The Right Time to Write A Book

Dianne-JacobThere are seven billion folk populating the world. Of those seven billion, Dianne Jacob is at the very top of my list of favorite people.

I learn something new every time I read her blog, and I enthusiastically recommend her book, Will Write for Food, to all my students at The Culinary Institute of America.

Dianne is always wonderfully helpful and full of advice. Here she is in her own words, responding to the question:

“How do you know when you should write a book? You don’t, necessarily. Sometimes you just forge ahead because you’re boneheaded or obsessed with such subjects as fermentation or charcuterie … or food writing.

I fell into both categories of personality. I was teaching food writing in 2004 when a student called to say that the head of the school made an offhand remark about me at a party: “I wish Dianne had a book on food writing.  It would give her so much more credibility.”

That’s all I needed to hear. I had already met with an agent and I sent her my book proposal a few months later, in the spring.  We had interest from four editors, with the first three offering exactly the same advance:

  • One publisher wanted to publish my book the following year, which meant I would submit the manuscript in the fall.
    Not much time!
  • One editor wanted me to write twice as big a book.
  • One editor wanted me to take my time, and the book would come out 2 ½ years later!
  • The last editor wanted me to write about food writing from my own perspective, without quoting other people.

The first offer made the most sense. As for the others, why write a book that was twice as big or took twice long to come out, for the same money? And I wasn’t comfortable with the last idea, since I was not the world’s most famous food writer, by a long shot.

It was summer, and I was all ready to dive in when my mother died the beginning of June. I didn’t really begin writing and interviewing the 75 luminaries I had chosen until August, yet turned in an 80,000-word manuscript at the beginning of November. (That’s 320 double-spaced 8-½ x 11-inch pages.) I don’t recommend this approach to writing a book. Still, Will Write for Food came out in 2005 and sold well.

Will Write for Food_smallIn 2008 I realized I needed to update the book, because I hadn’t covered food blogging. Today food bloggers make up the majority of food writers in the world. So I started a blog to find out what it was like, and added a 27,000-word chapter on blogging for the new edition, which came out in 2010.

I may write a third edition for 2015. What to change this time? Blogging has exploded, bloggers want to know how to make money as food writers, and hardly any professional restaurant reviewers remain.

I’ve got my work cut out for me. If you have suggestions for what else I might cover, I’d love to read them. Food writing continues to intrigue the food-obsessed like you and me, so I’ll never run out of material.”