When I retired – correction, chefs never retire – when I left full-time employment in 2016, my prime focus was to write a book. Why not, I had accumulated all this knowledge from years of working within the catering industry, a large chunk of which was from my time spent as a lecturer in culinary arts. Though it was never my intention to produce a cookery book, i.e. the usual format of recipes and beautiful high-quality images of the dishes, I wanted to write about food and cooking: what happens to food when it is prepared and cooked, why do things go wrong, how they can be rectified and what steps can be taken to prevent them happening again in the future, all this and much, much more. During my career, I had developed a keen interest in food science, so much so that it was this which was to form the focus of my book, not at an advanced level but enough to allow me to scope to explain topics on a more technical level. Bringing the content together to create a logical, legible and interesting piece of work was time-consuming but perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the whole project, the actual publishing, was a different matter.
A potential author has basically two choices; one to secure a full publishing contract with a publisher; however the odds of this happening are probably similar to that of winning the national lottery. Publishers invest a considerable amount of time and money in a new book, so much so that they have to be pretty certain that a book will sell and furthermore, given the number of cookery books – hard copy and eBooks out there, the likelihood of getting a contract is extremely slim unless your name is Grant Achatz, Heston Blumenthal or Rene Redzepi. The alternative is self-publishing (nee vanity), this has become very popular in recent years, mainly because a basic book can be published very quickly for as little as about 200 euros, although Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) for example, offer a free online platform which provides all necessary templates, tips and advice for publishing a book from start to finish. This may sound tempting but it does require a considerable amount of time and effort to work through the various processes and stages.
When embarking on self-publishing there are a couple of important considerations. Firstly, copyright, if your book is 100% your own work, that is text, artwork, photographs etc, no problem. However, if you have included ANY work by any other person, regardless of what it is, permission must be sought from the author, creator or artist if you want to avoid being taken to court and sued. Secondly, and really what the success of your book relies upon in terms of sales, is publicity or marketing. Producing a fabulous work of literature with dazzling photos isgreat, but who knows about it? This is where marketing becomes the make or break status of a book and to buy into a marketing, advertising or publicity package can become very costly. Therefore, from the onset, consider how determined are you to publish your book and how much are you prepared to pay to achieve that success. There is considerable information available ‘on-line’ to the would-be author about all aspects of publishing, and as
with many things, the more that you understand about the process the less daunting it becomes.
My advice – first and foremost, don’t be put off by the competition, your book or an aspect of it may be unique, something that can’t be found in any other book. Secondly, push hard for a full publishing contract, approach at least six publishers and don’t wait for a response before sending it to another. Publishers can take up to six months, sometimes longer, before replying with a decision. Thirdly, research your material / content, make sure that it is accurate, current and innovative.
After a couple of failed attempts and over four years later my book ‘On Cooking’ was published by Lulu. In April this year it reached number five in an Amazon review for that genre. I have only sold a few copies, people tell me it is a good book (perhaps they are just being polite). I never thought that it would be a best seller, but I am proud of it and what I have achieved. I pick it up now and again, look through it and still surprise myself by the amount of detail it contains. Would I change anything? Yes, there is always room for updating or improvement. Would I do it all again, yes, definitely.