In episode 329, Megan chats with Sally Ekus, lead agent and co-owner of the Ekus group, about different routes in cookbook publishing and her new course that covers the topic in detail. As an author representative, Sally delves into different publishing routes, including self-publishing, the role of the agent, obstacles authors currently face and tips to overcome them.
We cover information about how an agent can help you in the traditional publishing space, what financial considerations to ponder, how much control you want to have in the making of your book and be certain you have enough content to propose to a publisher and how you should consider if you have a strong audience to share your latest product.
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Bio Sally Ekus is the lead agent and co-owner at The Ekus Group, a full-service culinary agency specializing in Literary and Talent representation. She represents a wide range of culinary, health, wellness, and lifestyle talent, from first-time cookbook authors to seasoned chefs, RDs, professional food writers and bloggers, and internet and YouTube personalities. From concept to contract, she has brokered over 300 book deals with top publishers including Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and numerous indie publishers. To honor The Ekus Group’s 40th anniversary this spring, she launched a self-paced online course called How to Write a Cookbook. Its bite-sized curriculum distills 4 decades of cookbook publishing knowledge into less than 3 hours. Leveraging Sally’s expertise, aspiring authors are already fast-tracking their success by overcoming the steep learning curve of today’s evolving industry climate.
- An agent is a representative on behalf of authors. They advise on the readiness of an idea/proposal. They also are matchmakers to ultimately sell the book with the best overall fit.
- To find an agent, look at the acknowledgements of cookbooks you like or search online, on social media and find out how an agent likes to be queried.
- Personal introductions are great through someone who is already a client of an agent.
- In traditional publishing, you will get an advance towards printing. But the control of the look and feel of the book are not your decisions alone.
- Distribution is assisted by the publisher and they use their contacts to help sell it.
- Write out your content for a proposal to be sure you have enough to ensure a traditional publish is the way to go.
- Do market research and put together a proposal that shows you have thought of ways to affordably publish, use your tools in the best way and show the publisher you have thought through all the angles.
- You can learn about publishing by reading about it, taking a course, listening to podcasts and following publishers and agents online.
- Proof of concept vs 100’s of followers on social media is more valuable in a proposal to your agent and thus the publishers.
- Everything Cookbook podcast (TONS of great—and free!—info)
- Dianne Jacob’s newsletter (she is a go to proposal coach should you want to work one on one with someone to which there are pros and cons)
- Our agency’s book proposal guidelines which will walk you through each part of your proposal and could be pitched to any agent as these are universal expectations for cookbooks
- Our How to Write a Cookbook course! (paid and self-paced) this is a self-directed version of the workshop Jessica did.
- Jane Friedman Publishing info beyond culinary
- How to be a Cookbook Author FB Group
Listen in as Sally Ekus shares in episode 211 about when to consider publishing a cookbook.
Click for full script.
Sally Ekus: Hi, this is Sally Ekus from the Ekus group, and you’re listening to the Eat Blog Talk podcast.
Sponsor: Hey, awesome food bloggers. Before we dig into this episode, I have a really quick favor to ask you. Go to your favorite podcast player. Go to Eat Blog Talk, scroll down to the bottom where you see the ratings and review section. Leave Eat Blog Talk a five star rating if you love this podcast and leave a great review. This will only benefit this podcast. It adds value. I so very much appreciate your efforts with this. Thank you so much for doing this. Okay. Now on to the episode.
Megan Porta: Hey, food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, the podcast for food bloggers, looking for the value and confidence that will move the needle forward in their businesses. This episode is sponsored by RankIQ. I’m your host, Megan Porta, and you are listening to episode number 329. Today I have Sally Ekus with me. I’m super excited to have a follow up conversation. She’s going to go over cookbook publishing 201 as a follow up to her initial episode, which was cookbook publishing 101. So this will be a little bit more advanced.
