Friday, January 30, 2009

Another Book Review

My wife gave me the book Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Restaurant Reviews, Articles, Memoir, Fiction and More by Dianne Jacobs for Christmas. I finished it this week. It is a very well written book. I had a difficult time putting it down, amazing given such a dry and clinical subject.

The book lives up to its title covering everything from from food specific articles for magazines and newspapers to writing recipes for publication to writing about food themed fiction. The book also covers how to break into the various markets, how to get started and how to submit a proposal to an editor. I appreciated that Ms. Jacobs never sugar coated any aspect of being a food writer. This is not an it's-so-easy-if-I-can-do-it-so-can-you! book. She discusses low pay, writing for free, high out of pocket expenses, and low or infrequent reimbursements. She even briefly goes into the basics of expenses and taxes.

In the end as much as I enjoyed the book I also found it equally depressing. Food writing in any form is not a way to make a living. Ms. Jacobs makes no illusions that most freelancers and authors write about food as a part time or second job. I also realized that this work is very much metro-centric. This is a concept that I am only recently beginning to realize and understand. In a small town in rural America there is no market for doing local restaurant or food reviews and unless you are staff at your local newspaper, your submissions will most likely be pro bono, a point Jacobs makes perfectly clear. The cost of travel then for research, of anything food related, not just restaurants to review, becomes cost prohibitive quickly. About the only option open to the small town writer is fiction. And then, after all of that there is pitching your work to an editor, with a 95% rejection rate.

As I said, an excellent book that covers its subject in perfect detail. But for now I guess I'll just stick to my food blog. C'est la vie.


Brook said...

Well, there go my plans. Well, more an I wonder than a plan. Why did you leave the metals industry? Or is that too not food related? By the way going to start sourdough this weekend- in an hour or so as a matter of fact. I forsee eventual yumminess!

Huff Daddy said...

I'm not saying that one should be discouraged after reading the book, I'm just saying it's not easy. I still have ideas for cookbooks but now any ideas for any other publications are shot. If I lived where you do I would be more encouraged. After all, here ethnic cuisine means either all you can eat Chinese buffet or Mexican where #1 is always the Speedy Gonzalez no matter which restaurant you go to.

Read about your brother. I've seen my fair share of those and lucky myself on a few occasions. I was going to try to instill some humor but thought better of it.

Why did I leave the metals industry? Have I really ever left or am I just on sabbatical? I have to think about that.

Let me know on your starter!

Brook said...

Funny is fine, funny is good. My first thought at the time and susequent comment went along the lines of that old joke, "was it your (w)hole finger?" "no, the one next to it". There is humor in nearly everything. And heck, I Asheville is not that much better thatn sticksville really. The only regular food reviews are in a local "free" paper and I am sure those contributers are not greatly compensated. And really who can afford to eat at some of those places anyway. It is trust fund baby mecca here, though I admit there are a few decent mom and pop joints that we go to. And a few REALLY nice places that once or twice a year we make a point to afford for special date nights.
I should have put this on my blog.
Oh well. And cross your fingers for the sourdough cause I am off to get started, have to track back through your linkd to find the recipe-and then favorite it myself! By the way I accidentally deleted your address, could you resend it please? I have a bunny burning a hole in my pocket that has Rose's name on it!

Brook said...

hah! still groovin to your tunes! hah! my veri word is boinch, strangely it seems to fit this situation!

Huff Daddy said...

Well I've always thought I had good taste in music, regardless what other people think.

I have so many CDs and my tastes are so broad that it is easy for me to find music that other people like. Especially something they have never heard of before if they can tell me 3-5 things that they do like. I will tell people that while you may not like all of my music you will at least like some of it. The reverse is not true though. I know people who don't have a single CD I could sit through listening. Their tastes are just to narrow to overlap with mine.