d never ask!

Monday: Grilled shrimp greek salads, because Monday.

Tuesday: Chicken fajitas, made with a recipe by my author Robyn of Add a Pinch (Have you preordered her gorgeous book yet? It’s a weeknight lifesaver!)

Wednesday: Spaghetti with salumi and endives, adapted from Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry. Lordy, I love that book.

Thursday: The notes in my phone say: “Asian slow-cooked beef and mushrooms with rice and broccoli and snow peas.” AKA throw everything in the fridge in a pot, cover in sauce, cook, and serve over rice. #fancy

Friday: Last weekend Jarrett and I went to this fabulous event at the Museum of American History about the women behind America’s first cookbooks, and they demoed chicken croquettes and tomato butter sauce from The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph. All I had to hear was “add a stick of butter to the tomato sauce” and, boom, it was added to the meal plan. I’m powerful like that. (But actually, please say a little prayer for me in executing these–I’m cooking them as a birthday dinner for my mother-in-law and want them not to be, as Mary Randolph would put it, intolerable.)

Cheers!

 

how to get a book deal–3 case studies

In case you missed it on Instagram, we got a dog!

literary agent blog

Meet Pepper, the newest addition to our little family. She’s a blue merle Australian Shepherd we adopted through the great folks at City Dogs Rescue, and she loves pets, couch-laying, and Breakfast Jacs. She was rescued from southwestern Virginia (where we visited her in January!) and spent the past two months making, birthing, and mothering 8 beautiful little pups who also went to their forever homes last Sunday.

Pepper’s a hard worker who naps next to me while I work from home. Anybody know of a part-time job I could sign her up for?

literary agent blog

In publishing news, we’re right in the thick of submissions season, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the kinds of authors I want to help grow. I mentioned in this post how important engagement and voice is for getting a book deal—it’s not enough to just have a huge platform anymore.

But the trickiest thing for me to explain when I’m chatting with potential authors is the exact configuration of attributes I want in a client. And that’s because (of course!) there is no one answer. Which brings me back to the standard publishing answer: it depends.

So, instead of rattling off a long list of things I like to see in potential authors who are ready for a book, I want to talk today about how diverse—wonderfully diverse!—the paths to success can be. There is such a complex interplay of platform, concept, storytelling/perspective that makes a project attractive, and my job is to help authors see where they can most shine.

Lately I’ve been thinking of a well-rounded book as:

platform + concept + storytelling = a great read.

Each of those three elements, while always present, can step into the foreground or recede into the background depending on each author’s particular talents.

But the only way to make this concept fully come to life is to tell you the stories of a few of my first-time authors and how they got their book deals. My hope is that these case studies will bring into the light something we don’t talk often enough about:

There is no one path to success.

There is no one right way to get a book deal. There is no checklist or step-by-step plan that will guarantee your success (and often, one-size-fits-all approaches can stifle the uniqueness that’s vital to success).

And though we do build deep reservoirs of best practices over many years of working with authors, every one of my authors has different goals and therefore deserves a different strategy. After all, not every book exists for the same reason, so why should every author get a book deal for the same reason? That’s what I hope these case studies will show—how to get a book deal that fits your particular strengths.

How to get a book deal

A few things to keep in mind about these book deal case studies:

  • All three books sold at auction with advances in the $75,000-$100,000 range.
  • All three authors were first-time authors who built their platforms, from scratch, on their own—they were regular people who, day in and day out, started to share their work, build an audience, and earn the respect of their communities. No celebrities here!
  • All three authors received very different proposal treatments—again, one-size-fits-all just doesn’t work!—which highlighted their particular strengths and helped them get their book deals.
  • All three book deals were cookbooks sold to publishers in 2016. I wanted to remove the variables that exist between different categories and from year-to-year as the market changes, so that those fluctuations wouldn’t interfere with illustrating how these projects were valuated.