Sally Ekus is the lead agent and co-owner at the Ekus group, a full service culinary agency, specializing in literary and talent representation. She represents a wide range of culinary health, wellness, and lifestyle talent. From first time cookbook authors to seasoned chefs, RD’S, professional food writers and bloggers and internet and YouTube personalities. From concept to contract, she has brokered over 300 book deals with top publishers, including Penguin, Random House, Harper Collins, hashtag, Simon and Schuster and numerous indie publishers. To honor the eco group’s 40th anniversary this spring, she launched a self-paced online course called How to Write a Cookbook. It’s bite size curriculum distills four decades of cookbook publishing knowledge into less than three hours. Leveraging Sally’s expertise, aspiring authors are already fast tracking their success by overcoming the steep learning curve of today’s evolving industry climate. Sally, it’s such a pleasure to have you back on the podcast. How are you doing today?
Sally Ekus: I’m good. Megan, thank you so much for having me back. I love talking about this stuff.
Megan Porta: Yes, I know you do. I can always hear and feel your passion. So I’m excited to get into this. I’ve personally been hearing a lot of talk about cookbook publishing in our space. So I think this will be really relevant. But first, before we start digging into that, do you have a second fun fact to share with us?
Sally Ekus: Yeah, so I was thinking, in my other life, before I did this type of publishing hospitality, I was on the server side of the hospitality industry. I worked for two summers on Nantucket for a very swanky family, where I got to be a part of fun catering events. For one of them, it provided me the opportunity to meet Jim Carrey. I gotta clean up his trash and it was awesome. He’s so nice and so funny. Not only did I get to clean up his trash at the beach party, but I also got to talk with him.
Megan Porta: Oh, my gosh. Okay. Tell me a detail. What do you remember most about him?
Sally Ekus: I remember his smile and kindness because we were, and in Nantucket you can drive on certain beaches with permits. So you put the pressure down in your car tires. And I was driving one car and there was a car in front of me. And. We’re trying to figure out which way to go on the beach. I distinctly remember the car in front of me paused to see which way we should go. Somebody got out of the driver’s seat, turned around, looked at me and did that gesture of like, shoulders up, which way to go. It was him and he was just smiling and looking so happy. I was like, I have no idea which way to go. Jim Carrey’s asking me for directions.
Megan Porta: That is the coolest thing ever. I love when people meet celebrities and they’re actually really kind and genuine. I love that. He seems super quirky, but just someone that you would wanna hang out with.
Sally Ekus: Totally.
Megan Porta: Fun and creative and kind.
Sally Ekus: Exactly.
Megan Porta: Super cool. I love that and you came up with that on the fly, so great job.
Sally Ekus: Thank you. Thank you.
Megan Porta: Yes. Okay. Let’s dig into cookbooks. You are so passionate about this and you have a long standing history with this topic. I guess we can start out just by doing a refresher on having you talk about what an agent is and where food bloggers could find one if they’re interested in publishing a cookbook.
Sally Ekus: Sure. So an agent is a representative on behalf of the author. So my clients are authors. An agent represents the author and your book concept to a publisher. We also advise on the readiness of a book proposal for sale. So I work with clients on the development of their idea and the comprehensiveness of their proposal. Then one of the things I love about being an agent is the matchmaking side of it. So as an agent, we’re matching the book with the best editor for the project. Then ultimately the agent is selling the book and negotiating the contract with the publisher. As part of this process, agents may analyze industry trends and have these established relationships with editors in different publishing houses. So ultimately an agent is an author representative. And where to find them, I’m pretty active on social media. Some agents are. Not all literary agents specialize in culinary representation either. So you wanna take a look at bios, websites, what people are looking for and how they like to be queried. Ultimately you could also take a look in the acknowledgement section of some of your colleagues cookbooks, because oftentimes an agent will be thanked. You can also find agents on industry sites like publishers marketplace, which I just learned from a different podcast, The Everything Cookbooks podcast that you can actually subscribe for just one day to look at the different book deals. So I didn’t realize that and it’s a great tool to do some research. You can also find agents at conferences and different industry events.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Or you can just call Sally.
Sally Ekus: Please don’t. No, just kidding. You can, just call me. Absolutely. But before you do, please take a look at the types of books I represent, what I’m looking for and how I like to be queried.
Megan Porta: Yeah. That’s awesome advice. I loved that little piece you said about looking in the backs of books or where people are thanking, because they usually think they’re agents. That’s such a great little tip. I love that.
