January is the month of new beginnings. How about trying a new recipe? Please meet Deborah Smith:
Question 1- When and how did you start writing? I’ve always loved to write. I won my first writing award in 3rd grade for a short story about a great flood. Little did I know that I’d live through the real thing in 2012. I wrote and took creative writing classes in High School and College. I never thought my first book would be a cookbook. That’s for sure.
Question 2 – How did the idea for the Jersey Shore Cookbook evolve?
Funny story, my publisher reached out to me. I got a call from an unknown number and let it go to voicemail. I forgot about the call and listened to the message hours later. The woman who would become my editor was reaching out to pitch the book idea to me and ask me if I’d like to write it. (PS this hardly ever if never happens in publishing.) My response was, Hell Yeah!
Question 2- What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?
Well, I knew nothing about negotiating contracts with publishers. I mean nothing. Luckily, I have a friend who is a published author, and she gave me a recommendation for a copyright attorney. The second challenge was the crazy tight deadline the publisher required. I literally had to collect 50 recipes from 50 restaurants, test and make those recipes reliable then interview and write 50 short stories about each restaurant in 3 months. This was on top of my full-time work. I had to get very efficient, very quickly. Contacting and convincing the restaurants to participate was one of the hardest tasks. I secured my 50th restaurant a week before the manuscript was due.
Question 3-What advice would you give to other aspiring authors?
Grow your following on social media and/or through a blog. Publishers today are looking for authors who have platforms in place through which they can market their own books. My blog JerseyBites.com and my social media following is what lead the publisher to me. Also, look at self-publishing options. While it’s nice to have a traditional publisher believe in you, many times you will keep more control over your book concept and money earned by self-publishing.
Question 4- What lessons did you learn during the writing and publishing process?
I learned that I did not know everything about book marketing. When the publisher showed me the mockup of the cover, I was very disappointed. Nothing about it said “food” to me. A photo of Steel Pier in Atlantic City on the cover of a cookbook? Why? Well, they won that battle and if I had a nickel for every time since that someone has said to me “I love the cover” I’d be a rich woman. The Publisher was right. Without food on the cover, my book pops out among the sea of cookbooks in the bookstore. It also calls to customers in gift shops. It lets the consumer know; this is not just a cookbook.
Question: What exciting or surprising moments came from publishing your book?
The first moment that comes to mind always is my appearance on QVC with David Venable. That was a thrill. Since QVC is broadcast live, you have to go for a day’s training before appearing on the show. The night of the show, their food stylists created about 10 dishes from the book. It was such a beautiful display. We sold thousands of books that night and many others went to Amazon to purchase it. It was such a successful week for my book that The Jersey Shore Cookbook was named in the top 20 Best Selling Nonfiction Hardcovers by Publisher’s Weekly that week. Now that was a surprise to everyone.
Question 5- What’s in the future for you in writing?
I have a fantastic idea for another cookbook in the same vein as the Jersey Shore Cookbook. I’m pretty certain it will be even more popular. I’m now searching for a new publisher to work with.