Book Deal #1:

This author is a talented photographer whose photos dazzled editors. She also has a fascinating, unconventional life story and wrote a proposal which one editor told me brought her to tears. It was a visually beautiful, highly personal proposal that showcased the author’s strength as a forward-thinking recipe developer, a skilled photographer, and a rising star in food media. The editor that acquired this project told me that she fell in love with the author’s unique perspective and story, and that it was this unique point-of-view, rather than platform metrics, which ultimately won over her team and allowed her to offer competitively on the project.

Traffic: 100,000-200,000 page views per month

Social media reach: Around 50,000 followers across platforms

Press: Heavily buzzed about in top-tier food media; writes regularly for a major-market newspaper

Speaking engagements: Regularly invited by colleagues to speak on food culture panels and at conferences

Awards: Recently received 3 high-profile, national awards

Connections: Very well-connected and has real friendships with movers and shakers in the food community; foreword contributed by a top food writer

Takeaway: This author’s storytelling and unique voice are what pushed her project over the top, but she had the necessary foundation of a strong concept and critical acclaim to back it up.

Book Deal #2:

This author has an incredibly popular blog, where millions of readers come again and again because they love her practical approach to home cooking. Her readers love her recipes because they work every time, and they know they can trust her with their time and their ingredients. The concept was highly practical yet elegant, and it offered a new perspective and new insight on how to cook more easily at home. The book is also targeted to the average home cook—a very broad audience. The author’s large and engaged platform was a clear sign that she was already winning the trust and admiration of readers—readers who would be eager and excited to buy her cookbook, just as editors were excited to buy the cookbook proposal.

Traffic: 4 million page views a month

Social media reach: Around 800,000 followers across platforms, as well as an email list of over 100,000 with extremely high engagement

Press: A long list of print and online outlets who had featured her work

Speaking engagements: None

Awards: None

Connections: Had a great list of high-profile connections who were willing to review an early copy of the book for possible endorsement

Takeaway: This author’s very large platform clearly shows that she is already producing recipes and writing that readers think is worth their time. Yet it was crucial that we still come up with a concept that did something new, without going so niche that we created a book only a segment of her readership would like. The author’s emphasis on telling engaging stories with her recipes and sharing snippets of her life also brought the world of this cookbook (and cookbook proposal) to life.

Book Deal #3:

This author is very well-known in his particular niche in the food blogging community. His writing is personal, authentic, and vulnerable, and therefore his readership, though on the smaller side, is highly engaged and supportive of all his new projects. He was also able to identify a significant trend in the food blogging world that hadn’t yet been explored in a full-length cookbook and to make a very convincing argument as to why he was the expert in this particular niche. Ultimately, editors were excited about this proposal because it offered something new—it had an entirely unique angle that both filled a hole in the marketplace and fulfilled a real need in people’s lives.

Traffic: 500,000 page views a month

Social media reach: Around 45,000 followers across platforms

Press: Some online press, but particularly strong brand partnerships that were relevant to the book concept

Speaking engagements: None

Awards: None

Connections: Well-connected to other bloggers within his niche

Takeaway: For this project, concept was king. It’s so rare to find a real hole in the marketplace, especially because we also need to show that it’s a hole people actually want filled! Yet this author was savvy enough to carve a niche for himself in this space and to use his great personality and real-life stories to build a small, but mighty audience for himself.

 

As you can see, all of these authors had one leading strength (platform, concept, or storytelling), but they had to exhibit all three of those elements to be well-rounded authors. And even though their paths (and stats!) were incredibly different, they all received fantastic book deals with great publishers, and even more importantly, they’re all well-positioned to make their books successful.

This is why it’s pointless to compare your path to anyone else’s, and it’s also why I hope you never forget that:

Your book is unique. Your platform is unique. Your path is unique. Don’t try to change that. 🙂

 

Want more? Read this case study of how one author had her second book pre-empted by a Big 5 publisher! 

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What I’m Reading This Week:

Organized Enough is here! (Amanda Sullivan): We celebrated the release of Organized Enough last week with my client, Amanda Sullivan, at a packed reading and book signing at The Corner Bookstore! This is the book to buy if “get organized” was one of your New Year’s resolutions. Amanda is equal parts wise and gracious, and her advice is that gentle kick in the tush you need to finally get organized enough. (And if you think I’m just being biased, watch her in action yourself on WPIX!)