Sally Ekus: Yeah. Oftentimes too new clients will come to me through existing clients. So it’s pretty uncommon at this point because our agency has been around for 40 years and I’ve been agenting for maybe 13 or 14 years now. It’s pretty uncommon that somebody would be pitching me that I don’t at least know through a current client. So talk to your colleagues and say, Hey, I have this idea. Who’s your agent? Are they taking on new clients? Would you be willing to make an introduction? Then on the other side of that, I’m getting an email from my author saying, Hey so and so reached out to me. My clients know me best. They know how I like to work. So is this the right time to query you? Are you taking on new projects? Then they would make a personal introduction. I think that’s really the most likely avenue for us to be meeting new clients at this point. Although not entirely the only possibility.
Megan Porta: Okay. Perfect. Then something else I’ve been hearing thrown around lately is which route to go. So do you traditionally publish a book? Do you self-publish? Can you go through each of those and maybe what the benefits are?
Sally Ekus: Yeah it’s a really personal decision in terms of what your specific career goals are. Ultimately both paths, traditional publishing and self-publishing are gonna result in a beautifully printed book that you can hold in your hands and that you can sell. Some key differences are how that book comes to the shelf and how the book is sold. There are many differences between the two different paths, but I talk endlessly about the three primary considerations. The first being financial. In traditional publishing, a publisher is gonna offer you it in advance. Then self-publishing, you are your publisher. You are financing the publishing of your book. To what extent is far more nuanced, but ultimately, do you have the funds to back your book or do you wanna be paid in advance? People are probably listening and thinking, definitely wanna be paid to write my book. I don’t wanna pay for this myself. However, that leads me to the second consideration, which is control. I mean that in the best sense of the word. Do you wanna control the look and feel of your book? Do you wanna control who’s doing the editing? Do you wanna control how it’s laid out and designed? Especially for food bloggers, you have a really specific brand on your site. You have a really specific voice. No matter what a publisher says, you wanna take your own photos. Photos are like a whole other can of worms that we can open if we want. But generally speaking, if you wanna drive that bus, which is an analogy I use in the course, if you wanna be in that driver’s seat of publishing your own book, you wanna self publish. If you wanna be just in the passenger seat, like heavily directing which way to go, Jim Carey and I , but ultimately someone else is leading the charge, then traditional publishing is the way for you. Then the third consideration is distribution. In traditional publishing the publisher is bringing distribution to the table. So they have relationships with sales teams across the board. Your book is gonna be sold in bookstores and specialty accounts, which are non-traditional bookstore accounts. In self-publishing you are your book seller. So it is your job to get your book listed on deeply discounted online retailers that are highly trafficked that rhyme with shmamamazon or going to your local bookstore and getting it carried there. But ultimately, you might end up with a bunch of books in your garage. So three primary considerations, although there’s many nuances across the board.
Megan Porta: I can see the control piece being a big one for food bloggers, since we totally do typically like to have control over our content.
Sally Ekus: Little sidebar known fact about a very well known food blogger who has gone on to traditionally publish a few books and I will not name who it is. They’re wildly successful. I represented them for a brief period of time in which they went through the process of realizing that they wanted to control the whole process and did not necessarily wanna work with an agent who was facilitating levels of compromise. They weren’t looking for an agent aka me, and they lost a six figure contract because they wanted to drive that bus and it took them a couple more years to get back on and they worked with a different agent, but it was an interesting time in blog to book.
Megan Porta: Wow. So the moral of that story is figure that out before digging in
Sally Ekus: Yes, exactly.
Megan Porta: I have a question about self-publishing and printing because I know that can be a hang up. How does that typically work? How do you go about finding where to print your book and then do you do it just in batches or how does that work?
Sally Ekus: It depends on the project and I, it also depends on the print run. Typically when we, not acting as a litter agent, but we’re acting more as a consultant for somebody who wants to self-publish, but have our expertise along the way with them, we will connect you with a couple different book packagers who have relationships with printers in place. So they are doing the vetting. They are negotiating on the cost. But ultimately in self-publishing you’re in charge of securing a printer. But we work with packagers, which are the self-published version of traditional publishing who are bringing those relationships to the table. That being said, I will say that right now at the very beginning of June 2020, if we were to timestamp this time in publishing, we’re looking at a very expensive time in our industry. Supply chain and production costs are drastically affected by the past few years. So I’m hearing from publishers and packagers, who are in direct liaison with these printers, that printing four color books is anywhere from five to seven times the cost of what it was even a couple years ago. So I’m pitching projects right now and getting rejections because the publishers are saying, this is just too expensive to print. We love the project, but we can’t take it on.
