The Tuesday Thirteen: Author Dianne Jacob, Will Write for Food
The Tuesday Thirteen
Dianne Jacob, Author Will Write For Food
Every once in a while in the Tuesday Thirteen Series, I come across someone that I have a hard time narrowing down my questions to just 13. This is one of those times. Meet Dianne Jacob, author of Will Write for Food, a fabulous resource for food writers, bloggers and the like. I own her book and have learned lots of valuable information from her blog.
Your professional background is astounding. Your careers include editor, writer, published author and coach. Which of these has been the most unpredictable and how do you decide when it is time for a change?
Dianne Thank you. They’re all related to each other, though, so it’s not so much of a stretch. Believe it or not, there are more. I’ve also been a reporter, a blogger, a speaker and a teacher. In fact, I’m still most of these.
Writing is the most unpredictable, mostly because of my own insecurities. I think I’m a better editor than writer, so how much I write depends on my confidence level.
I try to make one big change every year that will challenge me. Last year I started teaching private one-day classes for groups. So far I’ve taught in Hawaii, twice in Southern California, later this month in Missouri, and in September I’ll be teaching in Ireland and London.
This year I’m working on doing book collaborations again. So far two book proposals are with agents and one is still at the proposal stage. I hope they don’t all hit at once!
Is there anyone in the industry whose work you admire or use for inspiration?
Dianne Oh gosh, I admire so many people in the business: cookbook authors, food bloggers, publishers, literary agents, other coaches, …if you read my blog, I ask people I admire for advice and quote them all the time.
You did an amazing interview with food blogger David Lebovitz, earlier this year. What do you think it is about him that makes him such a great writer and food blogger?
Dianne Speaking of people I admire…I’ve known David since 2005. I have a long list of why he’s so successful. His voice and authenticity come through clearly in his writing, he’s generous with advice, he’s inventive in his career, and he’s one of the hardest workers I know. Oh yes, he’s also very funny.
You have written and published two books: a Cookbook, Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas, and the writing guide, Will Write for Food. Which one took the longest to complete and what was the biggest difference when writing the two books?
Dianne My first book, Will Write for Food, was a how-to book. I interviewed 75 people and quoted or mentioned 250 books. I wrote it in four months, nonstop. The second was a cookbook for a chef, where I wrote the book in his voice, based on his notes, drafts, and recipes, and tested all the recipes. That one took a lot longer, it was a cookbook instead of how-to advice, and it was his book, not mine.
In Will Write for Food you list the Characteristics of a Food Writer, but state that we don’t need every single one to succeed. Is there one (or more) that you feel we absolutely must possess as a food writer?
Dianne Yes. It’s the ability to evoke emotion from readers, as a result of being passionate about your subject.
What are your thoughts on having just a general food blog versus having a specific niche – like a blog all about pizza?
Dianne General blogs were fine a few years ago, but these days I think people will do better if they have a niche. The issue is finding a subject that sustains you over a long period.
I have a niche blog, for example, but it has dozens of subjects: writing craft, freelancing, blogging, how to write recipes, promote books, find an agent, etc. I’m not bored for a moment.
What do you think is the most important aspect a blogger can work on to improve their blog today?
Dianne Their writing. I devote a half day, in my one-day workshops, on writing craftsmanship. It’s very satisfying to show people how to improve their writing right away.
Freelance writing is also big in the industry. You go into detail in your book, but tell us briefly how we get started writing for publications and what is the best way to prepare a pitch?
Dianne Find local publications and study them. Figure out what kind of stories freelancers write for them. Prepare a pitch based on a story the publication would publish, not just a subject that interests you. Try to tie it to an upcoming season or event, so they have to publish it quickly.
Some food bloggers post once or twice a week and others post just about everyday. When it comes to food blogging, what would you say is the most effective amount of times to post per week?
Dianne It depends what your goals are. Some people post every day. I don’t know how they do it! It’s a good way to bump up page views. I’d say the least you can post is once a week, without losing people.
Many food bloggers/writers aspire to write their own cookbooks based on their blog topics. What are the most important steps in the timeline of getting started?
Dianne They need to understand why they want to write a book and what they have to offer that’s different from other books. Then it’s a matter of creating a killer book proposal and finding an agent.
In today’s market, would you recommend self-publishing a cookbook or pitching to publishers? If we pitch to publishers, is it necessary to get an agent?
Dianne If you have huge blog readership or you do a tremendous amount of speaking, you have ways to sell your book online or at events. Otherwise, you need a traditional publisher. The biggest publishers require an agent. Smaller publishers don’t.
What are your thoughts on social media and do you have a favorite way to communicate with your fans?
Dianne I love Twitter and Facebook, where I have a personal account and a fan page, Will Write for Food. I work from home and most of the time, it’s just me at my desk, so I love having a virtual community of like-minded people to connect with.
What is next for Dianne Jacob and where can we find you for personal writing coaching?
Dianne I’m excited about teaching at the St. Louis Media Forum, and in Ireland at the BrookLodge Hotel, a gorgeous inn outside Dublin. I’ll also be doing a writing workshop at Food Blogger Connect in London.
Thank you Dianne for such an informative interview! Everyone please check out her blog, book and fan pages to get to know her and her fabulous writing style.