A Brown Kitchen (Nik Sharma): A huge congratulations to my client Nik Sharma whose San Francisco Chronicle column, A Brown Kitchen was just nominated for an IACP award! If you don’t already follow his blog, why not start now?

The Truth About The New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists (Tim Grahl): Tim Grahl has updated this essential read to reflect new changes that are happening with “The List,” as we call the NYT list. This is exactly why I always hesitate to let authors get too attached to “hit the NYT list” as a goal. There are just too many variables, and the hard truth is that it does matter who your publisher is, who you are, and whether your book is being “watched”–it’s not just about copies sold.

How to Read More and Internet Less (Danika Ellis for BookRiot): “At some point–usually while taking Buzzfeed quizzes–I know I’m no longer even enjoying myself and would benefit immensely from just picking up a book instead, but I can’t seem to resist the siren song of the internet. Maybe you have amazing self control and never find yourself in that mess, but just in case, I thought I would share some ways that have worked for me in limiting my internet use and maximizing my reading time.”

7 Useful Insights for Savvy Book Marketers from Digital Book World 2017 (Goodreads Blog): Graphs, charts, and snippets of takeaways: all the DBW nerding-out you could want!

Where to Find Opportunities to Teach (and Supplement Your Writing Income) (Eric Maisel on JaneFriedman.com): Teaching others is a fantastic way to both build your platform and help others along the way, but just like with anything else, it usually takes starting small to grow this facet of your portfolio and platform.

A Vanderbilt Library Comes to Life (CJ Lotz for Garden & Gun): We adored visiting the Vanderbilt library when we were there in January, but we just missed this fantastic exhibit: “A new exhibition at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, ‘Designed for Drama: Fashion from the Classics,’ opens February 10 and pays tribute to George Vanderbilt’s love of literature by presenting a selection of his favorite tomes alongside more than forty costumes from their screen adaptions.”


What We’re Eating

Monday: We were off work for President’s Day and focused on settling in with Pepper, so naturally, all three of us ate a lot of hot dogs and not much else.

Tuesday: We received our extra-early air freight copies of the Add a Pinch cookbook, and so we’ll be eating Robyn’s delicious food all week! This book is so full of heart and good food and sweet stories, and your home will be a little happier if you add this book to your collection. (Not to mention the fact that we had THE BEST of all time short rib tacos on Tuesday night using Robyn’s slow cooker short rib recipe. There were words had at the dinner table over the last scraps of meat–even Pepper was drooling all over the floor over them!)

Wednesday: Robyn’s Jambalaya, also from Add a Pinch. And you know because it’s Wednesday that this is an extra-easy, one-pot recipe.

Thursday: I’m at a volunteering shift, so leftover Jambalaya it is. (The crowds rejoice.)

Friday: Baked Chicken Spaghetti from Add a Pinch. I’ve never had Southern-style Baked Chicken Spaghetti, but you know you can’t go wrong when something like spaghetti is South-ified.

Cheers!

Read More

6 bookish instagram accounts to inspire you

Best book Instagram for writers

Now that we’re back from our epic Appalachian road trip, I am kicking myself that I didn’t take more pictures! I’ve always been one of those stay-in-the-moment rather than capture-the-moment types, which is all well and good until you’re home from a fantastic trip and don’t have a single thing to look back on.

Luckily, Jarrett is great at taking pictures along the way–he captured the gorgeous mountain views, the fog rolling through the hills, the happy reunion we had with our grandpuppies, and even the working moments. We also had so many uncaptured, incredibly fun moments of eating, drinking, and meeting with local chefs and producers across western Virginia, eastern Tennessee, and western North Carolina.

IMG_1733 IMG_1758

IMG_1759 IMG_1760

So, in the hopes that you all learn from my mistakes and take photos of favorite moments, I thought I’d share the photographers who most inspire me on Instagram.