Megan Porta: Wow. Five to seven times. That’s very, wow.
Sally Ekus: Literally the profit now is a loss on print runs. It’s tremendous.
Megan Porta: I just wanna point out, I think you said June 2020, so I just wanna make sure that everyone knows its June 2022.
Sally Ekus: What is time?
Megan Porta: What is time?
Sally Ekus: Different than June 2020.
Megan Porta: Yes. Yes. Because I can see people listening being like wait a second. Why was it expensive then?
Sally Ekus: Yes. Foreshadowing.
Megan Porta: No, that is all awesome information. I can see where people would really wanna self-publish now, but be turned away because of that cost . So how do you go around that? Do you just put it on hold and wait, or are there any solutions?
Sally Ekus: Again, I think it depends. For some projects, I think you can wait a little while and hope that things will level out. That being said, books take two years to come together in traditional publishing. So hopefully by the time the book is being printed, which is about, I don’t know, 18 months from now, things will have leveled out a little bit. I don’t think they’re ever gonna go back to where they were. That’s not the indication that I’m getting from traditional publishers. But rather than wait, I think you can also educate yourself. I think the most clear way to stand out as an author, wanting to publish a book, is to show that you’ve done your research and your homework at every step in your pitching process.
So when you query an agent, when you send your proposal, every step you have an opportunity to show how educated you are in the industry. So in your proposal, in your query letter, you can say, hey I recognize that this is an expensive book to produce, and here are the creative ways that I’d like to come to the table to make this happen. Maybe it’s, I’ve partnered with a photographer who’s a colleague and friend, and they’re really invested emotionally in doing this book and they’re willing to reduce their rates at this time so I can bring this book to fruition. Or instead of. 150 recipes, which was my original vision for this cookbook. I feel strongly that this book should come out within the next two to three years. So I’m willing to reduce the recipe countdown to 90 to 110 recipes as part of the collaboration conversation with a publisher so that we can keep the page count below X number of pages. So call it out. Show that you know what you’re talking about and that it’s not just like, I have this amazing idea and it has to be published and I have no understanding of how that comes to be. You have an opportunity to show how educated you are.
Megan Porta: Has the cost of books gone up dramatically recently?
Sally Ekus: So that’s a great question. Actually, yeah. We have books that when they are going back for second printing or the publishers watching their inventory, they’re going back and we’re seeing that they’re now being priced a little higher than the original list price. The list price that’s printed on a book might even be changing right now based on the printing costs. But on large online retailers that rhyme with schamazon prices are constantly fluctuating. But yes, generally speaking, if a book is going back for a reprint right now, there could be a fluctuation in the list price.
Megan Porta: Okay. Then I’m curious, because I know you have your finger on this pulse about what publishers are looking for all the time. Do you have any ideas to share with us about what publishers are currently looking for as far as cookbooks go?
Sally Ekus: Yeah. So publishers are looking for really sound, approachable, well tested recipes, always. They’re looking for a lot of personality and voice in books. A lot of storytelling. They are looking for more regional and deep cultural dives into different cuisines from around the world. This really picked up in the past couple years, particularly with the Black Lives Matter movement. Publishers started really prioritizing diversity on their lists, on their author lists. Although the discrepancy between other aspects in the publishing industry and opportunity to acquire those books. So specifically bipoc acquisition editors, or people in the publicity and marketing departments understanding the nuances of how to market and promote books from cultures that are maybe not their identifying culture, is still a really vibrant conversation in the industry. There’s this big space of what I like to think of as an opportunity between what publishers are asking for and the infrastructure of publishing to support that across the board. That’s one of the changes in the past few years. For us as an agency, we have always represented a really diverse author list, both in cuisines, skin color, topics, techniques and so we’ve seen this ebb and flow in publishing happen in a more sort of expedited way in the past few years. Although it’s a space that we’ve been representing for a long time.
Megan Porta: Do you have recommendations for people who have ideas? Like how to make them better to appeal to publishers right now?
