If you follow me on Twitter you’ll have heard lots of tweets over the past few months about the development of ‘A Slice of Cherry Pie’ the cookbook, along with various conversations and banter with my publisher ‘Absolute Press’ who are also now on Twitter (www.twitter.com/absolute_press). You’ll therefore probably have a fair idea of where I am with the book, but I thought it was about time I updated everyone on the blog and gave a little more insight into the publishing process and the journey I’m on, as I know so many of you are interested this aspect.
So, where am I? Well the manuscript, which is in fact called a typescript these days but that’s far less romantic so I’ll stick with tradition if you don’t mind, has been completed and sent off. But have I left it alone? Not in the slightest. I keep reading and re-reading it, making little amendments here and there, and then I print it off, read it again on the train on the way to work, and make yet more amendments. “Is it ok if I make just a few more changes?” I hesitantly type into yet another email to Matt, the Art Director-come-author-liaison-officer/crisis-manager/hand-holder/shrink. “Yes, tinker if you must!” he replies in good humour.
Oh yes, I’m most definitely finding it hard to let go of. You see, it feels a little like my baby, my first one and so all the more new and special, and it feels quite strange to hand it over to someone else to look after, even though I know it will be in very good hands. But also, I want it to be perfect in every way, I want to know that I’ve done my very best with it and I want so much for you to like it. And so I check it over and over. Have I specified the correct amount of ingredients? Are there any typos? Have I explained that in the best way? I’m very fortunate in that Absolute Press are very understanding about all this – it seems I’m not alone in finding it hard to let go of a manuscript – and they seem to be all too familiar with the little quirks of authors. Thank goodness.
Manuscript sort of handed over in a tug-of-war type battle between author and publisher, the next part of the development process seems to branch out into three main streams: editing, photography and design. The latter two being the most exciting, because this is when the book starts to feel more real. We’re early on in this stage and I met with Matt on Friday for a rather nice lunch to talk through our design ideas. Without wanting to sound too gushing (that would never do), what I love, in particular, about working with Absolute Press is that this book feels like a real collaboration; they want my input and ideas. I would hate to just hand over the manuscript and have no further input until the book is on the shelves. I’m far too passionate about food, books, this blog and, most importantly, this cookbook of my very own, to have no further involvement. Besides, I really enjoy creative processes. This is one of the things I like so much about recipe development: creating something – a meal, a cake, a sorbet – out of just a few ingredients. In this case the ingredients include the text, the colours, the fonts, the photographs, the ideas, and the little sketches of possible covers, like this one that Matt painstakingly drew over lunch:
As you can see, we have our work cut out for us (kidding, Matt, just kidding; I can see the genius behind the madness!).
We’re in the early stages of design, and the photography and editing haven’t yet started so I’ll tell you more about them as time goes on. In the meantime I thought I’d answer some of the questions you’ve asked me.
What have been the highs and the lows?
The highs have included:
• The reply from my agency telling me they liked my proposal and would love to try to sell my book for me.
• Meeting Jon and Meg from Absolute Press for the first time (see ‘On Meeting my Publisher’) and the subsequent news that they wanted to publish my book.
• Seeing the shelves and shelves of books in the offices of Absolute Press and the realisation that mine would one day be among them.
• The wonderful messages and reactions I received from all of you and from my friends and family when they heard that my book was going to be published.
• Printing the entire manuscript for the first time and reading it from real paper rather than the computer screen.
The lows have included:
• Getting writers block. Yes, it really does happen.
• Trying to perfect some of the recipes, cooking them over again and still not being happy with them, leading to some being discarded.
• The gremlins in my head telling me I couldn’t write my own cookbook, the recipes would be terrible and everyone would hate it. Be gone, you little devils!
How much of the book did you have to have written when you submitted your proposal or was it just a synopsis?
I didn’t have the book written when I wrote the proposal but I had a very good idea of its structure and outline, along with lots of recipe ideas. The proposal contained a fairly detailed synopsis with a full chapter outline and list of example recipes and I followed it with sample material: some of the chapter introductions along with full recipes.
How does the whole photography side of things work? Are you assigned someone by Absolute?
We’re in the process of talking about this now and yes, a photographer will be assigned. I’m very excited about the prospect of a professional photographer taking photographs of my food and making this a beautiful book. We’re also thinking about possibly incorporating some of my own photographs here and there.
Can you write a brief synopsis of the publication process please? I am curious how you go from writing a book to getting it published.
The process varies from author to author and from publisher to publisher but I can tell you what has happened so far in my case. Briefly:
• I wrote a book proposal, outlining my idea for the book, the chapter structure and a synopsis of each, along with some information about the blog and who I am.
• I bought the “Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook”which lists agents and publishers in the UK, and I sent my proposal off to the agency I was interested in signing with.
• The agency expressed interest and signed me!
• The agency approached publishers on my behalf and sent them sample material from the book. Eventually we found the perfect publisher for me and signed with them (hooray!).
• I put my head down for many, many months and worked on the manuscript and developing the recipes.
• The rest you’re hearing about now. Come back and check the blog for more updates over the coming months.
How does the testing work? How do you tweak a recipe if it doesnt seem to work?
I have been meticulous about testing the recipes, personally tested every one many, many times as well as enlisting help from family, friends and colleagues. When I’ve had feedback I’ve tested the recipe again if I need to and made changes where I think necessary. I adjust the recipes in the same way that I develop them: trying a little bit more of this, a little less of that, using my instinct and my senses to check the balance of flavours, textures, colours. Poor Rob has been eating the same recipes over and over this year and but he’s still not sick of them so that must be a good sign!
When will the book be on the shelves?
I don’t have an exact date yet but Absolute Press are anticipating the book being published some time around the end of May/early June next year.
Is it fun?
Yes, it’s incredibly fun! It’s been hard work, there have been ups and downs, but I’ve loved the entire journey so far and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.