I know many writers initially think Instagram isn’t for them–they chalk it off as frivolous or just another distraction. But Instagram can be a key pillar of your author platform if you learn how to make it fun. It’ll give you right back as much as you put into it–if you following aspiring authors, book bloggers, publishing folks, or other influencers in your area, your feed will be full of all the things you find interesting. If you don’t follow too many people, or you don’t share photos and use hashtags strategically, you’ll find Instagram to be a boring, closed-universe space.

There are only two things you need to do to both enjoy Instagram and use it to effectively grow your audience:

  1. Research and follow the people and businesses you find fascinating.

  2. Share your own life, and use the right hashtags so others can find you.

Here’s a head-start on both of those items–these are the feeds I’m going heart-eyes for these days, plus the best hashtags for jumping into the bookish conversation on Instagram:

Obvious State

Best book instagram
This is one of the most gorgeous feeds, full of elegant images and inspiring quotes from classic books. You can also bring the book beauty home with the company’s art prints, tote bags, and other merchandise, which are designed by Nichole and Evan Robertson.

Book Baristas

best instagram for books

Natasha from Book Baristas works at Penguin Books by day but also runs this fantastic account full of hot drinks and hotter reads.

Girls at Library

best instagram for books

I love the interviews and different perspectives on how books + storytelling has shaped the lives of other women (with lots of beautiful still-life shots of women reading!).

Write Now Podcast

best instagram for books

The Write Now Instagram feed is my favorite for inspiring quotes, beautiful images, and motivation for the writing life. It’ll keep you clued in on what’s happening on the Write Now Podcast, too.

Book of the Month Club

best instagram for books

Even if you don’t get their book-in-a-box subscription service, the Book of the Month Instagram feed still has plenty to fill up your day with reading inspiration.

Books and Beans

best instagram for books

Books. Coffee. Sometimes even donuts. What more could you want?

The Hashtags You Should Know

To get the most enjoyment and conversation out of Instagram, make sure you’re also including relevant hashtags with your posts. This is how new people can find you, and it’s a great way to make Insta-friends with people who love the same things you do.

Here are some of the most popular book hashtags:

#bibliophile #booklover #bookphotography #bookworm #booknerd #reading #readwithus #bookblog #bookblogger #bookish #bookaddict #igreads #bookstagram #vscobook #bookporn #instagood #booknerdigans #instareads #📖 #📚 #writing #books #vscobooks #bookgram #booklover #publishing #wip #amwriting #pubtip #authors #writers #bookpublishing #instagood

And here are a few daily hashtags to play with:

#MondayMotivation
#WriterWednesday
#ThrowbackThursday
#FridayReads

And because you know you’ll also be tempted to post photos of your food, here are some of the top food and recipe hashtags:

#buzzfeast #eeeeeats #f52grams #foodgasm #instagood #feedfeed #foodandwine #huffposttaste #buzzfeedfood #yahoofood #instafood #fwx #thekitchn #thatsdarling #foodblogeats #foodblogfeed #foodandwine #beautifulcuisines #favecraves #theeverygirl #marthafood #RSlove

Are there any other Instagrammers I should be following? Or any great hashtags I’m missing out on?


What I’m Reading This Week:

How I Wrote a Book (Erin Loechner of Design for Mankind): Here are 15 tidbits that answer how Erin Loechner wrote her just-released book, Chasing Slow. I adore this cover, and this concept, and though I’m new to Erin’s work, I love every bit of her aesthetic.

Publishing a Cookbook: Food Photography, Part Two (Rachel and Polly of Thriving Home): My authors, Rachel and Polly, have been doing a fantastic behind-the-scenes series on the making of their cookbook, and this post will give you a great look into how publisher-run recipe shoots work. (Yes, they actually cook every dish! And eat it all, too.)

3 Strategies to Guarantee Your Writing Will Attract an Audience (Chad Allen on Medium): “Here’s a question worth asking: If you knew for sure the next piece you published would attract readers, would you still feel aimless? Would you write with more energy and excitement? Would you be less likely to procrastinate?”

Adult Nonfiction Stayed Hot in 2016 (Jim Milliot for Publisher’s Weekly): Understanding the macro of the book market is just as important as understanding the trends and changes in your specific category. If nothing else, it’ll give you clear insight into which categories editors and agents will be expanding their lists into and which categories they’ll be slowing down on.