Sally Ekus: Yeah, I think I’ll start with a book proposal. A book proposal itself can feel really daunting. So specifically start with market research in the comp section and start with a handful of recipes. So one of the pieces of homework I give often is, you think you have this great book idea. Okay, awesome. Do you have enough content to fill a book? Why is the book, the form, the medium, that idea should be brought to life? I’m not saying it shouldn’t, but really because books are so expensive to produce, in time and money, in effort, in emotion. Does your idea warrant a book versus something else? A podcast, a blog, pitch recipe to a publication. So start writing a recipe list. Do you have 50 recipes or do you have 350 recipes, right? That’s gonna guide you one way or the other. Then also take a look at the competition and see, is there a conversation already happening in this space? Yes? Cool. Okay. Do I have something unique to add to it? What is my unique voice and point of differentiation? Great. Now we’re on track to, yes. This should be a book.
Megan Porta: That was, I love that you said that. Maybe it’s another avenue that you need to explore. So just writing stuff out first is going to help you wrap your reign around it. Book proposals take a considerable amount of time and energy, right?
Sally Ekus: Yes.
Megan Porta: You wanna make sure that this is really something that is aligning with you and your business before you dig into that.
Sponsor: Hello, food bloggers! Just a brief break in the episode here to chat about RankIQ. It is my favorite keyword research tool for many reasons, but right now I just wanna talk about the functionality of the tool and how easy it is to use compared to other keyword research tools. Have you ever opened a keyword research tool and had the urge to scream or pull your hair out in frustration? Because you have no idea what the heck is going on? You don’t even know what you’re looking at? Yeah, I’ve been there. It’s an extremely frustrating situation. The first time I opened RankIQ, it was like the angels began humming and the golden gates slowly opened before me. Seriously. It was a super welcome surprise for me because RankIQ is ridiculously easy to understand. It’s so easy to use and it does not provide a bunch of numbers or details that you don’t need to even know about. It is very uncluttered and straightforward. There are literally three columns of data after each keyword and all are super easy to understand, exactly what you’re looking at. Those three columns are a competition, visits per year and time to rank. No crazy abbreviations or unnecessary data, just straightforward and helpful information that will help guide you through the process of finding those fruitful keywords. If you are overwhelmed by your keyword research tool and need a little bit of a change, check out RankIQ to clear out a little bit of clutter. Go to RankIQ.com to sign up and check it out for yourself. I hope you love it as much as I do. Now, let’s get back to the episode.
Sally Ekus: And a book proposal is a business plan for your book idea. So it’s really gonna benefit you whether you pitch it today, tomorrow a year from now. We have guidelines on our website that walk you through each section of a book proposal. That book proposal, guideline, questions and guideline will be totally sufficient for any agency that you would pitch, because it’s a really comprehensive list of questions for you.
Megan Porta: Yeah. So I’m gonna ask you about your course in a little bit and what is involved there, but what are some other ways that people can self educate before getting into, say pitching or book proposals?
Sally Ekus: I am just loving all of the resources available out there right now. I have to say, launching this course has really immersed me in the market for this, right? In the competition. I see competition as collaboration. So I love Diane Jacob. I love her book, Will Write For Food. Read it. I love her newsletter. I’m a paid subscriber to her newsletter. I don’t think I pay for any other newsletters, to be honest. Like I just love her Roundup. I love her assessment of industry trends. I love your podcast. I love The Everything Cookbooks podcast that just launched a couple months ago. It is essentially a slightly different audio free version of my course. There’s a lot of similar content presented in different ways because it’s hosted by four authors, which is a different experience than my course, which is created by an agent working across the board with a bunch of different publishers.
But we cover the same type of material. Listen, read, subscribe, take this information and then ask yourself. What am I hearing that is the same? What am I hearing that’s different and why are these, messages or information about how this industry works different? A non culinary specific resource is Jane Friedman. She’s a writer and consultant, and also produces a fantastic newsletter. Her information is just so timely. Then industry information. So IACP International Association of Culinary Professionals. Also a women’s media group for any listeners that identify as female is a fantastic organization. So it’s across all media, so it’s not just publishing., but really, immerse yourself, learn, and then take that step back and go back to, okay, what is my idea at hand and how can I best present it and pitch it?