What We’re Eating This Week

Monday: We were in Asheville on Monday, and we had dinner at The Admiral, which completely lived up to its rep. Get the pimento mac & cheese.

Tuesday: We were spent from touring The Biltmore House, lunching at King Daddy’s Chicken and Waffles, and beer-ing at Wicked Weed, so we had a quiet and simple meal in the Library Lounge at the Biltmore Inn.

Wednesday: Dinner at The Shack in Staunton, Virginia! The best meal of our trip. I am hugely happy to see restaurants of this caliber expanding into the wide world that exists outside of the major cities.

Thursday: Back at home. Penitence salad for dinner.

Friday: Penitence soup.

Saturday: Back to the revelry–we’re having a crew of friends over for an Appalachian themed potluck. I’ll leave you with this image of what we’re serving them:

IMG_1762

Cheers!

We’re going on an Appalachian road trip!

Jarrett and I have decided to be wildly irresponsible (well, by our standards) and take a few days off to go on an epic Appalachian road trip. We’ve been wanting to trek down the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, from Virginia into North Carolina, for a long time, but when Jarrett gifted me Victuals by Ronni Lundy, we stopped dreaming and started planning.

 ronni lundy book cover victuals

Victuals is such a gorgeous book. It inspires that feeling of awe in me that only a beautiful book, full of heart and story and soul, can instill.

I’d asked Jarrett for a book on traditional Virginia cooking for Christmas, since I figured it was about time to build that section of my library now that we’ve lived here for several years. I was expecting The Virginia Housewife by Mrs. Mary Randolph, published in 1824 and considered to be the first truly American cookbook. But now I’ve fallen straight in love with the modern warmth of Victuals and the incredible profiles of chefs, farmers, and everyday folks who are revitalizing the food systems of Appalachia.

If you love the South, or you love good Southern food, or you read Hillbilly Elegy and wanted to learn more, or you just want to bring something new into your kitchen, Victuals is just what you need. (And no, I didn’t represent this book—I just love it!)

You know a book is fantastic when it inspires you to get up off the couch and drive out to all of the places it’s talking about. As soon as we realized Jarrett would be able to take two weeks off before starting his new think tank job, we started scheming for an adventure. So we’re packing up our little (and currently stinky) hatchback, heading straight west from Alexandria, and then winding down Skyline Drive through the mountains, pointing straight to Asheville.

Along the way, we’re hoping to stop at:

Three Notch’d Brewery and Brothers Craft Brewing (Harrisonburg, VA)

The Shack (Staunton, VA)

Dip Dog Stand (Marion, VA, where we’ll also be visiting our future newest addition to the family, Pepper, who just had 8 pups but will be joining our little family in February! Also, how perfect is it that there’s a legendary slaw dog joint where our future doggie lives? You know that made me too happy.)

The Red Hen (Lexington, VA)

Ralph Stanley Museum (Clintwood, VA)

Everything in Blacksburg, VA

The Palisades (Eggleston Springs, VA—another Victual recommendation)

Seeing what there is to see in Johnson City, TN

Picking up Farm & Sparrow bread (Asheville, NC)

Rhubarb (Asheville, NC [because I couldn’t talk Jarrett into detouring out to Blackberry Farm])

NOT 12 Bones Smokehouse because they are closed and all our hearts are broken.

 

We have a few nights booked at The Omni Homestead in Hot Springs, VA and at The Biltmore in Asheville, but other than that we’re going to Hotel Tonight it. (Has anyone used this app before? It will be our first time!)

And for once, we’re throwing caution to the wind and not planning every day of the trip. This makes me both nervous and excited. I usually like to have every hotel night booked, every sight slotted into the calendar, every meal reservation booked. But if there’s ever a time in our lives we can wander and a place we can do so without getting hopelessly lost, it’s this trip now.

So follow along with us on Instagram as we get lost in Appalachia!

In the meantime, because you know I wouldn’t take off and leave you empty-bellied, here’s a fantastic recipe that I adapted from Victuals, as well as an interlude from Jarrett on how to properly and non-psychopathically care for a vintage cast iron skillet.

Potato and Kale Cakes


kale potato cakes recipe victuals ronni lundy

Recipe adapted from Victuals by Ronni Lundy

Serves 6

3 pounds russet or other starchy potatoes
Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds kale, washed and chopped
Olive oil
5 green onions
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano, or another hard, nutty cheese
4 eggs, beaten

Put a large pot of salted water over high heat. While it comes to a boil, peel and cube the potatoes. Drop the potatoes in the boiling water and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

As the potatoes boil, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a heavy cast iron skillet. Add as much kale as will fit in your skillet, cook until it just begins to wilt (don’t overcook it!), remove to a bowl, and repeat until all the kale is cooked.

Drain the potatoes and mash them roughly in a large bowl, then add the cooked kale. Finely chop and add the green onions and grate about 1/2 cup of pecorino romano or another hard cheese directly into the bowl. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Add the beaten eggs and mix well, then form into patties about 3 inches across and 1 inch thick.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in your cast iron skillet and fry the patties, working in batches and being careful not to crowd the pan.

Serve with some Duke’s Mayo whipped in with ketchup and whole grain mustard, or with a few fried eggs on top.

kale potato cakes recipe victuals ronni lundy

See how grubby and greasy that cast iron skillet is? That’s why we have Jarrett here to tell us how to clean it the simple way!

The Sane Person’s Guide to Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet

Maria and I were lucky to receive a beautiful, vintage Griswold cast iron skillet for Christmas. A close friend–an auctioneer, of course!–found one of these beauties for us after we had told him we were on the lookout. And yes, having a well-made cast iron skillet makes all the difference.

Old-fashioned, vintage skillets (brands like Wagner and Griswold) are superior to the modern-day Lodges of the world. The iron for these older skillets was cast through a process that made for smoother and more consistent iron surfaces, which means a more durable skillet and a better cooking experience, with more even heat.

Although Wagners and Griswolds are sadly no longer manufactured, you can find them at auctions or on sites like Ebay. Happily, there are also some new companies, like Virginia-made Butter Pat Inc., that are making skillets via the old-fashioned method. You can expect to pay more, but at least you’ll be getting your money’s worth, too.

Now that we have this glorious hunk of iron, we had to figure out how to clean a cast iron skillet properly. But as anyone who has Googled how to clean a cast iron skillet knows, you can read about this stuff until you’re blue in the face. The think-pieces about how to clean a cast iron skillet are legion–for example, J. Kenji López-Alt has written not just one, but two 2,000-word essays on the topic. He even claims that the cardinal rule of cast iron maintenance–never use soap–is actually wrong. (If you want to go deep on the subject of how to maintain cast iron, both pieces are great reads.)

But all of this pontificating on skillets makes using one seem like a hassle, which is a shame since you can cook so many awesome things in skillets (including Maria’s recipe above, or this Founding Farmer’s Cornbread!). So, today, Maria and I have for you:

The Simple Way to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

Here we lay out a few, simple rules, which we’ve distilled from the advice of Brian, our auctioneer friend who has sold and taken care of dozens of vintage, highly valuable cast iron skillets over the years. If these rules are good enough for the precious Griswold and Wagner cast iron skillets he deals in, then they’re good enough for me!

Here’s all you really need to do:

  • After using your cast iron skillet, just wipe it clean with a dry cloth or paper towel.
  • If the skillet is extra grubby, you can scour it with a damp paper towel or with coarse salt.
  • If the cast iron skillet still isn’t getting clean, boil a small amount of water in the skillet until it evaporates and then wipe or scour again.
  • Once finished cleaning, rub lightly with any neutral oil, such as vegetable oil.

And that’s it! All you really need to know to clean your cast iron skillet easily is this simple 2 step process: wipe/scour + oil.

By the way, we stay away from soap–it’s unnecessary if you follow the above steps. Added bonus: you won’t have to choose sides in the heated soap vs. no-soap debate.

Happy cooking & cleaning!