Megan Porta: This is all fresh in your mind because you just created your course. So I love that you’re presenting all of this fresh material because you just literally just dug into it yourself. So go consume all of it and then wrap your head around it a little bit more.
Sally Ekus: Yeah. I really tried to take a look at what was out there. It’s so important to support other people providing this type of content and information. Again, as an agent, we’re uniquely positioned in this perspective, across working with all the different publishers and I’m working with many different authors at one time, pitching different projects. So my perspective on how publishing works and what publishers are asking for of me and of my authors is a unique perspective. It compliments the author’s perspective that’s out there. It complements the writer’s perspective and self-published content that’s out there too. Jason Logsdon is a colleague and dear friend for both of us. His Self-publishing Made Easy courses, something that I recommend all the time if you’re trying to determine which path do I go down.
Megan Porta: Yeah. I appreciate that. I appreciate that. You can see other people who may contribute the same information, but from a different perspective and that you don’t see it as my course is the one and only.
Sally Ekus: Not at all. I love it. Diane and I were talking at IACP and, she was saying, this advice she was giving out to her group. I said I don’t agree with that at all. I can’t believe you’re saying that. She’s really? Why do you think this? We had this lively discussion. I’m like, this is exactly why people need to yeah be listening to it all. Reading it all.
Megan Porta: Agreed.
Sally Ekus: Then forming your own opinion.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Even having food blogging podcasts, there are multiple food blogging podcasts, but we all have different experiences and stories and perspectives. So I encourage food bloggers. Eat Blog Talk is not the one and only place that you should be going. Go listen to everything because you’re gonna get something different from all of us. So I really appreciate that you look outside of yourself and realize that there are other perspectives. So I wanted to talk a little bit about socials. Social media, and numbers and how they might spill over into cookbooks. What are your thoughts on all of that?
Sally Ekus: So I am flooded with, is it true that I need to have hundreds of thousands of followers to get a cookbook deal? And the answer is no, it’s not true. In fact, most of my clients who have cookbook deals do not have hundreds of thousands of followers. Some do. Those are slightly easier doors to open, slightly easier conversations to open with editors. But the size of your social media following does not equal the end all be all of whether or not you’re gonna get a book deal. Again, what I think is most important is to recognize how to talk about platform and community and engagement within your book proposal to show, Hey, I’m a really educated author. I know how this works, and I know how to reach my intended audience. If you’re just making up ideas on how you would reach your intended audience, you’re not ready to publish a book. But if you have a small and engaged community and you know how to reach them, and you can explain how you’ve reached them in the past, that’s what I wanna see in a book proposal. I’d actually rather see proof of concept in reaching your community over hundreds of thousands of followers. So for example. Maybe you have published an ebook or maybe you yourself have a course on, How To Go Vegan in 10 Days. You have sold that successfully to X number of people, and you have earned X amount in revenue.
Show me that in the proposal as part of proof of concept that I, X person, knows how to reach my intended audience and market to them successfully. That way, when you say I have 10,000 followers, you’re showing me that you know how to engage them. I joined this industry, I was on a very different path prior to doing agenting. I joined this industry right as that first wave of blog to book craze was happening. So I watched big bloggers with huge followers get grouped up for these big six-figure advances. Then two years later when those books came out, we didn’t yet know how to market and sell to them. Some of those books sold really well to their audience, but the majority of them reach about maybe one to 3% conversion to sales. So there are other people out there buying your book and there are other ways to follow and engage with your platform that are really important to address. That being said, I’ll give you a little tip in this interview that I’ve been suggesting to some of my authors with moderate size social media following. Put some endorsements in your proposal, right? If you’re saying here are the people I know and love, and here is the way they’re gonna support my book, reach out to two or three of them and say, Hey, I’m in the process of putting my proposal together, sending it to an agent that I really wanna work with. I’d love to make it shine as much as possible. Would you consider endorsing my work now to include as part of this process? If they’re your true connections and colleagues, they know how this industry works, they’re gonna be excited to help support you. I think that’s a way to make your proposal stand out among all the others that are getting pitched right now.
Megan Porta: Such great tips packed in there. I love all of that. Do you recommend having at least some sort of following in order to start a cookbook? What if somebody’s just starting out literally brand new to food blogging, is a cookbook for them or not?
Sally Ekus: I don’t think it’s the right time. I think you will learn so much about your own food writing that is important if you’re just starting out, that it’s premature for a book. Pitch, publications, get your name out there. Start positioning yourself as an expert in that conversation and in that space. And yes. Get some following behind you. 700 followers is going to be a really big uphill battle. Is it possible? Sure. Is it a lot harder? I would say, our sort of micro influencer size platforms when it comes to social media following is like 10,000 followers and up.
Okay, perfect. Actually in the course, I define different platform sizes, numerically, which was just something I was like, I gotta just do this. So people stop asking me what a micro is? And what’s a mega, I just laid it all out for people.
Megan Porta: Oh, that’s great. Because you do hear those terms and you’re like what am I, where am I?
Sally Ekus: It doesn’t really matter. What matters is how you position your platform. But it is important to understand that positioning and that’s really what I wanna see in a proposal.
Megan Porta: Okay. Then the ultimate question, Sally, where’s the money. Can I make money in book publishing?
Sally Ekus: Oh, I like to say yes.
Megan Porta: All the time. Absolutely.
Sally Ekus: Yeah. I would say don’t calculate your time down to an hourly rate, if you’re gonna write a cookbook because no, you will not end up making money. Even the biggest advances. Can you make money in cookbook publishing? It’s possible, right? We have books that came out seven years ago and earn five figure royalties steadily every six months. That’s great. They’re earning money. They’ve earned out their advance. What was the production cost leading into that book project and the photography, those are all considerations to make. You can make a little bit of money in cookbook publishing. Really though. I like to think of a book as a big, beautiful business card. It is going to open new doors for you in the media. It potentially can help you make money in other avenues of your business. Things like speaking engagements, brand partnerships, appearances. Recipe development. That’s how cookbooks can help make you money.
Megan Porta: And the beautiful knowledge panel that you get on Google. I learned that recently.
Sally Ekus: That’s correct.
Megan Porta: I was like, huh, what’s a knowledge panel? I looked, I Googled my name and I was like, there is a knowledge panel for me because I’ve published a cookbook. It was really cool to find that out.
Sally Ekus: Cool.
Megan Porta: Does that happen all the time? Do authors automatically get knowledge panels? That was my understanding, but maybe you have more insights.
Sally Ekus: I don’t know. I’ll have to get back to you. Yeah.
Megan Porta: Okay.
Sally Ekus: I’m gonna do some digging.
Megan Porta: So I know that food bloggers listening are really interested in getting the E A T from Google and just establishing all of that. One of the SEO experts in our area was saying recently that a knowledge panel is a really good way to bump up your expertise, authority and trust and all of that.
Sally Ekus: Yes.
Megan Porta: So then there were some conversations going on where people were like maybe I should publish a cookbook just to get the panel. So that is a shining feature.
Sally Ekus: That’s so interesting. I don’t know how the integration works around that and if there are certain requirements around, like what type of book or how a book is presented and coded. But I will say that one of the reasons to write a cookbook is to offer credibility as an expert in a certain area. What is the version of a knowledge panel? It’s your byline. It’s offering that credibility. But I don’t know. I’m gonna get back to you and look into that more.
Megan Porta: Yeah. I’m curious about it because I’ve asked around a little bit and nobody seems to really know. I was also wondering if you write an ebook and go through the process of getting it on Amazon and all of, does that help you acquire a knowledge panel too? There are some question marks about that.
Sally Ekus: I think we need to get a shamazon and agent and author together to have this discussion.
Megan Porta: Oh yes. I think this is a future discussion. This would be really valuable. So is there anything else I wanna ask you about your course, but before we get onto that, is there anything you feel like we’ve missed about cookbook publishing?
Sally Ekus: We’ve covered a lot of great ground. I would just continue to put my offer out into the ether, which is that if this type of conversation sparks your interest, I have been offering very limited, but on a select basis, 15 minute slots and conversations with me because as I’ve been talking about publishing and talking about the nuances of the content in the course, one of the most important things to keep in mind is that while there’s a general statement and overview of how this industry works, it’s really person specific too. It really comes down to your career goals and your goals, your strategy, your technique, in entering the publishing space. And so I’ve been offering 15 minute conversations with people who can say here’s what I’m thinking. Here’s my idea. Or here’s my strategy and my ultimate goal. Do you think the traditional route is the right path for me to get there?
Megan Porta: Awesome. That’s so generous. Okay. Tell us about your course. I wanna hear all the details.
Sally Ekus: My baby, my labor of love.
Megan Porta: Let’s hear your baby.
Sally Ekus: Yeah, so I was saying earlier, before we came on, it feels like I went through the author process. I spent quite a bit of time taking our four decades of industry knowledge and packaging it into this self-paced course that people can find on our website at ekusgroup.com or it’s hosted on Podia. If you don’t do the homework, although I do recommend that you do, it’s essentially two and a half hours of everything you need to know about publishing. What an agent does, where to find one. It walks you through three real book deals that I’ve negotiated and all of the financials behind them. I help people determine the differentiations between self-publishing and traditional publishing. Then there’s a really intense proposal module where I go through the guidelines that are available for free on our website, but I give you an agent tip with every single part of the proposal. So it really arms you with, here are ways to stand out. Then there’s this module at the end that is just like my little love baby of all the things that people probably don’t need to know yet, but always ask about. So how to work with photographers and what goes into collaboration agreements. What’s the difference between publicity and marketing? There’s a super fun flow chart as to whether or not you should work with an agent, because even though I am an agent, I don’t necessarily think the agent relationship is right for everyone. So it’s got a lot of, got a lot of good stuff in there. There’s different activities to do along the way. And you’ll come out of the course with recorded pitch for your idea and your overview for your book proposal. I make this joke in workshops that I do, but I’m that person who makes a to-do list with the first two or three things on it that I’ve already done, just so I can cross them off.
Megan Porta: I do that.
Sally Ekus: That’s right. That’s my people. So I was not going to release a course unless somebody came out of it with something started because you really wanna jumpstart working on your book. Whether or not you turn your attention to it tomorrow or not, it gives you an opportunity to feel like you’ve accomplished something and get started.
Megan Porta: This sounds amazing. I can see so many people wanting to dig into that. We will definitely link to that in the show notes, but where else can people find this if they’re interested?
Sally Ekus: They can find it on our website, at ekusgroup.com. Then you can follow me on social media, my name @sallyekus and I will post about the course. Then I also post other industry information. You’ll also catch some little photos of my daughter walking around there. Then on Facebook, I run a community called How To Be a Cookbook Author. That’s for everyone listening who’s interested in learning about the industry. There are previously published authors there. There are designers, there’s photographers. I post industry news and things that I find really interesting and helpful about this publishing space that I have access to through other industry resources. Then there’s also opportunities to ask questions and network. Again, collaborate with one another because at the end of the day that’s what this is all about. Is supporting one another so we can see your books sitting next to each other on the shelf really successfully. Then flying off the shelf with massive sales because you’re supporting each other’s hard work and endeavors.
Megan Porta: Aww, so well said. Thank you, Sally. This was super fun. I really appreciate you joining me again on the podcast.
Sally Ekus: Thank you so much, Megan. It was such a pleasure. I really appreciate your time today.
Megan Porta: Yeah, you too. Do you have another favorite quote or words of inspiration to share with food bloggers?
Sally Ekus: This isn’t food blogging specific, but as I’ve come to realize putting this course together and the vulnerability of working so hard on something and putting it out into the world, I hear that a lot from my authors. A quote that was on some sort of motivational card years ago, which I cannot attribute to its intended sayer because I don’t remember. I don’t think it was even there. It was just this little note card that said, it is safe to look within. I would just add, so do so and get cooking.
Megan Porta: Ah, I love that. That’s so perfect for food bloggers. That is inspiring. Thank you so much.
Sally Ekus: Thanks, Megan.
Megan Porta: Yeah. So we will put together show notes for you, Sally. So if anyone wants to go look at those and get all the resources, she mentioned so many great resources here in this episode. So go to eatblogtalk.com/sallyekus2. You’ve already told everyone where they can find you. So I don’t think we need to re-cover that. So thank you, Sally. Again for being here and thank you for listening to today’s food bloggers. I will see you in the next episode.
Outro: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Eat Blog Talk. If you enjoyed this episode, post it to your social media feed and stories. See you next time.
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